Americans were once filled with excitement and anticipation at the iconic words “and the Oscar goes to…”; the name inside the envelope leaving viewers buzzing with the thrill of awards season. In recent years, however, the buzz seems to have died down in the face of what some would call performative activism and out of touch celebrity speeches. So, in the midst of this once exciting season, one can’t help but wonder, is anyone watching award shows anymore and if the answer is no, why not?
The 2023 Grammy’s saw a 30% increase in viewership from the previous year and the biggest audience since the pandemic shut the world down in 2020, according to the New York Post. However, this is an outlier and is still part of broader decrease in viewership for this type of program. The 2022 Academy Awards brought in an audience of 15.3 million, an increase from the previous year’s 10 million, but was still the second least viewed year in the show’s history according to People Magazine. This is a staggering decrease from the average 37.3 million average of every year from 2000-2020 according to Statistica. It is yet to be seen what kind of audience the Academy Awards garners this year which is set to air March 12th, 2023. The Vanguard Voice polled students and found that just 13% of respondents plan to watch this year’s Academy Awards with another 13% responding that they usually watch them but will not be tuning in this year.
So, what is behind this decrease in interest from the general public in awards for excellence in entertainment? Well, for some it is the fact that they no longer seem to award excellence at all, but instead uphold a perceived political agenda that is being pushed by the industry. This is likely due to new requirements in the industry such as The Academy’s recent adoption of a set of diversity and inclusion requirements for Best Picture Nominees. For a film to be considered, it must fulfill two of the four standards specified by the Academy, including such requirements as, “at least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors is from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group” or “at least 30% of all actors in secondary and more minor roles are from at least two of the following underrepresented groups: women, racial or ethnic group, LGBTQ+, people with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing.” There are also diversity standards for creative leadership and project team, industry access and opportunities, and audience development. Some viewers could argue that having these kinds of requirements prioritizes diversity and inclusion above the creativity and artistry that was once awarded by The Academy.
Others argue that the awards are stuck in the past and often exclude diverse artists. This year, Beyoncé became the most decorated artist in the Grammys history but has somehow never received the coveted Album of the Year award, despite many chart-topping, record-breaking albums, including 2022’s Rennaissance which lost out to Harry Style’s Harry’s House. Fans and critics alike have noticed this trend of the Grammys awarding the work of white artists over that of Beyoncé and other black women. Many would argue that this theme throughout the Grammy’s history does not reflect the diversity in art of today’s America and no longer care to support or invest their time in it.
But could it be that we as a culture have moved past the concept of award shows altogether? Culture has become so
fiercely individualistic where people seek to define themselves based on their own feelings, perhaps we all no longer feel the need to rely on what critics and awards say about a piece of art. If you enjoy something, does it really matter how it was received by a panel of judges with nebulous, subjective criteria and potential preconception? Just enjoy it.
Photo credits: Bloomberg, Oscars