Opinion | Awards shows are overrated

By Rachel Soloff, For The Pitt News

From Kevin Hart’s 2019 Oscars host termination to 2017’s “Moonlight” and “La La Land” mix-up, controversies and gaffes thrive during awards season — and 2020 is no different.

Whether it be with hosts, nominations or the Academy itself, awards shows seem to do more harm than good. As the 2020 Oscars approach and the same types of controversies and complaints abound, it’s becoming clear that awards shows no longer have a place in our current society — at least the way they are today.

Shows like the Oscars are fumbling with the age-old format as the current world of entertainment is changing. After Kevin Hart stepped down, the Oscars went without a host in 2019. The show without a host seemed to lack continuity and became a swinging door of celebrities making forced jokes and trying to push the show along. The “bits” before nominations and winners are announced always seemed forced, and without a host these jokes seemed to stretch on for eternity.

This is the second year that the Academy Awards are going to be without a host. By not hiring a host, the network seems to be trying to avoid controversy, but with or without a host, the choice is still going to be controversial for some. For example, Ricky Gervais hosted this year’s Golden Globes, who many thought told controversial and tone-deaf jokes, while others thought his jokes were great and got at the problems in Hollywood.

Nominations are also a very contentious subject during the awards season. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a board of 8,000 members that are not disclosed to the public, choose the nominations for the Oscars. This means that, unlike awards shows such as the People’s Choice Awards, a mysterious group of people picks what’s good enough to be nominated — which may or may not reflect what the public actually liked this year. The nomination process for the Oscars is highly complex, making it very difficult for certain movies and actors to be even considered for nomination and even harder to join the Academy.

The Grammys have recently been under fire due to the accusations of former Recording Academy President Deborah Dugan. Dugan accused the Recording Academy — the Grammys’ equivalent of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — of having an unethical process. She said an artist is more likely to receive a nomination if they have some sort of relationship with those in the Recording Academy. This shows the Recording Academy doesn’t care about the best music of the year, but promoting artists that have a mutually beneficial relationship with them.

Another reason awards shows are becoming obsolete is the lack of diversity in Oscar  nominations — first brought up on Twitter in 2016 with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite — and this year saw no change. Greta Gerwig, Melina Matsoukas and Lulu Wang, the directors of “Little Women,” “Queen and Slim” and “The Farewell,” respectively, were all snubbed out of a nomination, while the Best Director category was filled with all male directors and only one director of color. In 2019, 29% of directors were people of color and only 12% of the top grossing movies were directed by women while 51% of moviegoers were women. 

Snubs for actors and actresses of color were also endless this year. Jennifer Lopez for “Hustlers,” Awkwafina for “The Farewell” and many of the actors in “Parasite,” including Song Kang-ho and Park So-dam — who all delivered spectacular and well-received performances in 2019 — did not receive nominations.

The Grammy Awards are no different. Tyler the Creator, this year’s Rap Album of the Year recipient, slammed the Recording Academy saying the Grammys are categorizing by race, using terms like “urban” to classify between music by black and white artists.

The lack of diversity within these awards shows are not representative of the public who watches them. More than 29 million people tuned into the Oscars last year, presumably not all of them being white or men. Without representation, the awards shows seem pointless and out of touch to those watching them.

As the public finds out more and more about the processes behind awards shows — such as the corruption in the Recording Academy — and have more polarizing opinions on what should and shouldn’t be nominated, awards shows are becoming obsolete and out of touch. There are ways to start modernizing them.

First of all, the electing boards of the awards shows such as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science and the Recording Academy need to represent those actually seeing the films better by including more members of color and more women. Otherwise, the Academy should be abolished altogether and the Oscars should have nominees and winners chosen by having the viewers nominate and vote.

If awards shows decide to remove hosts, they need to replace them with something else that moves the show forward as opposed to the awkward bits used last year. A few possible suggestions are more musical performances or behind the scenes of filming the nominated movies.

For the awards shows to be better, they need to get more efficient. The actual award-giving seems to only be less than half of the four hour show, which includes more commercials than the actual awards show now. None of the fat is trimmed from the show. The Wall Street Journal calculated that between 2014 and 2018, an average of 24.3 minutes were spent filming celebrities walking and almost 30 minutes on speeches.

When awards shows started, they were a great way to celebrate the best media of the year, but now they seem to just cause controversy and uphold old traditions in a changing world. The controversies take away the point of these shows, which is to appreciate great art.