And the Loser Is… Everyone

Don’t @ Me: Tyler Got Robbed

by Ryan Pfingst
Staff Ricky Gervais

It’s that time of year again. On Sunday nights I turn on the TV, excited to waste the next 2-4 hours watching Hollywood A-listers pat themselves on the back. The Golden Globes, the Grammys, and the Oscars are what gets me through these dark winter months. And maybe you’re like me, studying the list of nominees and tuning in live just to watch the Recording Academy snub Lana Del Rey (again). Or you’re like most people, either watching the highlights the next day, or just not caring to tune it at all.

That’s a common attitude to have, as most of the biggest award shows are seeing viewership continually decrease. The 2019 Emmy Awards drew in the smallest audience it’s seen in 30 years and the 2020 Grammy Awards saw its smallest audience in 12 years. This can partially be explained by a decrease in general television viewership, as streaming services become the norm, however that isn’t the whole story. The bigger problem is the shows themselves.

In theory, the concept of award shows is valuable. One night each year, celebrities in a certain field gather to celebrate and reward those who worked hard to create impressive pieces of art. I think that’s important, because oftentimes what’s popular and what’s good don’t always correlate. Many smaller movies that may not have been box-office hits or albums that didn’t sell well still deserve recognition, and award shows provide that. So, in theory, they should reward the most distinguished piece of art in their field that year regardless of popularity, which would be great, if it actually worked like that.

Unfortunately, most award shows have a history of excluding and snubbing those who truly deserve the awards based on demographic characteristics. For example, the Grammys consistently excludes women and minorities from being nominated, and if nominating them, pigeonholes them into certain categories. From 2012-2017, in the 5 biggest categories- album, record, song, and producer of the year and best new artists, only 10% of nominees were female. There is also growing consensus that the Grammys do not properly appreciate black artists, pigeonholing them into the categories of hip/hop or urban contemporary (if you think urban means anything other than black, wake up). If you want this explained better, just watch Diddy’s acceptance speech for the Industry Icon award or Tyler, the Creator’s speech post-winning Best Rap Album (the fact that Igor wasn’t nominated for AOTY is a travesty, but I digress). Obviously, this problem isn’t exclusive to the Grammys. I don’t think I need to get into the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, or the absence of female directors being nominated this year (cough Greta Gerwig cough).

This lack of diversity and inclusivity among nominees inherently disproves the notion that award shows are rewarding the best of the best. How can they truly be appreciating the most distinguished work of the year if they aren’t even nominating those who produced fantastic work simply because they aren’t white and/or male? But while award shows have made attempts to diversify their list of nominees, why is the controversy continuing?
The short answer is the nomination process itself. The way nominees are selected in most award shows is biased and subjective. Take the Oscar nominating process for example. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is made up of about 7,000 film professionals, and there are many ways to get into the Academy, but almost every nominee receives an invitation. There are different branches (a branch for actors, a branch for directors, etc.) and each branch gets to select the nominees for their category. As the academy is notoriously older and whiter than the general population, they tend to select nominees that appeal to that demographic. And the people they nominate are then invited to join the academy and vote for next year’s nominees, becoming a perpetuating cycle of exclusivity.
This is why we see the omission of many minorities among the nominees, and the lack of women in directing and other categories. Therefore, award shows don’t necessarily reward the best of the best, because so many of the best fail to even be nominated due to selection committee biases. Until we see continual diversity among both nominees and winners, award shows will continue to lose the public’s interest and respect.

But perhaps that isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe the best thing to do is to stop paying attention to award shows completely. Instead of waiting for an academy to tell you what’s worth spending our time on, I say we start thinking for ourselves, and ignoring what any academy has to say. Ignore who’s nominated, ignore who wins. Continue to appreciate the art that you’ve been appreciating and who cares if some academy doesn’t? They’re a bunch of old pretentious egomaniacs anyway.

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