Lexi Santoro / Gavel Media

It's Just a Trophy: Why Awards Season is Dying

The Golden Globes officially kicked off awards season by releasing its list of nominees for the upcoming 78th edition of the ceremony. “Awards season” spans from February to March. In that time, a host of different awards shows nominate and crown winners for various categories in filmmaking. These illustrious ceremonies have been held for over three quarters of a century, and their production values rise with each passing year. 

However, the recent announcement of the Golden Globes was met with contention over surprises in the nominee pool. The legitimacy of these nominations falls to the wayside as viewers at home fixate more on those who did not get an award rather than those who did.

Recent criticism of the Golden Globes reflects the bigger issue facing these award shows: They are dying. The press coverage no longer focuses on who wins but who doesn’t win, not on the nominees but on those that were robbed. This reality only seems to compound annually, with each awards season becoming more contentious than the last.

Disappointment over award nominations, such as with the Golden Globes this year, is nothing new. Every awards season is met with harsh criticism surrounding the nominations. Questions of racial and gender equality pervade the film industry, demanding more attention with every year the award shows air. 

Critics feel Black actors and directors are being particularly overlooked this year. Shows and movies such as Judas and the Black Messiah and Da 5 Bloods received no recognition in the Best Picture categories.

Furthermore, questions arose surrounding those that did get onto the nominee’s list, such as the Netflix comedy Emily in Paris. Instead of recognizing productions like Michaela Coel’s series I May Destroy You, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) nominated a comedy on Netflix which left many scratching their heads.

With the continued backlash directed at all awards shows, it begs the question: How do you nominate films and shows correctly? With the rise of social media and the broadening of the public’s ability to speak up, it becomes impossible for these organizations to please everyone. They snub some but help others. They account for one issue only to anger another group of fans who were happy with their initial picks. In today’s internet culture, it often feels like there is no winning in Award Season anymore. 

When everyone has the voice of a critic online, the outcomes of these award shows can and will never appeal to everyone. The boards of Oscar voters and other similar award shows do not represent the people. They represent one defined group of critics in the film industry. Nothing says that these people decide what the best movie is. They are expressing their opinion, just like everyone else online. 

In a way, the incursion of social media into these spheres of critical debate has made everyone their own place at the table. The decisions made at the Oscars and Golden Globes only matter so much as the people who watch them care—and, by looking at the viewership of the Oscars in previous years, it's clear that the trust in these institutions to do that job had fallen sharply. 

The point of award ceremonies is to acknowledge great works of art and award those who dedicated themselves to creating these masterpieces. However, as viewers have pointed out, there are a lot of inequalities behind the curtain of the spectacle. In 2016, the Oscars came under fire for having too many white males on the voting board, leading to slanted outcomes in victors. Since then, “the proportion of female members climbed from 25 percent in 2015 to 32 percent last year, while the proportion of people of color inched up from a paltry 8 percent to a slightly less paltry 16 percent over the same period.”

While by no means perfect, the board of voters at the Oscars reflects the impact people have had on the institutions that decide what is the best of the best. 

It is clear from recent years that award shows have garnered more animosity and anger than celebration. In a year full of such animosity and uncertainty, it may be the perfect time to reflect and ask: If these shows don’t provide viewers with the experience they are promised, then why have them at all? 

The HFPA is obviously seeking to boost its viewership this year by nominating popular shows and movies, despite some category fraud. The nomination of the recording of Hamilton (released on Disney+) sparked criticism and backlash. Many decided that Hamilton should not rank next to movies and TV shows, as it is a broadway production and not a film one. However, the Golden Globes took the risk to nominate it. By having big names—especially headliners like Hamilton—more viewers are enticed to tune in and see where the chips fall. As the decline in viewership becomes more prominent, picks like Hamilton and other big names might just become the norm in an appeal to garner larger audiences. 

The popularity of “Top 10” videos online shows that this sort of anticipation-centered media still catches peoples attention. However, it's clear that the medium and process by which these shows operate no longer appeal to an internet-age audience. The three-plus hour runtimes of these ceremonies go directly against the instant-entertainment standard many have come to know in previous years. The age of the internet has lended itself in many ways to the betterment of society, but it seems to be at the detriment of big productions like the Oscars and Golden Globes. 

This award season will likely have more problems on the horizon and more dissatisfaction with who voters choose to win. The inevitable disappointment and scandal surrounding awards season leaves viewers at home with two options: watch the award shows and risk being disappointed or refrain from watching and catch up with what happened the morning after with a quick Google search. 

With the amount of money put into these occasions, the award ceremonies of the past are facing a point of no return. In the age of instant communication, the Oscars and Golden Globes may soon be relegated to press releases announcing their picks rather than the expensive three to four hour long ceremonies. If people do not care about who wins because the voter pool is biased anyway, it should come as no surprise if people would just prefer an email to save themselves the time. 

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