Award shows are unnecessary
By Jillian McMullen, Staff Writer
Now that the biggest night in Hollywood has come and gone, I think it’s an important time to look at what award season is and how we’ve misdirected our attention towards it.
It isn’t that I don’t see the merit in the awards themselves. I mean, society celebrates good work in countless contexts, big and small, and often in authentic and motivating ways: The small notes of support my manager leaves me recognizing when I’ve had to work a tough shift feel like genuine acknowledgements. My problem is how much Hollywood award shows like the Emmys, the Golden Globes, or the Academy Awards hold cultural capital and the disproportionate spectacle shows become in relation to it.
The frequency that we see a movie’s marketing—in the trailer or in its physical release, for example—include a list of the awards it was nominated for or won is evidence enough that those awards have cultural meaning. Awards act as signifiers for legitimacy, where having a film’s name attached to a certain award makes that film inherently better than one without a similar connection. That connection, however, is divorced from the prestige of the award because it can’t demonstrate the actual quality of the nominated work. It never includes the work’s fellow nominees, which is arguably where most of that prestige originates—from the fact that this film or this person was the best that year among a corpus of talent.
Similarly, nominees are often described as “first-time,” “three-time,” or “x amount-times,” nominees, which shows again that it is not the work that matters, but the simple fact that it was nominated at all. These awards mean something, without really meaning anything.
I get that there’s a certain amount of fantasy involved with celebrity and award shows—we’d all love to be gorgeous millionaires decked out in couture for an evening of partying. However, because these awards are attributed to an inflated degree of false significance, the show nights become this kind of horrendous spectacle that everyone is forced to participate in, regardless of whether or not they care about a celebrity at all. Think about it—how many months are spent talking about “award season,” or “red carpet fashion?”
The shows are broadcast on almost every major network and take over almost all forms of media the night of, and the days that follow. There are pre-show broadcasts, live commentary throughout, and even post-show analyses. How is it that we let these awards that really mean nothing, for people we don’t even know, become so ingrained in our day to day lives?
I don’t see award shows becoming any less important in popular culture, but I think it’s time to take a look at what our fascination with them really adds to the everyday person’s life. Let Hollywood have their award shows, but don’t let that take precedence over the celebrations we should be giving to our local artists and innovators.