With every new year comes a bevy of award shows honoring the work of the past year. Over break I was lounging at home and realized that the Golden Globes were on.
It’s no secret that I have a fascination with the glitz and glam of Hollywood, so naturally I loved to see all the beautiful garments celebrities wore as they walked the red carpet.
But I soon realized something was staining my experience — I had not watched many of the movies that were being talked about that night. Sure, I knew who most of the actors were, but did I have a deep knowledge of The Irishman?” Had I experienced “Jojo Rabbit?” While I had watched a few of the films and television shows being discussed that night, the vast majority were mysteries to me.
Thinking more, I started to wonder why people like to watch award shows. Many of them are marketed as annual touchstones, but I increasingly question their validity. I question even more strongly the shows with allegations that they are racist or sexist because they systematically don’t recognize women and people of color in the movie industry.
Recent outcries like the #OscarsSoWhite and #AskHerMore campaigns demand recognition from the institutional side of Hollywood. An example of this is how female directors have been systematically shut out of the best director category in the Oscars, despite being nominated in other award shows, like the Golden Globes.
How are people supposed to have the time and money to watch all the movies and TV shows being talked about? This is especially true in this day and age when there are so many options for which kinds of media to consume in your free time.
This year the Academy nominated nine films. Two of the films were produced by Netflix — “Marriage Story” and “The Irishman,” while the other seven (“Ford v. Ferrari,” “Little Women,” “Joker,” “Parasite,” “1917,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” and “Jojo Rabbit”) were released in theaters.
For one person to see all of these films, they’d have to spend money on a Netflix subscription and movie tickets. Taking into the Netflix subscription cost, and the average movie ticket cost, it would cost someone $79 to watch all of these films — let alone transportation costs. That doesn’t even account for the time a person has to devote to watching all nine films. To put it short, only someone who truly loves movies would watch all of these nominees.
So if it’s not for the love of movies, why would someone watch these shows?
While watching the Golden Globes this year, I realized what that draw was. There is an innate joy in watching someone receive an award, especially when you like the person being awarded. Many people have connections to celebrities, whether it be through watching them throughout their lives, or if that celebrity happens to be the person of the moment (think Jennifer Lawrence during the “Silver Linings Playbook” award season). There’s also something fun about ranting when someone undeservedly (in your opinion) gets an award.
This enjoyment is why the underlying racism and sexism of these awards shows has to be taken seriously. A large part of human existence is wanting to be recognized by others, and moreover recognized by your peers. Winning one of these coveted awards conveys the message, “You are one of us now. Welcome.”
Movies are made to be seen. Winning awards is one of the more tangible (and fancy and public) ways of being acknowledged that your work is being seen, processed, and recognized. Award shows are important because they are our culture’s way of patting someone on the back, and letting them know that their work is being seen, and is important. That is why they have to reflect our culture and not be exclusionary. I hope in the upcoming award season things change, but that we will always be watching someone get a fancy trophy and give a three minute speech.