Last Updated on March 26, 2022 by Lil Ginge
I don’t care about The Oscars anymore. Statistics say neither do you. Because nobody watches the damned thing anymore.
Consider the numbers: In 2021, 10.4 million people or so watched the Oscars. That’s an all-time low record. Back in the 1990s, as many as 55 million people would watch the Academy Awards broadcast. While viewership would begin declining, by the aughts, 40 million or so people still watched the ceremony. But by the end of the 2010s, viewership plummeted to below 30 million people. And it’s continued to tank from there.
I used to watch the ceremony rather religiously, even as a child. Sure, I wanted to be a director-actor-writer when I grew up (didn’t everyone? just kidding) but I found the whole affair endlessly fascinating, from the pre-ceremony buzz to the Red Carpet right up to the announcement of the big winner and the post-ceremony roundups and takes on Entertainment Tonight and the like.
What The Oscars Used To Be
In those years, The Oscars became a marketing battleground. During the 1990s, Oscar public relations campaigns became standard fare, as studios would try to woo viewers to support their movies for the prestigious awards. The Golden Globes, The Critics Choice Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards became the appetizers to the main course that was the Oscars.
The Oscars also regularly pumped $130 million into the Los Angeles economy.
Movies that won important Oscars would often get an “Oscar bump” equalling tens of millions of additional tickets sold – and dollars earned. Movies like The Crying Game and American Beauty – the types of movies that used to be standard Oscars films – received huge Oscar bumps for their nominations and wins. Compare that with recent winner Moonlight, a good film that nevertheless only picked up an additional $2.5 million Oscar bump.
When The Oscars Fell Apart
For me, everything pretty much changed after 2008, when the Academy failed to nominate the best and most successful film of the year, The Dark Knight, and instead nominated things like the endlessly boring Benjamin Button and the nobody-saw-it-except-me movie The Reader (it was good but not best picture good). It struck me how irrelevant the Oscars were becoming, and the problem has only gotten so much worse since then. I all but completely stopped watching the ceremony and just read the awards roundup articles or Googled the winners after the fact.
How Do You Solve A Problem Like The Oscars?
This year stands to become the most irrelevant Oscar telecast yet. Bill Maher had some timely Oscar jokes this week. For example, on the broadcast he compared the ceremony to his mortgage, saying, “it seems to last 30 years and I have a very low-interest rate.” True and true, Bill.
The Oscars are trying to figure out the answer, but in the process, all they are doing is pissing off more people. For example, half of Hollywood is now angry and alienated over the categories like Best Makeup and Best Documentary Short that have been cut from the main show and will be given beforehand, with edited segments played during the broadcast. People like me and most of the American public, might be thrilled by this decision, but Hollywood’s makeup fans and documentary short filmmakers are, to say the least, upset.
It’s understandable that categories like makeup and hairstyling, production design, best short animated film, etc. are very important to filmmakers and those in the industry. But the people – the rest of the people, the people who are supposed to be watching the Oscars – just do not care. These awards make the ceremony much longer and subtract from the drama of the event, which is supposed to be celebrating film drama, not destroying it.
The Problem Is The Movies
Some will and have already tried to blame the problem on “too much diversity” or “political correctness” or “wokeness” – all euphemisms for the same thing, essentially. Rubbish. Minorities, people of color, and other marginalized groups all can and do make great movies that people want to see.
The more opportunities marginalized groups are given, the more movies that general audiences love they will make. Wokeness isn’t the issue. When Spike Lee or Patty Jenkins or Ang Lee or Kathryn Bigelow make movies, people watch. At least before the pandemic they did.
The issue is that nobody cares about or has seen the actual movies being nominated now regardless of who is making them. Steven Spielberg has not had a marginalized career, but barely anyone even cared about his remake of West Side Story, which grossed an incredibly disappointing $38.4 million. And that’s the popular one.
The Oscars definitely have a “nobody cares” problem. Arguably so do movies as an artistic and entertainment medium. As more people turn to streaming series to fill their middlebrow entertainment needs, it seems more and more likely that the movies are going the way of Bel Canto opera. And as a huge lifetime movie buff who thinks great movies are still being and could still be made, I think that’s just a huge damn shame.