Remember when the Academy wanted to do a “popular Oscar” to acknowledge the blockbuster films they’re pretty terrible at recognizing, and everyone was like, Ew, no thanks? Well, guess what? They’ve come up with something even more stupid! Instead of letting the Academy vote on a popular Oscar—which was at least intended to be an actual trophy handed out on awards night—they’re going to let the INTERNET vote on their favorite film of 2021. The winning film won’t be awarded a trophy, it will just be announced during the ceremony, like a Buzzfeed poll. There is also a hashtag campaign for the #OscarsCheerMoment to select specific scenes that people like from 2021 to feature in a montage along with Tweets. And finally, the Academy will let three Twitter users who vote present a REAL OSCAR at the ceremony in 2023. This could not possibly backfire.
That’s right, the Academy is basically Boaty McBoatface-ing the Oscars in the hopes of stirring up some ratings and engagement from the mass audience that has fled the broadcast over the last twenty years. And if it seems reactionary following Spider-Man: No Way Home’s “snub”, you’re not wrong, but if you think this will automatically translate into Spider-Man getting an Oscar moment—besides that time Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse won an actual Oscar in 2019—then you are wrong. People can vote up to twenty times a day, which encourages brigading behavior, and you know who’s GREAT at brigading and other forms of collective online action? Snyderbros. And Little Monsters.
So it won’t be a slam dunk for Spider-Man (a franchise that, again, boasts an ACTUAL OSCAR). Zack Snyder’s fanbase has mobilized for Army of the Dead, since Justice League isn’t eligible as it was released first on HBO Max (Army of the Dead was in theaters for a week before landing on Netflix). And the Little Monsters are supporting Mother Monster and House of Gucci, which has a much better claim to being snubbed than No Way Home.
My question, though, is what this does to increase the entertainment value of the Oscars telecast itself. I’ve thought about Oscars ratings for years now, especially with the COVID era hastening certain trends like skewing away from a theatrical-first film experience, and I just don’t think hosts and what movies get nominated are as important as some people think. First, viewership for ALL awards shows is down, suggesting that people kind of just don’t care about awards shows, in general (though the Oscars remain the most popular of the lot). Second, online engagement around the Oscars is pretty high. People have Opinions about nominations, and They Will Tweet Them on nomination day. On the day of the ceremony, red carpet action is hugely popular all over social media. But the general sentiment towards watching the telecast itself seems to be, Why sit through all that when I can watch clips on Youtube the next day? Most people seem to just wait for the highlight reel the day after.
“Fixing” the Oscars might be as simple as the following:
1) Just acknowledge you’re never getting the 40+ million audience back, those days are over for awards shows.
2) Start the show earlier, like the Super Bowl, so that it ends at a time at which people are still willing to be awake. Start no later than 7 PM Eastern, so the show ends between 10-10:30. Honestly? 6 PM would be even better, but just make sure the show is over no later than 10:30.
3) Put entertainment value first.
Is creating a montage of films with Tweets going to be entertaining? I mean, it could be. If whoever is in charge of this sifts through the hashtags and looks for the funny ones, maybe. There are a lot of funny people on social media, who know how to be funny FOR social media, and some of them are in those hashtags. Highlight the jokes, and maybe this could work.
But it’s clearly meant to be a Band-Aid for “snubbing” No Way Home, so the montage is probably going to be geared toward that and Lady Gaga, and other angry fanbases in need of appeasement. Making this fun, and funny, probably isn’t the priority. Because for all their anxiety around their waning popularity, the Academy doesn’t seem interested in making a telecast that is entertaining in and of itself. It wants pomp and circumstance, and (self)importance, and it usually gets those things, and the ratings keep spiraling down. Maybe just once we could try putting entertainment first? The trophy people are going to get their trophies. But in between that, maybe the Oscars could just be, you know, a fun thing to watch.
Live long and gossip,