Monday, March 5, 2018

Oscars So Worthless?

Does anyone really care about the Oscars anymore? Clearly not, as the 90th Academy Awards were the lowest rated in its history. I'm not surprised. Perhaps it's because the Oscars is just the last of about 100 self-congratulatory award shows with the singular purpose of reminding audiences of how brave thespians are to act like normal people. It's an extraordinary gift, I tell you, one that is so vastly underrated it needs to be applauded and acknowledged over and over again to drive the point home. Real life teachers, soldiers, doctors and activists are great and kudos to them but pretending to be one in front of the camera? That takes guts.

In an era of #MeToo and "Times Up" this year's Oscars felt more tone deaf and self-serving than usual. Do viewers want to hear lectures about inclusion and gender equality from an industry that continuously fails to practice what it preaches? And when it does attempt to right its wrongs, albeit sporadically, fails to show an ounce of humility, preferring to boast of its progressiveness by calling the first step a revolution as opposed to what it really is, a planted seed that has no guarantee of baring fruit. Black Panther and Get Out are still the exception, not the rule, but you wouldn't know it by copious amounts of pats on the back the room gave itself.

This lack of awareness was also readily apparent when Kobe Bryant walked towards the stage to accept his Oscar in the midst of a standing ovation.  How quickly Hollywood forgot he was accused of raping a 19 year old in Colorado years ago. The audience greedily applauded his dig at the insults thrown at LeBron James while willfully dismissing the serious accusation he never accounted for. Hollywood also seemingly dismissed the allegations of abuse made by Gary Oldman's ex-wife. You know, the one where she accused him of beating her with a phone as she tried to call 911 in front of their kids.

At one point the ceremony honored the men and women who served our country by showing clips of military films. The montage was introduced by a Native American Veteran who proudly stated he served in Vietnam before asking the audience, "did you?"I would like to think he was actually only asking one person, Jane Fonda, aka Hanoi Jane, who visited the Viet Cong during the war to protest the military's treatment of Vietnamese citizens. To many veterans her actions were an act of treason. If you caught Ken Burns' 10 part documentary series on The Vietnam War, it would be hard to argue that it wasn't. And yet, when Jane Fonda walked out on stage later during the show, she received a standing ovation. One could argue that this is a customary greeting for living legends. Sure, but on the heels of an American Vietnam Veteran who fought and lost brothers to the very men Jane supported it seemed disrespectful, or at a minimum off-putting.

Hollywood has always survived on smoke and mirrors, directing audiences to what they wanted you to see and believe. When the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, those mirrors were shattered and all that was left was the truth. A truth that exposed the systematic hypocrisy of the industry. To ignore this reality, as Hollywood has done with every award show this season, is to stubbornly hold steadfast to the belief that audiences are willing to disregard what's right in front of them in exchange for the privilege of seeing celebrities bathed in glamour and glitz. What used to be an escape from our tedious life now feels frivolous and unnecessary in the face of serious issues plaguing our country. Hollywood no longer holds much currency with Americans, but instead of owning up to its deficiencies and admitting they're just as fucked up as the rest of us, the industry doubles down with equal parts sequence and condescension. This inability to accept accountability and "read the room" as they say will further erode the relationship between the viewer and the artist making award shows like the Oscars something to skip entirely.

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