And The Oscar Goes To…
The Academy Awards are the highest sought after award within the film community. To be nominated for an Oscar is, in itself, an incredible honor that follows each nominee for the entirety of their career or run of a film.
2017 celebrated The 89th Academy Award ceremony with a continuation of declining viewership. It seems that fewer and fewer viewers are tuning in to the most coveted award of the film industry. As streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon continue to compete with one another by offering greater selections of content at instant speeds, binge worthy selections, or their own original shows/movies, more and more consumers are opting out of traditional television. Why spend money on cable/satellite when there is an ocean of content available anytime at the click of a button?
As The Academy Awards are exclusively broadcast on a specific network (ABC), streaming sites lose out on the broadcast. Since more viewers are cutting ties with cable/satellite, there is naturally a downward trend for viewership of such things as the Oscars. Although the honor of winning the title has not diminished, the amount of viewers tuning in certainly has. The online viewers that are essentially cordless, catch the synopsis the day after; along with any clips of newsworthy happenings.
In 2017, the highest and most coveted award for best picture created a frenzy of confusion as the wrong name was announced as the winner. The cast and crew of La La Land took the stage only to find that Moonlight was the true owner of the Best Picture award. In our current world where a Kardashian/Jenner might fake a pregnancy in order to stay in the public eye, or a United States President feuds publicly on Twitter with an array of individuals, an event as chaotic as this fiasco could easily have been a publicity stunt in order to boost ratings. However, as this was the final award given, a ratings stunt seems highly unlikely so late in the night.
This is far from the first time that The Academy Awards has been riddled with controversy. 2016’s awards saw a lack of turnout at the actual event due to a boycott (#OscarsSoWhite) over the lack of diversity within the nominees. Chris Rock hosted the 2016 awards and referranced the lack of diversity throughout the night; while celebrities such as Will Smith, Spike Lee, Reese Witherspoon, George Clooney, Don Cheadle and other A-listers opted out entirely. The first Oscar was given out in 1929, and it wasn’t until 1939 until a person of color, Hattie McDaniel, took home the little gold statue. It would be another fifty-one years until Whoopi Goldberg became the second female of color to take home a little gold man. Sidney Poitier became the first black man to win an Oscar in 1963 with a thirty-eight year gap until Denzel Washington took one home in 2001.
Along with boycotts, the Oscars have been plagued with a series of refusals. Starting in 1930, writer, Dudley Nichols, refused his Oscar due to a writers strike. George C. Scott outright refused his win in 1971 due to his problem with the politics behind the voting process, calling the ceremony a “meat parade.” Hollywood was up in arms with Scott’s snub, and great actors along with newcomers picked sides. The industry finally calmed down and leveled out until two years later when Marlon Brando topped Scott by not only refusing his Oscar for The Godfather, but had someone else refuse it in his place.
In 1973, Marlon Brando had Native American actress, Sacheen Littlefeather, wave the award away as she read a statement on Brando’s behalf regarding the mistreatment and underrepresentation of Native Americans within the film industry. Brando had taken offense to the fact that lead roles depicting Native Americans were almost always given to white actors while Native Americans were given roles as extras.
In 1993 Richard Gere used his platform at The Academy Awards to denounce a Chinese invasion of Tibet. Not only did this choice of, what seems to be an impromptu speech, lead to him being blacklisted in Hollywood, but also in a ban from China. China is such an important country when it comes to film revenue, that the film industry played it safe and axed Gere as a precautionary measure; in order to not disrupt the revenue stream.
Strife, conflict, and controversy are certainly not foreign to The Academy Awards. Typically, these conflicts are of short notice leading up to the prime time night for Hollywood. However, the day that Harvey Weinstein’s scandal broke, everything changed. We are months out from 2018s Academy Awards, and Hollywood is purging itself of elitists who abused their roles of power. One such example is 2017s winner of Best Actor, Casey Affleck, who has been accused several times of inappropriate behavior towards women. We have finally reached a period where those in Hollywood, regardless of stature, are being thrown out of the community due to their absurd misuse of position or authority. Not only is Affleck controversial within the community because of his alleged misconduct, but as Oscar tradition goes, he will traditionally award the category of Best Female Actress.
Not only is this a slap in the face to women everywhere, it could potentially lead to an even steeper decline in viewership the Oscars have ever seen. As millennials continue to cut the cord, they maintain avid attention to the current drainage of the Hollywood swamp. A movement to boycott the 2018 is certainly underway, and will most likely take wings as the ceremony draws closer. However, The Academy could potentially use the ostracization of Affleck as a way to promote new viewership. Moreover, The Academy could drastically reverse their downward spiral of viewership for this upcoming awards by disinviting Affleck as well as promoting and uplifting minorities within the film community.
The Academy has an opportunity to use the 2018 ceremonies as a sort of reckoning for their tarnished reputation throughout the duration of Hollywood history; particularly post Weinstein. In order to promote viewership, The Academy could (and should) take action in a way that shows the world that there is no toleration for such grandiose misconduct as well as making a step towards rectifying the mistreatment of (and lack of) minorities throughout Oscar history.