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Award Shows Favor Profit Over Product

The media is flooded with highlight reels and reviews for this year’s most prestigious award shows. From the Grammys to the Golden Globes, we love seeing who’s on top. Each time though, there’s invariably disappointment and bitterness surrounding the results. Which movie really deserved to win? Which artist wasn’t appreciated? This makes me ask, why do we put so much stock in these award ceremonies anyway? Although they may once have been contests that awarded purely based on quality and creativity, nowadays we have to acknowledge that their main function is to make money. Knowing this, we shouldn’t hold their selections in such high regard.

Despite their current grandeur, these shows all had humble beginnings. The first Academy Awards ceremony was held in 1929 as a private dinner function at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The results weren’t even released to the public until three months later. The Oscars was televised for the first time 24 years later in 1953. Similarly, the Grammys and the Golden Globes also began as private events that weren’t broadcasted until they’d been going on for twenty years. However, in present times, they’re a much more commercial affair.

The Oscars and the Grammys are two of the most popular television events and have millions of viewers tuning in. This massive audience generates hundreds of millions of dollars, but the amount of money depends, of course, on the amount of people watching. It’s beneficial to nominate music and films that are popular with the masses. For example, at the 70th Oscars, the year of James Cameron’s beloved Titanic, over 57.25 million viewers tuned in, creating a ton of revenue. In contrast, the 78th Oscars, which awarded best picture to the low budget independent movie Crash, was only watched by 38.64 million people. This may explain why nominees are often mainstream. Many people were especially disappointed with the Oscars lineup this year. Instead of anything very unique or creative, (with the exception of Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma) the nominees for best picture were mostly big budget studio films full of A-list actors that seemed carefully selected to appeal to the public. It’s sad that the greed surrounding this event lowers the film standards. Not only does the Oscars make a lot of money, but getting a film selected is also an expensive process.

Indie movies don’t usually get nominated, but this isn’t due to academy bias. It’s the result of an even larger problem with the way these award shows work. In order to have a chance of winning an Oscar, movies run what’s called a For Your Consideration Campaign. This is a kind of marketing directed specifically at academy voters, and includes sending presents, posting ads and throwing lavish parties in order to gain their favor and generate publicity.

The Golden Globes are voted on by the 87 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press, and since all these people are known in Los Angeles, they’re campaigned to personally, receiving expensive gifts and benefits. Without a campaign, there’s no way to create enough buzz for your film to get nominated.

There’s nothing wrong with watching the Oscars, Grammys, or any other major award ceremony. It’s fun to see all the glamorous outfits and hear the iconic speeches. Many amazing creators are honored at these events, but it’s important to remember that there’s nothing inherently correct about the results. The ability to decide what’s the best lies within you alone.