The 93rd Academy Awards ceremony aka the Oscar 2021 took place on April 25. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the theatres, delayed it by two months. The Oscar announced the nominations on March 15, 2021.
Oscar 2021 telecast drew in barely 10 million viewers, making it the lowest-rated Academy Awards broadcast in history. It was also down by 56% from the previous year’s viewership of 23.6 million. There were many issues attributed to this low viewership in Oscar 2021. With COVID still plaguing the world, most of Hollywood is still in lockdown mode. Productions are still under halt with most of the staff being laid off. The delay of most of the films and TV series because of the pandemic, affected the award shows.
Theatres Closed Due to the Pandemic
Apart from the ones delayed, the movies which did get released this year had a very hard time. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, most of the theatres had to shut down. Some of the cinema chains even had to shut down permanently. This meant that most of the movies either got limited release or a digital one. Big studios like Disney and Warner Bros. have their own affiliated streaming sites, so it’s not a big issue for them. It’s the indie films that suffer the brunt. Most of them barely got to see the light. And even the ones released barely got any buzz. Most of the Oscar-nominated movies are not known by the masses in general, but this year, especially as most, got very limited screenings.
The general public hardly knows about these movies. They have no investment in these movies. Most of these movies feature mainly method actors or newcomers, with very few mainstream stars in them. So apart from hard-core cinephiles, people aren’t familiar with the oscar 2021 nominees. Most of these movies are not even available to watch, even if they wanted to. As most of these movies didn’t get a worldwide release, people in Non-western countries can’t watch these movies. This really hurts the viewership of the Academy Awards as most foreigners are unable to watch the movies getting the awards.
People’s Growing Aversion to the Oscars
The Academy Awards are very prestigious and important. Oscar nomination, itself is a huge honour for the actors. But as the years passed by more and more people grew weary of the Academy Awards. One of the biggest criticisms people had posted is of biasness.
If you notice closely there’s a pattern in the Oscar winners. Most of the time, genres like drama or historical win. Some of the rarely nominated genres are Horror or Comedy. These are the ‘Oscar Bait’. Oscar is the main motive for making these movies. Typically they are historical or biographies that are very dramatic in nature, these movies are the favourites of the cinephiles and not so much liked by the general public. Thus, this just showed out of touch the Academy Awards are with the general audience.
Another criticism levied was the lack of representation. Although steps have been taken to deal with this issue, most of it has come across as virtue signalling rather than actual activism. Rather than highlighting actual indie movie by the BIPOC community, they just chose to release a vague statement promising changes. This is not enough. This is less than the bare minimum, but at least changes are coming. The Academy historically undermined the Asian community too. With white actors portraying Asian characters by donning yellow face and winning awards; while the actual Asian actors become the victim of marginalization.
The latest condemnation came due to the lack of recognition of the streaming services. While many traditional directors like Steven Spielberg have expressed concerns over Netflix as a movie production and distribution studio. These streaming sites are the only way some of us can actually watch these movies. The majority of the Oscar-nominated movies are getting screenings in just the US. Thus, these streaming sites are the only way for most of us to watch these movies legally.
The Many Controversies of Hollywood
It’s not just the Oscar; people became tired of Hollywood in general. With more and more horrific behind the scenes coming, the public is getting more disillusioned. It started with the whole Harvey Weinstein issue and has continued ever since. The whole thing just exposed how dark and cynical the whole Hollywood elite are. It also exposed the whole commercialization aspect of the Oscars. The infamous Oscar season, where big studios spend millions of dollars just to market their Oscar Bait, and the best campaign wins.
This revelation really made people question the authenticity of the Oscar. It became just another award show where money talks. It just brought to light how out of touch and money-hungry the Hollywood elite were. They were ready to look over hundreds of allegations just for money.
As more and more actors spoke out the trust everyone had just completely broken. Most of the famous Oscar winners were very close with Harvey Weinstein and some even have defended in the past. The majority of them knew about his crimes and chose to remain silent. They only spoke up when they realized that their career was on the line.
The Hypocrisy of the Oscars
Ricky Gervais famously said that people don’t want these out of touch celebrities to lecture the audience about topics like politics and Global Warming. While it’s good that there is more attention to these topics, often time’s celebrities are too out of touch with reality to actually make sense. This just makes them look like hypocrites. For example, the Oscar’s have been adamant about climate change and global warming, but they still green light an NFT of Chadwick Boseman’s face. NFT’s have been infamously reported to be very harmful to the environment due to the carbon footprints they produced. Or how they preach about representation but most of the jury is still old white men, who don’t even watch most of the movies nominated. Or how they advocate for feminism but deserving female directors are barely nominated.
As the years have passed by their hypocritical standards have become more and more prominent. Most of them live a lavish lifestyle but still claim themselves the same as the average viewer.
The Oscar ceremony has lost most of its glamour and prestige. As an award, it lost its reputation to celebrate cinema. It has been exposed as just another award show where you can buy your way through. Although the recent ceremony has shown potential in prioritizing cinema over money, it remains a circle-jerk of the same elites, who chose the same thing, vote the same and then pat themselves on the back for winning. The Oscar’s barely make a buzz anymore and the coveted tag of being an Oscar winner isn’t worth much anymore.
What can Oscar do?
The Oscar ratings have been dropping for a few years now. And will probably continue to do so unless they change their ways. The younger generation isn’t too keen on the Oscars. Most of them don’t care for award shows in general. They get their recommendations from social media and will likely do so. The only way for them to improve the viewership is to appeal to Gen z and more. They would need to haul up their entire process and switch to a more social media-based approach. This is the only way for them to survive in the coming years.