by Steve Karandy (@skarandy)
Are you watching the Oscars® tonight?
From the activity on social media, it sure seems like a lot of people are paying attention. Just try keeping up with the twitter feed on a search for #oscars.
While many view the Academy Awards ceremony each year as a vainglorious display of over-paid, self-obsessed celebrities patting themselves on the back for another fine year by handing out gold-plated men for movies that just play to the status quo (and, quite often, rightfully so), millions of people around the world tune in to the show, which makes it a forum for many points of view. Even more so in the age of social media.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was created by the major movie studios in order to promote their product. But as the awards ceremony, and the red carpet parade, became the show, artists would use the event as a platform for espousing their cause. Actors rejected their awards in protest of the Academy itself or the treatment of Native Americans. Awards winners and presenters used the spotlight to highlight causes such as the treatment of HIV sufferers or the Chinese occupation in Tibet. But today, people don’t need to appear on the show to get their message to the audience for the awards. They can simply talk about it on social media, and reach the entire world.
#OscarsSoWhite was posted on Twitter by April Reign back in 2015 to highlight the lack of diversity of the artists begin nominated for awards. The hashtag became so prominent online, and created such a wide conversation about the lack of opportunities for people of color in the film industry, that the Academy actually changed how it elects members and how they vote on the awards. There was the hope that this would increase diversity in the Academy itself, which was known for being predominantly old, white, and male, which would then lead to more diversity in nominations. While the numbers have gotten better, there still is a long way to go. But still, the change caused by a single person on Twitter was profound.
When Harvey Weinstein, a powerful movie producer, was finally publicly accused of being a sexual predator (it was one of Hollywood’s worst kept “secrets“), actress Alyssa Milano encouraged fellow victims of harassment and assault to tweet #MeToo. If tweets made noise, the resulting chorus of #MeToo’s would have been deafening. The conversation spread all across social media, and lead to the creation of Time’s Up. Again, a single voice on social media lead to (hopefully) a revolution in how people are treated in the workplace.
But it’s not all inspirational conversation surrounding the awards. Various people on social media use the platform to excoriate the Academy, and the whole of “liberal” media, about issues as varied as gun control, men’s rights, and the perceived(?) persecution of the President:
The Oscars.® You may not be watching it, but people sure are talking about it.