Why did they bother with the Oscars this year?

The Oscars were, uh, different this year. But awards shows have been plagued by controversy and bad ratings so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The motion picture academy took the same heat as the music recording academy and as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Why? Lack of diversity. (If you don’t hear that word at least once during a showbiz event, you’re not listening closely enough.)

Going into Sunday’s telecast it was forecast that the three-hour glitz-and-glamour gala would have terrible ratings. So, when you already know that viewership is declining, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and people will never be happy with the diversity, then why bother?

It’s a tradition, sure. But so is sexism and racism within the industry and those legacies are gradually fading out, right?

Sunday night’s show was held in a train station, with no host and no real fanfare of a red carpet leading up to the broadcast. I’m not suggesting those factors alone would’ve changed people’s minds about tuning in, but it probably kept a lot of the big stars away.

If you’re on social media, you might recall the #OscarsSoWhite scandal from a few years ago where they were called out for, well, the hashtag says it all. It makes sense in a racially charged society that Oscars producers tiptoe around the sensitive stuff and not become a soapbox for celebs to rant and preach. Lay low and don’t draw attention to yourself. That might seem like a good idea in theory but when you’re putting on the biggest event in showbiz, it was probably a stupid move.

As an entertainment reporter, I’ve covered awards shows for 15 years. I’ve been inside the theatre and broadcasting from the red carpet. Admittedly, 10 years ago, the carpet was the place to be, but now it’s not a “thing” — again, not just because of a pandemic but there’s little excitement for the events.

The problem is (and I mean this from a viewer standpoint) is that there was so much focus on diversity that anyone and everyone who made a movie was nominated. Again, diversity should be encouraged, absolutely, but it seemed like that was the focus of the nominees, presenters and those in attendance.

This time, most viewers hadn’t heard of the nominees. That’s a problem. Why would people tune in to watch unknowns win awards? Are there better things to do with your Sunday evening? (It depends if your government has taken away all your fun with corona shutdowns, I guess.)

I got several messages throughout the show: “Wow, they’re really checking off every diversity box tonight” and “This is a love-fest and it’s so boring.” The Oscars are known for being theatrical and having comedy and working songs from the films into the show. None of that happened this year. And it was noticed. Oh boy, was it noticed.

It seems like Oscars producers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. They face what everybody with a public platform faces nowadays: You can’t please everybody all of the time… and the displeased will speak up louder than any of your supporters.

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