Never mind college basketball — the new year marks awards show season.
During past awards seasons, I’d fill out my brackets for best actor, actress, songstress and television show hopefuls. It would be a year long study of the material and Metacritic statistics filled with disappointments and career resurges affecting my predictions. The best strategy? Pick Meryl Streep for everything. She’s first-draft.
Uniforms of these arenas are the most aesthetically pleasing — instead of jerseys and shorts, there are gowns and suits. Most importantly, the award recipients receive a shiny gold Academy Award over an NCAA plaque.
Needless to say, I heavily immerse myself in awards show culture every year. This year, however, my excitement for finding out these superlative outcomes began to diminish. Well into hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s Golden Globes monologue and the occasional shots of Leonardo DiCaprio , I realized how much I depend on award shows to guide me through material of merit. Often times, I watch movies or listen to songs simply because they win “Best Picture” or “Best Album.” Because of this, I’ve lost, or never gained, the ability to self-discern.
Because my media experiences are heavily determined by what is considered “Best” by a certain group of people, I’d watched a lot of movies that were deemed culturally significant, but I ultimately did not enjoy. Some of the most notable television shows did not have stand-out plotlines for me as I went through a Netflix binge. One particular song nominated for a Grammy Award, the most prestigious accolade in the music industry, stirred the nation, even though it was one that I considered to be downright offensive. Yet because of the weight society puts on these works of art, people are pressured to treasure them as well. It is as though society has deemed what is worthy of one’s time as solely black and white.
What many people don’t realize, however, is the subjective factor of each category. Even though winners are seemingly afforded a universal stamp of approval, the fact of the matter is that there are upsets every year. Last year, Empire released its 22 Top Oscar injustices, listing works that truly “deserved” a particular Oscar win. And when Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson were omitted from the Oscar ballot this year for their honorable works in Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks, The Hollywood Reporter noticed. Without concrete numbers like number of baskets made in a basketball game, the best can’t really be determined.
It is as if award shows capitalize on the celebrity of the artists rather than the art itself. Instead of focusing on an incognito performance a particular actor or actress gave, the spotlight is on the star factor of the performer themselves. Acceptance speeches become the mascot for the performance rather than letting the work reach out and speak to the audience itself. Last year, for example, Jennifer Lawrence criticized society for their prejudiced conceptions of mental illness through her performance in Silver Linings Playbook. Instead of furthering her character’s message, people buzzed about her stumble up the stairs to receive her Oscar the next day. Social media boasted that she was so down-to-earth, while countless GIFs were made of the clumsy moment. Lawrence’s character, Tiffany, got lost in Lawrence herself.
By limiting the ultimate goal to snagging the coveted golden statue, these ceremonies could spur quality creations. They could also, however, lead the ignorant to new discoveries. But for now, I’ll use award shows as a source of entertainment. I think I’ll be happier that way.
So, never mind the brackets — awards show season should not determine the best in pop culture.
Danni Wang is a sophomore majoring in narrative studies. Her column “Pop Fiction” runs Tuesdays.