Virtual award shows highlight failures in diversity, entertainment value



In this video grab issued Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, by NBC, nominees in the category for best supporting actor in a motion picture react as Daniel Kaluuya, top center, is announced as the winner for his role in “Judas and the Black Messiah” at the Golden Globe Awards. (NBC via AP)

On Feb. 28, people gathered for the 78th Golden Globes ceremony, whether that was from their couch, bed or the red carpet. In the first semi-online Golden Globes, which Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted together in separate locations, many of the nominees accepted their awards from their laptop screens. Audiences, too, were able to watch from home as usual.

Unfortunately, there were plenty of people who did not tune in, and the Golden Globes had their lowest viewership in 13 years. There were many technical difficulties during the actual show, and the Golden Globes have also recently encountered major criticism for having zero Black members on their Hollywood Foreign Press Association team, which is the group that decides the winners. 

Watching how the Golden Globes conducted the virtual ceremony was like watching an awkward interview between a socially conscious celebrity and an overexaggerated late night host,” said Nicole Wood, a DePaul junior majoring in film and television. “It was like no one could enjoy themselves because of the circumstances they were in.” 

This, coupled with the low number of films released in 2020, likely sunk the ratings. So what does this mean for other upcoming awards shows?

The next major awards show slated for 2021 is the 93rd Academy Awards. Though the Oscars generally get more viewers than the Golden Globes, they too have had their issues with representation. In 2015 the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was created by activist April Reign to call out the lack of racial representation in the Academy Award nominees, and it trended on social media and has continued to trend each year since. Last year, the Oscars had their record-lowest viewership at only 23.6 million, and this was before any sort of lockdown was in place. 

Though Covid-19 has definitely put a damper on awards show ratings, it seems as if they were all already on the decline. A major contributing factor to this seems to be in the awards shows’ lack of diversity both in their selection committees and their nominees. This also extends to the music industry. At the 2020 Grammys, Tyler, the Creator called out the awards committee for their racism as well. 

“I think that awards committees are pretty corrupt and don’t pick winners for their merits, but because of the big names involved,” said Carlie Goodlett, BFA 2 Dramaturgy major. 

Part of the enjoyment of awards shows is seeing your favorite artist win, but if bias makes that win impossible, why bother tuning in? 

Additionally, awards shows are a pop-cultural tradition, yet they have done little to evolve over the last 50 years. The original Academy Awards took place in 1929 in a hotel ballroom, featuring three to four nominees for each category, and the winners were read aloud on stage. This sounds pretty similar to the recent Oscars, yet the original ceremony was only 15 minutes long. The Oscars ceremonies in the last few years have had a general runtime of about three hours. Besides adding comedic hosts and memorial celebrations, little has been done to modernize and add entertainment value to these awards shows. 

“I liked the online [Golden Globes] because it was a change of pace from the traditional award shows, which can be a little predictable,” said DePaul junior Anna Walsh. 

The 2020 Emmys also added a fun aspect by having their awards presented by people in hazmat suits, which was trending all over social media, but they too had record-low viewership.

Overall, it seems people are aching not only for a change of pace, but for better representation as well. Perhaps changing the format in which the awards are announced could not only add an interesting twist but cut down on runtime as well. Additionally, the film and television-oriented awards could take a note from the Grammys and the Tonys and add some more interesting performances throughout. 

More importantly, however, awards shows would do well to bring in more people of color and other minorities into their decision making process and into their nominee selection. Doing so would bring in viewers, but it would also ensure awards and praise are being directed at the creators who deserve them most.