Entertainment is plagued by political discourse
Now I’ll admit I never really watched award shows attentively, even before political intrigue became what is essentially their purpose. While some of the live performances were impressive, I preferred just passively checking the nominees, performances and winners either mid or post-show.
Nowadays, it’s hard to even pay attention to shows like the Grammys, the Golden Globes and the Oscars without running into political outcry. All the news you hear about are the protests and the messages from the show, either through performances or speeches that celebrities made. It’s never about the nominees or the winners’ art anymore; their works are sidelined by societal issues.
In theory, this is a potentially positive sacrifice to be made considering the turbulent political atmosphere we as Americans live in today. But after this year’s Grammys and last year’s Emmys shows, American politics are no longer impactful side bars. Instead, these issues are taking center stage. This year’s Grammys featured the #MeToo movement, suicide prevention, immigration issues and even a Hillary Clinton cameo reading from Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury” about Donald Trump’s first year in office.
Award shows have never been strangers to political movements or protests. There are plenty of examples of award shows where celebrities took time in their acceptance speeches to spread awareness to a certain macro- or micro-societal issue.
A recent example is when Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar in 2016 for “The Revenant,” and he used his acceptance speech to discuss climate change and global warming, as well as what can be done about it. What’s interesting about this specific example is a study was done by a team of researchers to determine how much of an impact DiCaprio’s speech had on the 34.5 million people who were watching.
In a journal published on the PLOS ONE open access scientific journal, tweets regarding the terms “climate change” and “global warming” spiked 636 percent. 250,000 tweets alone were posted the day of his speech with these keywords. Google searches for these same keywords also increased over 200 percent after DiCaprio’s speech and remained higher for several days after, surpassing 100,000 searches. This was more than triple the amount of internet searches than were made on Earth Day. Celebrity icons do have the powerful ability to cause social change, there’s no doubt about that.
This is not a condemnation of the politics in award shows, especially considering the previous example. In fact, I encourage political intrigue and protest to some extent because it’s an ideal opportunity for entertainment icons to effectively share an important message. But in recent years, furthered by the tumultuous election cycle and presidency of Trump, political controversy and protest has remained at the forefront of news both nationally and internationally.
Widespread political turmoil has spilled over into the American entertainment industry, and at the forefront of these conversations are the award shows. Just look at last year’s Emmys: the former White House press secretary under President Trump just showed up, mocking his statements as press secretary describing the presidential inauguration’s crowd size.
The point is, these celebrities can make political statements in their acceptance speeches and their musical performances, but when these political arguments are being woven into the structure of the show altogether, it begins to feel like pandering. The awards show becomes more of a statement rather than a celebration. Viewers no longer get the satisfaction of seeing their favorite artists win without having a political subtext forced on them throughout the show. A celebration of art should be the focus of an award show, awarding artists for their efforts rather than forcing a political agenda onto their art.