From fawn to yawn: How social media is killing the awards show

Posted by andreaitis on February 2, 2010

Oscar nominations were announced this morning, and they were as boring as Anne Hathaway’s beige pantsuit.

Announcing 2010 Oscar Nominations.  Y-a-a-a-w-n.

Announcing 2010 Oscar Nominations. Y-a-a-a-w-n.

Sure, the people  who win awards care about them. And the people who are nominated care about them until they don’t win and then they rationalize the superciliousness of awarding one another trinkets for perceived validation.

Aside from the winners and the wanna-be-winners, does anyone one else care anymore?  After nodding off during the Golden Globes and then the Grammys, I’m thinking not so much.  To be fair, most of the Grammy performances were worth watching.  It was the awards part that felt like filler.  T/S’er Leor Galil noticed as well in  Another ‘Grammys are irrelevant’ post.

So, what gives?

Two words:  Social. Media.

That’s right, social media is killing the awards show.    We used to watch awards shows because they were the only chance we had to live vicariously, to see celebrities as themselves or dolled-up versions of themselves.  We could relate — Sandra Bullock winning a Golden Globe is kind of like when I came in third place during that district spelling bee in 5th grade.   Dressed up?  Check.  Trophy presented?  Check.  Accomplishment recognized?  Double check.

But now, I no longer need to wait for an awards show to get an intimate glimpse of a celebrity, and I no longer need to rely on the “expertise” of those selecting the winners.   Social media gives me access to celebrities and experts on my terms, allowing me to call the shots.   Rather than a network programming my awards season for me,  I can do it myself through blogs, twitter feeds, podcasts and videos.    Social media is, to a large extent, the great equalizer.

I watched the Golden Globes specifically because Ricky Gervais was hosting, and I was disappointed.   Mel Gibson joke aside, it was a multimedia dose of ambien.  Lesson learned.  I’m much better off going to Ricky’s blog, where I learn he just did a photo shoot, his mate’s missing dog was found and  his day consisted of “More junkets.  Went for a run.  Drank wine.  Watched telly.”

I can follow celebs on twitter, including my fave awards show host and current crush Neil Patrick Harris (@actuallynph on twitter and yes I know he’s gay but I’m still crushing).  I can even interact directly with celebs, responding to their twitter messages or commenting on their blogs.   Sometimes, a-hem,  Jon Favreau might even retwitter you.

jon favreau twitter 2-2-2010 9-53-47 AM

But mostly, it’s about the ever-growing voice of public opinion.   It’s about what movie or music my Facebook friends favor, rather than the Foreign Press Association.   It’s about what’s trending on my Twitter feed, with my carefully-curated list of people I follow.  It’s about technology giving us an all-access pass, letting us in behind the velvet rope.  I imagine many actors watched the Academy Award nominations much as I did this morning, viewing the live stream on my laptop.  They will follow the media flow in the same way as well, googling and twittering and clicking on multiple devices.

We’re no longer handcuffed to the entertainment experts presented to us through traditional media venues.  Celebrities can listen not just to the professional critic,  but also to the amateur and fan.   I listen to the opinions that matter to me;  I can find, choose and follow those voices.  Through social media we are achieving what art is all about — freedom of expression — and in doing so we are de-valuing the monopolistic voices that drove public opinion for so long.

I’ll still watch the 82nd Academy Awards on March 7th, to see how Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin fare as  co-hosts and to see the dresses and drama.   It will no longer be a Big Event for me, though.  I’ll likely be multi-tasking with the TV on and TweetDeck open.   Like the Golden Globes and the Grammys, the Oscars have lost their luster.   To shine again they need a significant overhaul that takes into account how we consume media today.  That means more than a go-to-the-website -to-vote-for-a-Bon-Jovi-song gimmick.   Seriously, that’s the best you can do?  For an industry that is grounded in story-telling,  imagination, creativity and magic, remaking the awards show should be a worthy opportunity and challenge.

My six-year-old put it all in perspective when I told her about the Oscars.  She said, simply,  “Oh, they just want you to go to the movies so they can make more money.”

Members of the Academy, the future generation of awards-show-watchers are waiting in the wings.   Go ahead.  Make their day.


7 Responses to “From fawn to yawn: How social media is killing the awards show”

  1. Bill Barol said

    Andrea: Great, sharp post. It’s a common knock on mass media that it’s splintered us into a million narrowcasted constituencies, and we lack the national living room we metaphorically had when there were three channels of national programming and everybody more or less watched the same thing at the same time. Social media is (…”are”? crap) what knits that fabric back together for me. When I watch something like a presidential debate or the BCS game I’m watching it with whatever slice of the five hundred or so smart, funny people I follow on Twitter is also watching, and what ensues is a conversation. A communal experience. I may not want to watch the Oscars anymore, because their smug, relentless air of self-congratulation maks me want to puke; that’s another story. But for almost any other kind of big national televised event I can think of, I’ll have my tweetestream open and working, and I’ll feel something like I’m in a bar with some of the sharpest people I know.

  2. andreaitis said

    The irony is that we’re moving back toward the cable access experience. As technology allows for a single screen experience where I can watch any kind of programming on any kind of screen (TV, computer or mobile device), we’ll find the next great show in some kid’s basement. Everyone and anyone can be a reality star. There’s good and bad in that, and it makes search functionality that much more important to cull through all the programming, but I say party on.

  3. Bill Barol said

    If we’re moving back toward the cable access experience, I want my Robin Byrd Show.

  4. I couldn’t (respectfully) disagree more, Andrea. If anything, social media is saving these type of shows, for all the reasons Bill mentioned. The communal fun of watching an awards show and then reading it about in real time enlivens what is normally, as you mentioned, a staid and tedious affair. I never cared to watch a single frame of The Golden Globes until this year, when it kept popping up as a subject in my Twitter feed. And The Oscars, BET, MTV (or whoever hosts whatever show) don’t care if the majority of comments are mocking it, as long as people are watching it and bringing in advertisers.

    • andreaitis said

      Joseph – I will respectfully disagree with your disagreement. Social media may be providing some audience for awards shows but that’s a short-term novelty, not a real solution. Social media isn’t saving these shows; the point is the shows are boring and staid. The 82nd Academy Awards show will be pretty similar to the 42nd show. You’re not watching awards shows because you want to see them, you’re watching to hang out with your (virtual) friends. If something better was on — and it will be — you’d be watching that instead. Remember the In Living Color Super Bowl halftime show? Counter-programming. That’s what awards shows should be afraid of, cross-platform counter-programming.

  5. Facebook User said

    For me, social media makes a lot of these big events more interesting by creating a larger audience for the sort of obnoxious comments I’d ordinarily be making only to my wife and my dog. It gives the “wow, Taylor Swift can’t sing at all” discussion a much longer self-life.

    What’s killing awards shows? How about networks stuffing them full of cross-promotional opportunities. Did we really need a representative of every show in the CBS lineup at the Grammys? Did we need Lionel Richie plugging the Michael Jackson ghoul tour DVD?

    Next time, less talking. More singing.

    • andreaitis said

      Well said. They’re entertainers, so we should be entertained. Tape the handing out of awards and only show us the good/interesting/obnoxious moments. Maybe that will encourage the celebs to make better speeches.

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