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Diversity fails, pandemic woes: Awards shows are losing relevancy

Like many awards shows, the Oscars suffer from declining relevancy due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, out-of-touch celebrities and a lack of diversity.  – Photo by

If you’re anything like me, you may have fallen victim to the undeniable allure of Hollywood — in fact, it’s quite common to buy into the glitz and glam of celebrities or to dream about being in that spotlight yourself.

As a follower of the rich and famous, I’ve been watching all the major award shows since I was a child. My favorite was the Academy Awards — better known as the Oscars. Having grown up with award shows like the Oscars, where I prepped for the season with a long list of films and waited for televised red carpet events with popcorn and anticipation, I noticed a steady decline in relevancy over the last few years.

But what’s the cause of this startling change?

For one, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has certainly put a damper on awards season. Logistically, many of these events can’t be held the same way when we’re supposed to be wearing masks and social distancing. With the spread of the omicron variant, several countries have even reinstated lockdown restrictions.

While the U.S. has not announced any plans of shutting down again, we face the same statistics as other countries hit hard by omicron. In such conditions, it’s becoming more difficult for Hollywood to justify throwing events that could promote further spread.

Another effect of the pandemic is that movies that usually would have been a box office smash are seeing shaky opening weekend numbers. Steven Spielberg’s "West Side Story," in previous years, may have been a financial success, but this was not the case in a pandemic when people are less likely to risk their health and safety (or shell out cash) to see a movie. Especially one they could eventually see at home on a streaming platform.

But even if there wasn't a pandemic, things wouldn't be business as usual. While COVID-19 was a catalyst for the decline in interest in award shows, it wasn’t the only cause: Viewership dropped by 20 percent in the 2020 awards season (well, before quarantine and mask measures were enforced).

Another concern during the current awards season is how they’re being held with viewership declining and the pandemic. The Golden Globes announced its winners on Instagram, not even holding a ceremony, and it’s still unclear exactly how the Oscars will be staged. Though, we do know they’re returning to having a host again.

An issue revolving around the content of the awards rather than the format that came into light years ago that has recently been receiving more attention is the lack of diversity — both in the winners and nominees as well as the committees that choose them.

The Golden Globes has been the main award show to be held accountable for its lack of diversity, as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association brought only six Black members into its group in the last year after nearly two decades of having no Black members.

There's also the issue of the change in how we view celebrities — which, while it began before the pandemic, greatly increased after. When people were facing job layoffs and illness due to COVID-19, celebrities responded insensitively by trying to relate to the average person's struggle with a "we’re all in this together" message to the general public.

The prime example of this mindset was the "Imagine" cover led by Gal Gadot and many other fellow celebrities. Rather than reaching its intended audience with a positive reaction, the video came off as tone-deaf and shallow as well as showed how far removed celebrities could be. It’s difficult to pity a celebrity locked in their million-dollar mansion trying to relate to the average person's struggles.

The video left a sour taste in people’s mouths after it sparked rage across the internet. The "Imagine" sing-along and other attempts by celebrities to be more relatable in a difficult time definitely lost Hollywood a lot of its admiration, but it didn’t lead to the death of fame and the celebrity. Still, it’s not easy to find the appeal in glamorous award shows when the average person is reminded just how bitterly far removed they are from them.

Even though Academy Award nominations won’t be released until February, the Golden Globes' winners may shed light on the future of this year's Oscar nominees and winners. In some ways, it seems that award committees may be making an attempt toward increasing diversity in recent years — but is it too little too late?

With both changes being made to improve these shows and old ways that worked reinstated, it seems clear that awards shows are scrambling to garner the attention and respect they once had.

Despite the decline in popularity and prestige in award shows in recent years, I know I’ll still be tuning into the 94th Academy Awards. But I definitely won’t be watching it with the same unconditional admiration I once had. Even if you're tuning in, too, one question remains: Are award shows even compatible with the new world we live in?

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