Award Shows: Who's Even Watching?

By Nicole Iuzzolino

Hollywood award shows are facing extinction. Not even the Oscars, one of the most popular award shows, is safe.

According to Bloomberg, the Emmy Awards garnered the smallest viewership in about three decades and the Golden Globes had an audience of only 6.9 million in 2021 as opposed to its previous record low of 14.9 million in 2009.

The problem is not the pandemic. Award show viewership has been dropping for years, and there isn’t just one root; there are multiple factors contributing to the downfall of these award shows.

For many, it is hard to watch celebrities stand up on a stage, discussing societal issues and injustices and how we must all do our part, knowing the minute they leave, they will be carrying out their Oscars six-figure goody bag—and a golden statue—to play with later.While our nation is ravaged with issues of racial inequality, homelessness rising in our cities, and the possible threat of the pandemic resurging, feeling happy for these celebrities can be impossible. Turning off the award show of the week is the easiest possible wayto keep some of our sanity.

With how much those goody bags are worth alone, these celebrities could help many people get a stable footing in the world. These goody bags are an Oscars specialty, given to every actor and actress who is nominated. So, as you clap for the individual who won the Oscar and think about how sad the losers must be, remember they are taking home a large bag of gifts the average person could not afford. The 2021 bags are full of meditation headbands that retail at $250, a plastic surgery consultation with the world-renowned liposuction surgeon Dr. Thomas Su, an all-inclusive stay in a Swedish lighthouse, and high-end skincare products favored by the Hollywood elites, just to name a few.

Viewers want to feel a connection to who or what they are watching, and while we may never be on the same level as these Hollywood stars, money continues to be a barrier that grows in size every year. Any ounce of a connection we could have with these celebrities’ dwindles as they become even less relatable.

Another issue is politics. The New York Times reported that, “Increasingly, the ceremonies are less about entertainment honors and more about progressive politics, which inevitably annoys those in the audience who disagree. One recent producer of the Oscars, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential metrics, said the minute-by-minute post-show rating analysis indicated that ‘vast swaths’ of people turned off their televisions when celebrities started to opine on politics.” This goes for most award shows, specifically from the buildup of the 2016 election. Politics have interjected themselves into every part of Hollywood, with award shows being the primary target. While some think that Hollywood should continue discussing politics on award ceremony stages, others say they should “stick to what they are good at.” Regardless of your personal opinion, it is clear that this is an issue.

These events are supposed to be distractions from the world we live in and provide a few hours of solace and entertainment to those who need it. However, the politicization and unrelatability of these events only add to the stressfulness of these times. At the Tony Awards in 2019, Andrew Garfield made a wonderful speech regarding LGBTQ rights, but the only part of the show that truly gained internet attention was Robert De Niro saying “Fuck Trump.” Inspiring speeches and unexpected award wins have been consistently overshadowed by political outbursts and skits.

With that being said, only time will tell whether these award shows can bring back the audiences they used to have. Award shows have become unenjoyable, to the point where people forget they even aired until the next day. There is an incredible amount of work that must be done to bring award shows back to what they were created to be—anticipating who will win what coveted award of the night. But until then, expect to see continuing drops in viewership, and televisions turning off once the ceremonies begin.