the The Oscars have long lamented the fact that fewer and fewer people attend their lavish ceremony year after year. As the ratings drop – a general trend for most television shows, and the Oscars remain one of the most-watched live events on network television – we are then bombarded with thoughts of how the folks at AMPAS and ABC, the network that airs the big show, can attract a potential audience. Their new tactic is to include a brand new price voted by fans.
Twitter users will be able to vote for their favorite movies released in 2021 with the hashtag #OscarsFanFavorite. The movie that receives the most fan votes by March 3 will be recognized at the awards show on March 27. Three lucky voters will also receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles to present an Oscar at next year’s ceremony. According to Meryl Johnson, vice president of digital marketing at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, “Social media users around the world now have more opportunities to engage with the show in real time, find a community and be part of the experience”. in a way that they have never been able to do before.
I feel like I shouldn’t even have to explain why this is so clearly a terrible idea doomed to fail in the most spectacular way possible. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The moment you all saw the word “Twitter” you could sense failure. Imagine thinking that we let the morons on Twitter decide anything about the Oscars. Did you see this precious infernal site during the awards night? This snark is not constructive criticism, kids!
The Oscars continue to be criticized for being snobby elitists who don’t care about ordinary man’s mainstream films, which today means having to endure arguments over whether the highest-grossing Marvel movie of this year should or should not be up for Best Photo or not. Really, the Academy has always been very average and focused on crowd-pleasing dishes. There is a reason like Titanium and The green knight are not nominated this year but Belfast and Don’t look up now. Also, superhero movies win and are nominated for Oscars. have we all forgotten Black Panther and Joker? Whatever populism means in pop culture (and these days it too often sounds like a whistle for a right-wing culture war), the Oscars aren’t ignoring it. Sometimes we wish he would pay less attention to such things and expand his field of merit, but that is much less likely to happen than, say, the new Spider Man film sweeping the board.
Voting an arbitrary group of people in a popularity contest will produce biased results. There are always biases at play and many of them are insidious as all hell. That won’t change with a fan vote. Hell, this will probably only exacerbate these problems. Do you know how easy it is to hijack something like that? Online voting and Twitter spam are extremely easy to scam. Online popularity is all about noise and intimidation and don’t think for a second that we won’t see such tactics in play. How long before a group of hardcore right-wing creeps decide to open the ranks and to take control of the vote for a Ben Shaprio vehicle? This will end up being used for one of two things: hardcore fandom settling or unbridled trolling. That’s not what the Academy wants either, which makes me wonder what they want.
A few years ago, the Academy announced and then quickly backtracked on its plans for an award called Best Popular Film. The vagueness of this new category only fueled backlash from critics and industry figures. It seemed like such a blatant move to pander to the kind of movies that don’t usually get Oscar love (read: blockbusters.) It suggested that the films nominated in the Best Picture category were somehow “unpopular” or the choice of the Hollywood elite rather than the “real people” of the public. Again, it’s not like they prioritize international arthouse cinema or experimental cinema over the kind of stuff your grandparents liked. Moreover, such a category would virtually guarantee that these “popular” films would never be nominated for Best Picture, regardless of their quality.
It always seemed unlikely that audiences who never cared about the Oscars would suddenly tune in with annual devotion if there was a category just to scream the same handful of films that dominate both the box office and the cultural conversation. It’s not like the People’s Choice Awards are the most watched ceremony of the year. I’m not sure the majority of people voting for fan favorite right now will be doing so with the full intention of seeing a movie they love to be recognized. We’ll probably all be watching to see how Tom Holland or whatever reacts when Space Jam: A New Legacy Where red notice wins, and we’ll all get some amazing reaction gifs out of it.
If all this hullabaloo continues next March, I’m not sure it will become an annual thing. The Academy and the ABC cannot hope to control the chaos of the Internet when they are given some power. Nor will it satisfy their desperate thirst to be more popular. I wish the Academy would just accept that it has a small but dedicated audience that actually cares about its nonsense and just panders to it instead. We want to see the honorary awards presented at the ceremony and not in a pre-recorded montage. We want these speeches to drag on. We’re fine with you picking movies that haven’t made a billion dollars worldwide.
Let’s see how complicated things get in the weeks to come. Don’t be surprised if the Academy announces it’s delaying this for a year or a decade. It will be a sign that something super fake is leading the polls. In the meantime, maybe we can get some of the more zealous fandoms to vote for a movie that might get some attention. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn for the fan favorite?
Review: ‘Death on the Nile’ sees Poirot return for a murder mystery with diminishing returns |
Header image source: Kurt Krieger // Corbis via Getty Images