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Oscar statuettes in 2020. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The 2022 Academy Awards Are Not Likely to be a Knockout

Will Smith’s lame right cross is a perfect metaphor for same

By Martin Marks, March 28, 2022 9:49 am

And This Year’s Oscar For Most Disingenuous Rationalizing Goes To…

…just about everyone.

The preliminary television ratings are not out yet for the 2022 Academy Awards, but the speculation is that even the rather ineffective right cross to the chin of Comedian Chris Rock delivered by the actor who portrayed Muhammad Ali in 2001, would not be enough to boost the waning viewership of Hollywood’s big show.

The lead-up to the 2022 Academy Awards had been all too predictable. Those that cover Tinsel Town in the media once again have tried to find reasons for the relative disinterest in, and corresponding plummeting television ratings for Hollywood’s biggest night. The flagging popularity has been evident for more than a decade, but 2021 put the exclamation point on the collapsing numbers as the Academy Awards saw a precipitous 58% drop in viewership from the previous year. Only 10 million viewers were on hand for the event. By comparison, the first televised Oscars presentation in 1953 drew more than three times that number.

The rationalizations for the ratings nosedive?  Here are just a few cited:

  • The Pandemic. Film productions and releases were put on pause. Movie theaters were forced to close. Accordingly, movie enthusiasts were less familiar with the films up for awards and with the actors and production artists also vying for the coveted Oscar statuette. Plausible? Sure, but can Covid explain the previous years of sinking ratings?
  • Streaming Presentations. With the advent of the ability to stream television programs, viewers found alternative ways to watch The Academy Awards, and this negatively affected standard television ratings numbers. The various streaming platforms have not agreed on a standardized measure for viewership, although Nielsen’s, the go-to firm for television ratings has introduced Nielsen Gauge which measures all presentations coming through a tv screen, but not what is viewed on a mobile device or computer.
  • Social Media. Why tune in for a 4+ hour presentation with a 20 minute/hour infestation of advertisements to learn who or what won an Oscar, or what or who your fave A-lister was wearing on the red carpet when this could all be discovered with a couple of clicks on Twitter or Instagram?
  • What, no hosts?  For the last three years, The Academy Awards had no host(s), which some claim led to a presentation lacking a coordinated direction with smooth segues and witty repartee. And while, who didn’t love Billy Crystal and his opening song and dance tributes back in the day, one must wonder whether a host’s absence led to a global pivot for TV the remote. No worries though this year. The Academy secured Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes to do the hosting duties for 2022. That oughta do it.
  • Too many awards shows.  There was a time when there were just four big awards shows—The Oscars, The Emmys, The Tonys, and the Grammys. For the most part they were all successes. Now there are almost too many to count, but let’s try, shall we?  Now in addition to the Big 4, we have the Golden Globes, The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, MTV Music & Television Awards, American Music Awards, People’s Choice Awards, NAACP Image Awards, BET Awards, ESPYs, Academy of Country Music Awards, Country Music Association Awards, Billboard Music Awards, Teen Choice Awards, Critics’ Choice Awards, and the GLAAD Media awards, to name just several.  A reasonable claim could be made that the award show genre has supersaturated the market and the viewing public has met its ceiling of award show viewing hours with a corresponding dilution of ratings numbers.
  • Racism and Bigotry.  Sure, why not?  When all else fails……… The lack of diversity in Academy voters, Oscar nominees, and statue winners has long been a sore subject in La La Land—ironically the epicenter of Woke awareness. The claim hit fever pitch in 2015 with April Reign’s viral tweet #OscarsSoWhite and has led to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to boost “inclusion standards” under a program announced 2 years ago that would increase representation not only in the organization’s membership, but across the film industry for previously underrepresented groups. Whether this new inclusivity program will translate into greater Oscars viewership is speculative at best.

One would almost expect the Hollywood coverage from the mainstream media to also reflexively blame Donald Trump for The Academy Awards’ struggle to retain viewers. That didn’t happen (yet), but consider this:

A U.S. National Research Group survey in 2017 reported that two thirds of Trump voters actually turned the awards show off when hosts, presenters, or statue winners got political. And it is not too difficult to surmise just what kind of politics was being spewed by the aforementioned stage occupiers in order to get a Trump voter, or anyone else with Right-of-Woke views to reach for the remote.

Awards shows, and the Oscars in particular have a long history of weaving political commentary, moralizing, and sanctimonious lecturing into their presentations. From Marlon Brando sending a Native American civil rights activist to the stage in his stead in 1973, to Vanessa Redgrave excoriating “Zionist hoodlums” in 1979, to Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins advocating for those afflicted with HIV in1993, to Al Gore preaching on Global Warming in 2007, to Sean Penn promoting LGBTQ+ rights in 2009, to Patricia Arquette lamenting a gender pay gap in 2015, to Joaquin Phoenix attempting to touch all the social justice bases of gender equality, racism, animal rights, indigenous people’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and environmental issues in 2020, the awards show genre has predictably been a yearly platform for promoting social justice ideals while at the same time poking fun at or berating Republican politicians.

And even before the 2022 show took to the air it was once again Sean Penn threatening to smelt his previously acquired Oscar statuettes in public if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was not invited to address the Oscars audience.

Perhaps every single one of the many glitterati who have used their time on the Oscars stage over the years to make political statements had some semblance of valid points. Then again, maybe not. Yet, if untold numbers of television and streaming viewers are not tuning in any longer because they just don’t want to hear the political lectures, let’s be honest about all the reasons for Academy Awards rating failures.

By any measure the 2022 Academy awards are not likely to be a knockout—with Will Smith’s lame right cross a perfect metaphor for same.

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