When asked about their plans to watch the Oscars, people are often ambivalent or indifferent toward the question.
Passionate film enthusiasts will raise their hands, prediction sheets at the ready. For others, watching the awards show is nothing more than something to do on a Sunday night. Many factors—such as a shift in interests and changes in media consumption practices—point to the reality that the Oscars are fading in relevance.
The once collectively enjoyed international sensation is losing traction among modern audiences. Last Sunday, roughly 18.7 million viewers tuned in to watch, showing a slight increase from an all-time low in 2021, yet a drastic fall from nearly 43 millionat its peak back in 2014.
Live broadcasting of the Oscars is certainly a limitation when it comes to access and reception. Ironically, the show was aired alongside the season finale of HBO’s The Last of Us, which perhaps did not see them as competition.
Despite their interest in the Oscars, potential viewers may not have the luxury of Cable TV and are given few alternatives to watch them elsewhere. Their announced plan to partner with streaming services to expand their broadcast won’t become a reality until at least 2028.
Even when they do watch, viewers are understandably frustrated with the show’s tedious three-hour runtime and lack the patience to sit through ads now that uninterrupted on-demand content is the standard.
On the other hand, social media makes the Oscars vastly accessible to the public, at least in essence.
For instance, Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars and La La Land accidentally being awarded Best Picture over Moonlight in 2017 have become defining moments in Pop Culture history. This year, host Jimmy Kimmel’s distasteful interaction with activist Malala, who attended as a guest, was added to the list.
Recurring memes and references to these moments across TikTok and Instagram serve as a testament to the show’s remaining relevance. However, when all people remember of the Oscars is spectacle, its intended purpose fades into the background.
Simply put, many people are disinterested in watching the Academy award the same roster of celebrities and films, if not from their own votes and desires. The system behind the Oscars is inherently self-serving and detached from audiences.
But there’s still a chance for the Oscars to deliver powerful moments on stage that solidify the viewer experience. This year’s seven-Oscar win for Everything Everywhere All at Once paved the way for many important, relevant statements.
Notably, one of the directors, Daniel Kwan, thanked his immigrant parents for their sacrifices and for inspiring him to create stories that would “shelter [others] from the chaos of this world” as many fear movies cannot keep pace with the direction the world is headed in.
There’s always something to be gained for those who keep watching the Oscars. Just because the Oscars don’t fit people’s interests as much as they used doesn’t mean they can’t adapt to reflect more relevant values and interests.
Katharine is a second-year Film and Media student and The Journal’s Editorials Illustrator.
Academy Awards, film industry, Hollywood, Oscars, Pop Culture
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