For better or worse, the Academy Awards is a spectacle like no other. This "Greatest Show on Earth," second only to Ringling Brothers is one of the mostly highly anticipated events of the year. Christmas, New Years and the Super bowl wrapped up in a big red Oscar bow. The Oscars provide us with entertainment, even if we tell others that we can't be bothered to watch. Many people (myself included) say that they cannot wait for the Oscars. There are Oscar parties and themed Oscar parties. Other people prefer to relish their viewing pleasures and watch with a select few. Whether it is to watch the red carpet fashion show before the actual show or to see what and who the powers that be have chosen to crown, the Oscars are certainly an anticipated event. "I love the red carpet" exclamations are common among my own friends.The red carpet sums up the entire past year's fashion trends, and may even be making statements about what is to come. The real "truth" of the show is a mixture between all of the glitter and glam, in the interviews and the pre interviews and of course, artistic excellence.
It is not an unreasonable statement to assert that the Academy Awards is a show skin to a Spectacle. The Night of the Oscars is certainly an event that we focus upon, anticipate, and often times ridicule as we scrutinize the show from start to finish. And whether right or wrong, we are all engaged in the act of judging. Yet for me, the question lingers: are we being deceived in some way or manipulated, caught up in the sentiment and nostalgia of Oscar night? Old movies shown on a big screen behind the Oscar host are paired with music that often brings tears of joy or sorrow to our eyes, providing memories of "remembrance of things past." Maybe it is the music from Gone With the Wind, or Marlon Brando yelling Stella, Leonardo DiCaprio on the Titanic, or Forest Gump. These are the images which move us.
While being entertained during the evening of the Oscars, we are also being subtly manipulated by these images we are seeing and the power they hold. We are told to not only watch the show, but to analyze it as well. Immediately following the Oscars, the show is dissected from start to finish. The host is given a grade on how he or she has performed; the actors and actresses (mostly the actresses) are scrutinized from their hair to makeup to dress style and color. And of course, the endless discussion on the awards: who got what and who didn't. As we watch the Oscars, we are transfixed and mesmerized by what we are seeing. What is missing, is what we are not seeing. There is an agenda going on behind the scenes that we will never be privy to. Wondering about this agenda is part of the analyses and the guessing game that is built into our viewing, whether the agenda be political, social or otherwise. We see what we are told and allowed to see, yet the conditioned mind and the trained eye knows that we are also seeing what we are often told to ignore. There is more than meets the eye of appearances. At times, Oscarland seems like a location where artistic standards become secondary to the stars that litter the red carpet with their magic of fashion and sex appeal. The glamorous individuals on the magic carpet and silver screen seem more than human. Often times, they become the projection of our hopes and desires, seeming to "have what we want." They are like modern day kings and queens.
The Awards Show serves the purpose of unifying us in endless discussions of what constitutes good taste, and who prefers which actor and which movie. Most of this unification revolves around the idea that we are all critics, engaged in the evaluation of good acting and plot, scenery, dialogue and musical scores. Yet while unified through these act of stargazing and voyeurism, we are also alienated by the very act of gazing at the stars. "The alienation of the spectator ..is expressed in the following way: the more he contemplates the less he lives; the more he accepts recognizing himself in the dominant image of need, the less he understands his own existence and his own desires.."
Do the Oscars choose the most artistic or the most glamorous? The answer ultimately depends on how you see your own life. As for the question of whether they create a sense of lack, abundance or pleasure in the viewer, that is a question which can only be answered by each person watching.