The decidedly limited pleasures of watching very privileged people being told that they matter, as they flaunt their wealth and lecture us on things they know nothing about.
Earning hundreds of thousands of pounds and living a life of relative ease and comfort simply isn’t enough for some people. Not content being paid handsomely just the once, or indeed, whenever your performance features anywhere, many of the denizens of the film, TV and music industries now seem to enjoy a never-ending array of glittering awards ceremonies, so people can mutually backslap each other in perpetuity in expensive borrowed clothes, no doubt whilst Olivia bloody Coleman bobs up to say something toothy and meaningful. And we, the paying public, are expected to look to these people in some sort of awed gratitude. Well, more and more, I find I’m unable.
The Oscars and their conjoined twin the Golden Globes have always been silly, fanciful affairs, impressive by and large for how the films and TV that are ‘on message’ and thereby ‘deserved winners’ are usually pretty poor, the Academy itself almost touchingly out of touch. This year, a torrent of thinkpieces have suggested, for instance, that Black Panther should win… something at the Oscars, by nature of its insular, anti-immigration universe comprised solely of black people. Black Panther is good because it’s Good. Did it win something? Yeah, lip service by way of a gong for the clothes and a couple of other bits, but who cares? The Oscars have faithfully rewarded glitzy dross for years, and we’ve put up with it, because it’s only one thing a year you need to remember to ignore. Or at least, it was. Now there are more and more variants on the Oscars with which to contend. Baftas, Grammys, Mobos, Brits… even an Awards Ceremony for the Best Awards Ceremony. Oh, it’s hard not to be cynical, isn’t it?
When not publicly weeping at their own sheer brilliance, the attendees of these various events spend their time on stage berating whoever it is that you’re meant to berate these days. At the moment, it’s Trump, usually – a man who belongs entirely to the same world as these actors, actresses and musicians, with their self-same dependence on ratings, reviews and saleability. Perhaps it is familiarity that helps to breed this particular contempt – perhaps they remember that everyone turned a blind eye to far worse things than bluster about grabbing people “by the pussy” in the not-too-distant past. But then, the whole acceptance speech has mutated into an ordeal so transcendentally embarrassing that no amount of hypocritical posturing could ever, really, come as a surprise.
As an example of this, the #MeToo hivemind was and is an utterly unconvincing display of concern over sexual harassment which had long been common knowledge, centred around a place – Hollywood – that has been crooked and sleazy and strung out for as long as there’s ever been such a place, ever been such people. Suddenly, everyone was using their moment in the spotlight to claim that things were different now, and they weren’t going to take it any more. Well, here’s some surprising news: yes, they will. Since the days of Fatty Arbuckle and Errol Flynn, powerful people have exercised power, with sex running through everything like an unavoidable seam. Still, the fact that this is the case can’t prevent terrible people from jumping on a bandwagon, maybe going so far as to don a particular colour or accessory to show they Really Care because, obviously, there’s no way to do anything about this situation which doesn’t come down to display. It’s almost as if many of these people can’t fathom an idea or a protest which doesn’t centre around them.
And, only when it became expedient to speak out did people decide they could risk an edgy speech or two. They’re still thinking about their careers and their profiles; some even sense a new opportunity or two. Many of the self-styled ambassadors for outrage – the Rose McGowans and god forbid, the Asia Argentos – turn out to be fairly awful in their own rights as soon as you scratch the surface. (Best get that approbation before the next accusation rolls in, ladies.) Nothing is more laughable, remember, than the Meryl Streeps of this world issuing forth on things that are nothing to do with their passable acting whatsoever; nothing is more tragic than the idea that it’ll change a single thing, other than garnering a few thousand retweets by the kinds of people prone to barking into the void on social media, talking at celebrities who will never talk back. But this is the problem, when we have a conveyor belt of expensive public arenas being offered up to people completely immured from real-life concerns. And whilst the endless awards don’t cause this kind of inflated self-importance about celebrities’ place in the grand scheme of things, they certainly showcase it, and they certainly blur the lines between net worth and real worth in ways that simply encourage a long line of nominees to regurgitate today’s nonsense du jour.
I love film and television – not that most red carpet events get anywhere near most of the best of the bunch, in my view – but I feel that buying and enjoying the product is praise enough, and as political posturing gets its maw around these types of events, the distance between them and any meaningful reality feels greater and greater. In fact, the more I see of this, the more I detest its artifice; anyone actively courting this world has to be ignored to be endured, and anyone routinely posing for the camera in someone else’s jewels would better spend their time honing their craft, not enjoying quite so many inane nights out.
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