Graphic by Mellisa Lee

Throughout this past year, we’ve all made our fair share of sacrifices. For most of us, it’s been the beginnings and ends of varying chapters in our lives. For others, reality has been brutal, whether because of social isolation, unemployment, or, in extreme cases, sickness or death. Whatever the cost may be, there’s no doubt we’ve paid a high price.

This is why, when I turned on the television on Sunday night, I was surprised to find the Grammy Awards being broadcasted. ‘What the heck,’ I thought, ‘aren’t there more important things going on right now?’ I did some research. 

Sure enough, the Golden Globes took place two weeks prior to music’s biggest night and the Academy Awards are slated to happen in late April. 

Seriously? Read the room, Hollywood. I mean really — none of this is that important. Does anyone really care what Netflix movie wins “Best Picture”? If Taylor Swift’s folklore wins album of the year? Other than the die-hards out there, I think not. 

The numbers speak for themselves. Only 6.9 million people watched the Globes, a 64% decrease from last year. The Emmys garnered a mere 6.1 million, an 11% decrease from 2019. The Grammys received 8.8 million viewers, a 53% decline from last year.

I understand that some people find these award shows grounding during a pandemic. Despite the abnormality in format, there is normality in practice. Yet, the challenge of doing these ceremonies on Zoom is ten times more monumental. When “Judas and the Black Messiah’s” Daniel Kaluuya went to accept his award for Best Supporting Actor, he was muted. “Ted Lasso’s” Jason Sudeikis thought “Zoom casual” was appropriate attire for the event. I understand these awards shows can be a rare glimpse into celebrities’ lives, but at a certain point, it feels like the motivation is foolish. Perhaps I dare say … forced? Where’s the peace in that?

Alas, the ego-fueled industry that is entertainment will say all the right things but, when push comes to shove, they won’t give up their recognition. It’s a shame, really, for those who believed these luminaries could lead by example. They can’t even stay away from each other when they’re supposed to!

Last spring, all we heard from our beloved entertainers was to mask up, social distance and wash our hands. Our revered Tom Hanks was the first one to contract the virus! Then summer came, movie and TV show productions began upholding public health guidelines and somehow these imperative messages got lost in translation. It rings hollow, a double-standard symbolized by gold trophies. 

I admit: Netflix and music eased quarantine life for me, as I’m sure it did for many of you, too. We tweeted about the absurdity of Carol Baskin and the relentlessness of Michael Jordan, while The Weeknd gave us an outstanding collection of songs to replay. This moment in pop culture undoubtedly warrants some type of reflection. But if we really wanted to reward Hollywood for their efforts, we would just make these celebrations bigger and better in 2022. Heck, make it 24-hour coverage for all I care. 

Then again, we don’t immerse ourselves in entertainment to critique it, we do so to be — oddly enough — entertained; award shows don’t heighten our experience. In this current pandemic world we live in, award shows lessen it, potentially along with the respect we have for the integrity of the industry. Right now, our focus should be on pushing vaccines out to as many people as possible.

Ultimately, it’s time for Hollywood to embrace a new reality, as the rest of us have in the past 12 months: these ceremonies are relatively insignificant in our lives. I won’t say that “nobody cares,” but truthfully, very few people do. I normally watch these shows for the opening monologue and then read about who wins the next day. I can think of better ways to spend three hours than watching celebrities smile at each other on video. 

The performers themselves should be able to, too. As civilians, we’ve invested too much of our time and emotion into COVID-19 to pause our fortitude for a Zoom award show. If the celebrity sacrifice is isolating in a Beverly Hills mansion and receiving meaningless praise, boy do we have a problem.

Sam Woiteshek can be reached at swoitesh@umich.edu.

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