Episode 29: The politics within politics of the Oscars

In this episode we discuss the Oscars with Raffi Sarkissian, Lecturer at Christopher Newport University, Virginia. Raffi has written about the “award season”, where a long narrative is created by promotion strategists, etc. with the Oscars as a culmination. We discuss the emerging of the #oscarssowhite debacle, as a reflection of the industry and the structural problematics. Since then, we have seen the industry attempting to course correct, particularly with this year’s nominees, yet, as Raffi says, the #oscarssowhite problematic will continue to bubble under the surface. We also discuss the evolution of the role of politics in the ceremony. Any award show is inherently political: whenever any institution decides who gets included, what is considered “good” and the repercussions of the awards on the industry.  Many of the recent, mostly Trump-focused political speeches in awards ceremonies, which began with Meryl Streep’s 2016 Golden Globes speech. Yet we have seen many since, including many by Viola Davis etc. focusing not only on the state of the country, but of the industry. Many of the speeches are about pushing the status quo, more than just inclusion and representation. Lastly, there are the politics of the broadcast itself:  as they try to appeal to a bigger audience, who is in charge of the awards, and who are the Oscars for?

Note: the book chapter Raffi and Henry mention will appear in the forthcoming Popular Culture and the Civic Imagination: A Casebook, Henry Jenkins, Gabriel Peters-Lazaro, and Sangita Shresthova (eds.) due out later this year from New York University Press.

Here are some more of the things mentioned in this episode, for those who want to dig a little deeper:

April Reign, creator of #oscarssowhite

compare nominees 2010 – 2016-present OR search the Academy Awards Databases

Some of the current and recent controversies we mention:
“popular” category retraction
Kevin Hart host retraction
After we recorded this episode, the Academy also announced the categories that would not to be broadcast  then quickly reversed that decision on Friday February 15 after pressure from the industry
Bohemian Rhapsody/Bryan Singer
Green Book director sexual harassment; screenwriter racism
James Franco wasn’t nominated

More of the awards speeches mentioned:
Regina King (2019 Golden Globes)
Glenn Close (2019 Golden Globes)
Viola Davis (2017 Oscars)
Marhershala Ali (2017 Oscars)
Taraji P Henson (2017 SAG awards)
Meryl Streep (2016 Golden Globes)
Halle Berry (2002 Oscars)
Vanessa Redgrave (1978 Oscars)
Marlon Brando/Sacheen Littlefeather (1973 Oscars)

More about the Academy museum

More about the Netflix/Roma campaign

Is it true that only 20% of viewers can recall who won best picture?

Little Gold Men podcast

Spike Lee Oscar history; 2016 “boycott”

The first Oscars ceremony gave awards for both an “Outstanding Picture” (Wings) and a “Unique and Artistic Picture” (Sunrise)

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