Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"And the Actor goes to..." Why do we care?

We're a country of contradictions. While we're all screaming about the war and the economy, watching with anger, enthusiasm or indifference as political candidates crisscross red and blue states and fill 24 hour news cycles, bitch about the price of gas while we buy vehicles as big as school buses and generally complain about the trivia in our daily lives, we're also compelled, some of us riveted, to watching an actor win an award presented by his or her fellow actors. Why? 
The Screen Actor's Guild Awards, held this past Monday night (and simulcast on two cable channels which means you'll be treated to endless repeats of the show) captured decent ratings and tons of entertainment press hungry for an actual televised awards show to cover. In this atmosphere of Writer's Guild strike-suppressed television, what is usually a period of glad-handing celebrity award show over-exposure, has been reduced to showbiz minute sound bites. The WGA granted The Screen Actors Guild permission to go on with the show, and so they did. The celebs trotted out the designer names and borrowed jewelry, and once again America got it's royalty fix, albeit our own idea of blue-blood - millionaire actors and actresses.
I'll confess here and now, I haven't a real clue why we watch.

It's not like people who use plumbers, want to go down to the local Elks lodge to watch the annual Plumbers Awards. We pay good money to see movie actors and we suffer through inane commercials to watch our favorite television actors. Why do we really care what actors think of each other? Logically it would be more important to know what fellow plumbers think of the guy you hire later this year to fix your toilet. Think about it. But watch we do. We are a society obsessed with celebrity and nothing will change that. Not even the flagrant disrespect and intrusion on private lives that "paparazzi" perpetrate on celebrities in the name of "public interest". Now there's an obvious lie. Regardless of our fascination, I want to believe that most of us still value our freedoms enough to recognize that everyone, regardless of chosen profession, has a right to a private life that should, if they request it, remain absolutely private. People who accept money for photographs of people not wishing to be photographed, and those who make out those checks, are among the most despicable I can imagine. (Yes, a sore spot for me that infuriates.) Regardless,  there's an audience lining up to buy the magazines and tune into the tabloid TV shows. We are so addicted to this morbidity that the business only grows bigger. The latest example, the web launched television show TMZ, has staffers now popping up on news channels as regularly as the hottest political analysts.

What do the SAG awards have to do with some tabloid vulture jamming a camera lens into Britney Spears' ambulance door? Unfortunately one has as much to do with the other. Isn't the phenomenon of ever present paparazzi just an extension of all things celebrity. Is it lost on anyone, that as each year clicks by, more and more awards shows (read red carpets) crop up to capitalize on our fascination and spin it into instant marketing opportunities? Producers and networks know that awards shows, relatively inexpensive television to produce, will garner substantial ratings and push out to multiple networks, news coverage and tabloid coverage, then pad out with extra hours of before and after shows (pre red carpet, post interviews and party coverage). I've always wanted to think that there was a genuine interest in which of our favorite actors, directors, movies, etc, would win, allowing us to root for favorites and recognize great achievement. This month we've all been handed proof that I'm mostly wrong about that.

Ever wonder what would happen if the celebrities just didn't show up? Remove them from the equation and what's left to watch? Well that's exactly what happened on January 13th when the Writer's strike forced the cancellation of the Annual Golden Globe Awards, a usually celebrity studded, glittering broadcast. Rather then the typical fanfare, the best television could muster for presenters (announcers really) were the awkward and overwhelmed hosts of the very shows that thrive on celebrity news themselves. Though the news of who won what, was announced in the same order and recognized the same winners as had the show gone on as normal, no one watched. And those that did, mostly the entertainment press, panned the proceedings without mercy. The point is crystal clear. We watch for the same reason we build telescopes. We are awed by the stars.

I don't have much of a point here, sorry, just a sobering reality that we really are as superficial as we fear. And now we are coming up on the height of the political season. For 24 hour news junkies it's just about Super Tuesday and time to be counting down to the conventions. Why do we watch?

Yes, I, like you, are hoping against hope that the Writer's strike will be settled in time for the Oscars.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. These people do not need any more validation. Let the over-inflated paychecks speak for themselves.


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