It’s mini award season! The 62nd annual Grammy Awards just went by, the Golden Globe Awards were earlier this month, and the Oscars are coming up on Feb. 9th. With this comes a lot of conversations over the nominees, winners, and speeches...including criticism over what is talked about by both presenters and winners.
Many people have highly criticized celebrities about getting political during award shows. In my own house, I’ve heard the sighs released before someone got up to make more popcorn or to do something else in order to ignore the speech on the television screen. I’ve heard people complain about being bombarded with political messages during an event that’s supposed to be about the arts.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of it has to do with the one-sidedness many feel from political messages during such events. A 2017 survey conducted by the Hollywood Reporter and the National Research Group found that 66 percent of people who voted for Trump in the 2016 election had stopped watching an award show due to politics being discussed, while only 19 percent of Clinton voters had done so. The survey also showed that, while 54 percent of Clinton voters felt that Hollywood represents their values well, 80 percent of Trump voters felt that Hollywood did not represent their values (1).
Some people are just bothered by the fact that politics are being discussed at all though. Especially after the 2016 election, our country has been very divided. Politics became a topic that one could not avoid. In previous times, it wasn’t terribly uncommon for your vote to remain private. The Trump vs Hillary spectacle pushed everyone to voice their vote loudly. The country is no longer quiet and, even as someone who is interested in politics, it can get to be too much.
People generally use media to either help themselves understand the world around them, or to distract themselves from the world around them. I can understand why someone would be upset by their distraction seeming to become invaded by the very thing that they were trying to distract themselves from. We need breaks from the news sometimes.
On the other hand, the second main usage of media is to think about the world around us. Many of the songs, films, television series, plays, musicals, etc. that win awards at these shows have socio-political messages in them. I’m never shocked when Lin Manuel Miranda brings up immigration in one of his speeches—after all, his two shows, which both won Tony Awards for Best Musical, were shows that have a focus on immigrants. Though media can be used as escapism, art will also always mimic life around us. I also feel that the winners should be allowed to talk about whatever they would like, in celebration of their win, within the time limit they’re given.
However, being able to do so doesn’t mean that you should do so. I think a middle ground needs to be reached. Social and political topics work well when the performance has a connection to the topic. It can sometimes work well outside of that too, with many memorable speeches having been made throughout the years. Not every speech will have an impact on the audience these award shows are being viewed by though, and some speeches have only served to further division as opposed to inspiring change—Robert de Niro’s exclamation of "f*ck Trump" at the Tony Awards comes to mind.
Overall, I don't think there's anything innately good or bad about discussing politics at award shows. I think the problem lies in how people go about it.