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The Dark Side of the Oscars

Updated: Sep 24, 2022

With the Oscars fast approaching, it can be easy to get caught up in the glamour of it all. The fashion, the stars, and the speeches are often the center of attention at this prestigious event. However, at times, the iconic Academy Awards show has proven to be less than dazzling.

In the past decade, the Oscars have been in hot water after several racial bias accusations. These accusations came to a peak in 2016 when, for the second year in a row, every nominee in the acting category was white. This incident sparked a logical outrage within the public as #OscarsSoWhite shot to the top of the trends on almost every social media platform. Unfortunately, racial bias in the Academy Awards is nothing new. In 1939, Hattie McDaniel became the first black actor to win an Oscar, however, she was seated in the back of the venue at a segregated table and was not permitted to attend the “whites only” after-party. In terms of other minorities, only one Asian actor has received an Oscar (1957), a minuscule five Latina women have received nominations, and only one actor of Arab descent has ever won an Oscar.

Aside from racial bias, it has been long suspected that there is a “formula” for winning an Oscar, implying a rigging of the awards. The aspect of money plays a large role in this idea, considering that most people in the film industry are after it. Studios often invest large sums of money in Oscar campaigns that increase their odds of winning. Winning an Oscar has proven to be one of the best forms of marketing a film, leading to box office hits and substantial revenue. Thus, the studios with the most money can afford to stay at the top, while less fortunate studios are unable to compete. Studies have also found that longer, more dramatic, and more mass appealing films are statistically more likely to win an Oscar over films that lack these aspects. These statistics are often used by studios to create a film that is “Oscar-baiting.” This phenomenon causes the award nominations to frequently resemble each other, indicating that there are numerous talented creatives that are not being represented.

What’s more, the Oscars are declining in terms of their relevancy. Viewers have begun to realize that the prejudice and the drama surrounding the awards show have clouded the beauty and appreciation of the film industry. Additionally, the onset of the pandemic has people questioning whether the ceremony is out of touch with the rest of society. In a world of disease, prejudice, and constant change, the Oscars seem to glaze over important issues while placing value on the superficial. The public now favors events like the Olympics and the Super Bowl over a ceremony that was, ironically, created with the intention to resolve disputes.

In all, while it is fun to admire the world’s favorite creative minds, their elegant style, and the cinematic aesthetics they create, it is important to acknowledge what hides beneath the surface of the Academy Awards. Inequality, dishonesty, and irrelevance are dirty spots on the reputation of the esteemed event, ones that viewers should be aware of as we approach the annual Oscar Awards.

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