By Rachel Zalucki, E23 Reporter

On March 6, Trump voiced his opinion on the 2018 Oscars on Twitter: “Lowest rated Oscars in HISTORY. Problem is, we don’t have Stars anymore – except your President (just kidding, of course)!” While his quip about the ratings isn’t untrue, the irony of Trump shaming the Oscars for having low ratings was not lost on the award show’s host Jimmy Kimmel, who fired back with a similarly scathing tweet: “Thanks, lowest rated President in HISTORY.”

Political beef aside, Trump was not reckless with his words this time around. According to Deadline, the viewership ratings for this year’s Academy Awards was estimated to be around 26.5 million viewers, which is 19 percent lower than last year’s nine-year low rating of 32.9 million viewers. The science behind TV viewership and ratings is not as complex as one may think, but with rising trends in streaming services, the numbers are becoming a little convoluted and ratings are steeply dropping. Naturally, the question “why” is on everyone’s lips. And the answer seems to be the sum of multiple, individual parts.

Part One: The Box Office

Personally, I think the most severe disconnect between Oscars voters and moviegoers lies in the box office. There has not been a single Best Picture winner to break the year’s top 10 at the box office since 2015. According to Box Office Mojo, that movie was “The Martian,” which ranked eighth and grossed around $228 million but ultimately still lost to “Spotlight,” which ranked 62nd and only grossed around $45 million.

So, why don’t Oscar voters nominate movies that do well at the box office? Success in the box office means success amongst audiences, and if not that, then what makes a movie worthy of Best Picture? The Oscars are said to award movies that we don’t normally watch but definitely should. Themes amongst Best Picture winners and nominees alike are often deep and nuanced but ultimately reflect problems in everyday society. However, I can see how presumptuous it might be to assume a certain standard for movies without consulting public opinion. Especially since some people might not be as savvy on how to read into a movie’s many symbolic layers as Oscar voters.

Part Two: Social Media

As a proud youth of this current day and age, nothing makes my eyes roll harder than pinning the cause of a societal problem on social media. Social media may enable our vanity or our addictions to instant gratification, but the deep impact it has had on cultural communication and societal awareness is more beneficial than we may realize.

However, in the Oscars’ case, it’s all social media’s fault.

As I mentioned previously, the name of the game is instant gratification for the average consumer, and an award show that’s nearly four hours long is certainly not that. Plus, with the ability to receive alerts and notifications from apps like Facebook or Twitter, you can go about your daily routine without missing a beat. Twitter also streams the show’s highlights the next morning, specifically for people who do not want to sit through all three hours and 58 minutes.

So, in all, there is very little incentive for people to sit through the Oscars, and as easy as it is to blame social media, it seems to be more or less a problem of interest.  

Part Three: Four Hours Is Too Much

There are very few things that I would like to sit through for four hours. One of them is the four-hour feature film, “At Berkeley.” Another is driving from Kansas City to St. Louis. Admittedly, my patience can outlast most things with little difficulty. However, most people do not have my disturbing ability to just endure everything, so my ability to sit through the Oscars is not very reflective of the average moviegoer.

According to The Telegraph, the very first Academy Awards, which took place in 1929, was only 15 minutes long. That figure makes most people want to cry since ABC’s yearly goal has been to wrap up the show in three hours. The Hollywood Reporter found that for the last three decades, no show has even come close. It’s important to note, however, most of the length is due to the need for advertisement revenue since ABC usually pays about $75 million in broadcasting rights. So while inconvenient, the show’s duration has a solid (and potentially non-negotiable) purpose that is greater than the entertainment of its audience.

Part Four: Politics

Saving the most contentious point for last, I would argue that the politics surrounding the Oscars is more of a deterrent than most people realize. As a particularly militant lover of all things political, I was very excited about Hollywood’s newfound activism but whether the Oscars would follow suit was difficult to predict.

Many viewers boycotted the Oscars in an effort to discourage politics from seeping into entertainment. However, the #TimesUp movement was quick to show that abuse of any kind cannot be simplified into a matter of “politics.”

In the end, the Oscars definitely picked a side, but I personally feel like it ultimately failed to commit to its message. As Gary Oldman and Kobe Bryant both took home awards despite past allegations of abuse, the Oscars were immediately cast under a suspicious lens by many activists and politicians alike. While I understand that an actor’s ability should be separate from his character, you cannot accessorize your ceremony with a campaign aimed specifically at fighting rape culture in Hollywood and not even consider the conduct of your award winners. It doesn’t look good, and more so, it’s hypocritical.

I am a big fan of the Oscars, but the flaws in its structure are obvious. I would not be surprised if a younger, shorter and fresher award show (hint hint, Spirit Awards) became the new award show giant. Especially since Hollywood culture as a whole seems to need a massive revamp, it’s possible that some new authorities on the subject would not be unwelcome.

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