Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Here we are now--entertain us: How social media salvages the Golden Globes

Although we don't go to a lot of movies anymore (and, thankfully, have gotten over any sense of feeling obligated to see a bunch of nominated films in the early part of the year), the wife and I do still watch the major awards shows. And somehow the Golden Globes telecast still meets that criterion.

For better or for worse, the ceremony where the Hollywood Foreign Press Association divvies out its little trophies still qualifies as what will be a topic in the pop culture field during the lead-up to it and in the days following it. And while both the Globes and the Oscars are, in the end, a frivolous exercise in celebrities being feted for not having had to get real jobs, the reality of the power of movies and TV even amongst those who couldn't care less about awards is still pretty strong. We like to be entertained, and at least to an extent we like to see the worthwhile entertainment be commemorated.

What that has to do with these awards shows clearly becomes less clear.

The recent Globes telecast may or may not have been touting the best works of the past year—that's subjective even under ideal circumstances—but as an event to be witnessed by the public it failed to even come close to being entertaining. And it's not unlikely that the upcoming Academy Awards show will fail similarly.

But I'm sure we'll watch that as well.

And I don't think that we're alone in regards to those who watch despite the lack of entertainment value for the shows themselves. So why are we all tuning in?

Habit? Sure, there's an established tradition. But that's only so much motivation. It seems more a matter of the same ol' (what used to be) water-cooler conversations that occur afterward and the desire to be able to participate in talking about how awful they were. Except these days those conversations aren't happening the next day at the office alone; they're happening on Twitter (or perhaps even Facebook) as the shows are airing. It's probably fair to think anyone who's paying attention has an account, and whether one's posting or not, one can easily be following the hash tagged topic on one's phone or tablet or computer while watching the show. In fact, unless one is following the stream of commentary tweets the show is utterly incapable of being worth paying attention to. However, the tweets and comments are themselves meaningless unless one is watching the show in "real time." It's not that "live tweeting" doesn't happen during a lot of shows these days, but those typically provide at least some level of entertainment (even if completely ironic) that does not rely on social media participation; the awards shows seem to the ones that operate in a vacuum where the atmosphere is provided exclusively by the outside media.

However, at least for the moment, the producers of these shows appear to be operating under the notion that's not the case. Even hiring an ostensible muckraker like Ricky Gervais is not a winking nod to giving up; they're still going at this sincerely. As best I can tell, they're not intentionally making the shows bad—where it's entirely with a heavy wink—in an effort to play into what those on the social media are doing.

Obviously, when it reaches that state it then ceases to even be fun to make fun of. (Also, convincing celebrities to bother to show up for a presentation of sincere awards for artistic achievement in an irony wrapper might prove to be increasingly challenging.) However, I fear it may be only a matter of time until producers of these telecasts get what they perceive as the clever idea of "going along with it" and finding someone who throws out even the pretense of reverence for the show, ostensibly bringing it in line with but actually rendering it completely irrelevant to contemporary times.

Of course, that would finally kill these awards telecasts (or at least drive them out of their position of being any more prestigious than the Miss America pageant or G4's video game awards are now) and leave them at best as something on a niche bother to pay attention to, which ultimately may be what saves the show, by putting it on a path to reverting it back to something geared for only those who are nominated and not a snarky general public.

Which may just be something worth watching.

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