Are Mainstream Awards Meaningless?

Written by Jenna Dreisenstock

Every year people from all over the world wait in anticipation, with bated breath as the nominees for the next biggest awards ceremony is announced. Whether it be the Golden Globes, the Oscars or – in this case, the Grammys: these award shows lead us to ask ourselves just how authentic these awards truly are – are they really a celebration of breakthrough talent? Or just a continuing charade pushing for the repetition of derivative pop-culture in the form of a shiny statue to put on the mantelpiece; exposure as opposed to fulfillment.

In an animated series called Bojack Horseman, which revolves around the titular character; a washed up actor from the 90’s who’s trying to make it big in Hollywoo(d) again. Bojack receives the opportunity to star in a film about one of his biggest idols; Secretariat – as, Secretariat. In Bojack’s journey throughout filming, he realises that the film is straying from the actual story; pushing tropes that audiences want to see, as opposed to the real story he thought would leave him with fulfillment. When attempting to shoot a scene that he and the director, who is later fired – believes is true to the real ideals of Secretariat; he is quite literally replaced with a virtual version of himself in order for the creators to get the film out there with their cliche and disgustingly painful tropes and of course – audiences love it. Secretariat is nominated for an Oscar. For Bojack, being nominated for an Oscar is more than he could have ever hoped for, believing it would finally make him feel as though his work, and his presence is worth something. Despite quite literally not being in the actual film, he does his best to indulge in the perks of this reward; it’s a recognition of his talent right? However, it’s not.

It’s a recognition of his presence – as never being in the film in the first place, despite being praised no matter where he goes; was it ever really about being praised for his talent, or being recognised. Simply being recognised. However that’s not enough for Bojack, as he realises that all of it just leaves him feeling completely empty after all – and the perpetuation of what is considered good media without breaking away from the norm, not only leaves us with a strikingly painful sense of irony regarding Secretariat and it’s Oscar nomination, but the emptiness that comes along with it.

It’s easy to see how being nominated for a major award would change an artist’s life. It feels like, wow. People finally see me, they finally hear my voice. Yet is that really true? Are award shows an actual representation of those who deserve recognition for the hard work they’ve put in, or is it instead a culture that revolves around celebrating that which perpetuates the pop-culture and structural media norms in a way so seemingly insidious that even the artists who are nominated often feel that same sense of emptiness when walking off that stage? It’s very rare to see artists who are not already in the mainstream eye receiving such major awards, unless it comes across as a painful gimmick as the award shows try to pass off how incredibly interesting they are by “allowing” the different and eccentric to join the mainstream elite. How are these award shows a true celebration of talent, when the talent has barely ever brought anything new to the table, is already exceptionally famous – or is just, the same?

If we look at awards for films, hear one nomination and you’ve basically heard all the nominations. Does this mean the piece of media was so outstanding that the whole world deserves to be told over and over just how amazing it is? If so, why is everything so horribly predictable – why are those in the judges seats (and who the hey are they anyway?) allowed so much power as to what is considered outstanding enough for a shiny statue, and why is the diversity of these awards so damn limited?

I believe every artist who works hard and creates something incredible regardless of my own personal taste deserves to be recognised and celebrated; yet, are massive elitist award shows the true and genuine ways in which to do so? What happens when one walks off the stage with a Grammy – it’s not my place to say whether they deserve it or not despite my disdain for these ceremonies, yet the repeating pattern of celebrating repeating patterns in pop-culture as less authentic and more of a show-all perpetuation of what audiences should be considering “good” from the standpoint of an elitist view and instead further cycle of over saturation in typical standards. If your favourite artist is awarded a Grammy, that’s wonderful. Good for them. Yet we have to remind ourselves that award shows are not necessarily what we, the general public see them as: they’re catered to what we want them to be, and that isn’t particularly authentic on part of those who are doing the nominating – and often times, even when the artists walk off the stage after crying and thanking their mothers and their Gods; they feel the same as they did before. They have a statue that tells the world they are “good” at what they do. Considering they are so good at what they do, others must do what they do to be “good” at what they do. It repeats. It’s important to critically examine these award shows because if anything, they can give us an incredible insight into the ideas, thoughts and (un)truths our society is perpetuating.

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