English Patient Zero: The Death of the Oscars
A few years ago, I actively participated in the destruction of a major award.
Okay, that isn’t exactly accurate.
The Hugos were never a major award, and my activity was limited to buying a WorldCon membership and voting the Rabid Puppies ballot. But nonetheless, I made my voice heard.
The Hugos had always claimed that they represented the very best in science fiction and fantasy and at one time this was pretty much true. Science fiction novels from the fifties and sixties that won the Hugo are still read and talked about. Even the losing nominees were worth a look. The winner was almost always a genuinely exceptional work and the fans themselves always had books that they were championing. If your author won, you felt vindicated. The Hugo Awards were a reliable indicator of high quality in the field.
This carried over into the early seventies but then there was a major hiccup with, Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm. A political screed about the evils of pollution causing a new ice age (heh). Nobody had ever heard of it, nobody enjoyed reading it, but it still won for best novel.
It was patient zero for the Woke Hugo Awards.
I doubt if any of my readers are unfamiliar with the Sad Puppies award campaign but on the off chance one you is, here is a little background. When John Scalzi won the Hugo Award; best novel of the year for an unfunny Star Trek fan-fiction comedy called, Red Shirts, a number of trad-pub, right-wing authors had had enough. New York Times bestselling author Larry Correia wrote a blog post about how sad his puppy was that he hadn’t been nominated. That was the first Sad Puppies campaign and it accomplished nothing. Then came the second Sad Puppies campaign and that got him nominated for Warbound and the SJWs that run the Hugos exploded.
Sensing some fun in the offing, Arkhaven Publisher, Vox Day got involved the third time around bringing some better organization with him. There was an amicable split in the Sad Puppies campaign and the more effective Rabid Puppies campaign was formed. The Sads were hoping to reform the Hugos, the Rabids wanted to burn the award to ashes.
The Puppies slates dominated the nominations that year and the creatures that control the Hugos voted “no winner” in the categories where the puppies slates had shut out everyone else. It was at best, a pyrrhic victory.
Here is the important part.
The Hugos didn’t have to self-destruct. If George R.R. Martin or Queen Toadina of Tor had just said something like, “Vote the slate as is and don’t make a big deal about it. Do that and they will get bored and wander off.” I guarantee that is exactly what would have happened.
But they couldn’t do that. After screaming at the top of their lungs that year and rewriting the rules to shut out the Rabid Puppies soon thereafter, the creatures that run the Hugos began to religiously give the best novel award to a completely mediocre author for her middle-of-the-road books. They did that for three years running. Thus, guaranteeing the irrelevance of the Hugo Award.
The next award to achieve total irrelevance is the Academy Award for the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, AKA, the Oscar.
I know my younger readers will find this hard to believe but when I was a kid Oscar night was a really big deal. The three networks fought over which one of them was going to have the right to a guaranteed ratings win that night. Because everyone in the country would be watching the Academy Awards and not All in the Family or Charlie’s Angels or whatever top-rated show was going up against it that night.
It was the one night of the year you got to see every single movie star on TV. Every. Single. One. We still bought into the glamour of Oscar Night. You have to remember that back then we had a much different movie culture than we do now. Going to the movies was a once-a-week thing for a lot of people. Maybe more than once a week if you were single. A movie ticket was cheap back then. Certainly cheaper than going to a nice restaurant. Sure, the popcorn was a little pricey but it was nowhere near the car payment that it is today.
You also didn’t have to hate all of the actors and actresses. Of course, there were plenty of America-hating Communists picking up awards but on Oscar Night you would also see plenty of flag-wavers that hated Commies.
As I said, we had a different movie-going culture. Almost everyone had seen the nominees for Best Picture. There were drinking fountain discussions and barroom bellowing matches over which flick deserved to take home that little statue.
I know it’s hard to believe now but there was actually a bit of cultural reverence for the Oscar. It really did stand for something that everyone believed to be excellence. Even if it did miss the mark by a country mile now and then. The most famous Oscar snub was Citizen Kane but there have been plenty of others. High Noon, The Caine Mutiny, The Lion in Winter.
The Oscars were absolutely NEVER perfect.
But they were a strong reflection of our collective tastes.
That changed in 1997 when The English Patient took Best Picture. The nominees that year included Jerry Maguire, Fargo, and Shine. But the thoroughly unwatched English Patient won. And it won for a single reason, Harvey Weinstein was producing it and he knew how to work the Oscar system. A more ludicrous Oscar steal happened two years later when Weinstein swiped Best Picture away from Saving Private Ryan and bestowed it upon the drastically less deserving Shakespeare in Love.
And the ridiculous thing is that Weinstein’s machinations worked for a while. There was an undercurrent of, “well, if it won the Oscar, it must have been good.” The Academy award managed to hang on to its status of being a standard of excellence for a long time after it ceased to be one.
But the shell game couldn’t last forever. Eventually, it became clear that the Academy Awards, like the Hugo Awards before it, were turning into a private club for would-be snobs with a big Keep Out sign on the front door. The Oscars have been heading in this same direction for a while and this year they finally arrived. I didn’t see a single one of the nominees this year and I don’t know anyone who did.
Here is the list of nominees for Best Picture for the 2021 Academy Awards:
David Parfitt, Jean-Louis Livi and Philippe Carcassonne, Producers
JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
Shaka King, Charles D. King and Ryan Coogler, Producers
Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth and Douglas Urbanski, Producers
Christina Oh, Producer
Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey and Chloé Zhao, Producers
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
Ben Browning, Ashley Fox, Emerald Fennell and Josey McNamara, Producers
SOUND OF METAL
Bert Hamelinck and Sacha Ben Harroche, Producers
THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
Marc Platt and Stuart Besser, Producers
No impact. No idea. And no desire to see any of these art house flicks.
And in case you are wondering about the last two entries. The Oscars couldn’t come up with enough nominations to fill their ballot this year, that’s why the last two slots are blank. So why couldn’t the Oscars come up with enough bodies to fill the seats? Covid gets blamed but the fact of the matter is that there were enough theatrical releases during the nominating period to fill the slate.
However, there weren’t enough qualified films to do so. The standards for being nominated this year became a lot more stringent. Which is to say, Woke.
“Oscar contenders must have more black, female, LGBT or disabled cast and crew. Thirty percent must be if at least one lead or significant supporting actor is not from a racial minority. And storylines must turn their focus to “under-represented groups.”
It’s hard enough to write a decent script with three acts and mounting tension but now you have to do it while performing somersaults and backflips through burning hoops over a pit of cobras. Miss one check box and you fall in the pit.
It’s not just the Academy that’s doing this. They are just a bunch of old-ass boomers, but the studios are doing this as well.
Universal put out this memo last year:
Last month, Donna announced the formation of an Inclusion Committee that will take an active role in enhancing and implementing strategies to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in both the Studio’s creative endeavors and within our workforce culture, in collaboration and partnership with all UFEG employees. The guiding principle of the committee is to empower voices to tell stories that reflect our global marketplace and the diverse audiences we serve, as well as proactively develop a just and inclusive workforce culture where individuals of all backgrounds can thrive…”
Note how they aren’t saying anything about the need to make money.
Warner Media has formed its own Trust and Safety Gestapo.
“WarnerMedia’s new leadership team is investigating EVERY division of the company and instituting new behavioral rules that if not followed, could lead to ANY division being sold off or shut down. This could explain the sudden lockstep push for “diversity and inclusion” at Warner divisions DC Comics, Rooster Teeth and Crunchyroll in recent weeks. And also why Rooster Teeth suddenly purged a lot of their old content. According to new Warner head Kilar, if your division doesn’t get with the new program, you’ll GET GONE! Thanks, Ellen.”
The Warner initiative includes an 800 number anyone can use for any reason if they have a problem with their boss “not validating” them. Which I’m sure won’t be abused by anyone trying to get back at his/her/xur superior. Or clear the decks for their own promotion.
Unsurprisingly, no one is willing to host the Oscars again. Who needs that kind of career damage? Especially for a dead award. It really has become a participation trophy given to members of the club that no one wants to join at this point. Although its members still pretend that winning this award is still the summit of Olympus. That it still has all of the prestige that it used to confer upon its winner. Which is what this shell game is all about; stolen prestige. The very odd belief that if you can steal the preeminence the award used to confer, you will by some kind of sympathetic magic transfer the quality of the art that that prestige was once meant to honor.
It’s something these thieves of honor are fundamentally incapable of understanding. I remember John Scalzi standing there at the Hugos holding his award and thinking to myself, “does he finally think he’s Heinlein now?” The answer was, yes, because he had been given Heinlein’s award.
Doubtless, there will be a red carpet for a while and doubtless, the shill media will continue to turn out and pretend the Academy Awards are the biggest night in entertainment.
Despite the fact that the Oscars will be seen by less than 7% of the people who saw the latest K-Pop music video.
Okay, I’m done here.