Apparently, the Academy will indeed have a host. This according to Kyle Buchanan, who announced it on Twitter. We know the game well enough by now to understand how it will go. Whomever they choose, it will be bandied about on Twitter, think pieces will bloom all over the internet, and hysteria will mount. Some can survive it, most can’t.
The Oscars need a host. They need a host because we all need to laugh. They need a host because it is an Oscar tradition. They need a host to help draw eyeballs. The ratings are in the toilet:
Granted, last year’s debacle was spectacularly bad. They tried. They really did. But it was just a disaster all the way around. The worst part of it, I thought, was the palpable “white guilt” evident in almost every speech, with every person in front of the camera, with all of their nominations — and after all of that, they still denied Chadwick Boseman his posthumous Best Actor win, even if Anthony Hopkins was surely deserving. There was just a whiff of artificiality about all of it, as there is with almost everything Hollywood puts out now. They want to be thought of as good people and somehow that has now translated to becoming most “Woke.” It is a slow-moving tragedy that has all but killed off what’s left of the once-thriving industry, not because marginalized groups have demanded a seat at the table, but because of the pandering by the power elite who are desperately trying to salvage their own images.
Over on Bari Weiss’ Substack, a brave piece of journalism appeared in a town where investigative journalism like this no longer exists. The fear is too palpable. We are most definitely in the midst of a kind of “Woke Scare” that has its fist wrapped around the balls of Hollywood for quite some time. It is a good piece — a tragic piece, but a must-read. In it, the following paragraph:
They were scared of what was happening. The fear, one prominent director said in an email, is “the audience stops trusting us. They begin to see us as a community twisting ourselves into a pretzel to make every movie as woke as possible, every relationship mixed racially, every character sexually fluid, and they decide that we are telling stories set in a fantasyland instead of a world they know and live in. If that happens, and they decide to throw themselves instead into video games 24/7, we will lose them.”
We’re already there. It might satisfy Twitter to check the boxes, but it’s tuned out the majority. Not only are many put off by Hollywood’s content, worrying it might contain some political directive (even if none exists), but the Oscars themselves have become a kind of convention for political activism and only one kind. They assume their entire audience agrees with them, and worse, that there is something wrong with them if they don’t. The Oscars used to understand that this was a country full of competing ideologies — not just one. Maybe it’s time to bring some of that energy back.
Either which way, here are five pieces of advice to help them navigate this moment:
- Only listen to ratings. Not reviews, not engagement online, not the columnists who write angry screeds about what a failure the Oscars are. Everyone has a platform and everyone wants to have a voice. But that is just noise, not signal. It matters to the various platforms that require it, but it isn’t something that reaches millions of people like the Oscars do. Aim for high ratings and the rest will fall into place. If you trust only engagement online, you will be listening to a much smaller portion of the population.
- Pick a host who DOES NOT GIVE A F*CK. They do exist. They might be hard to find. There is no chance they will pick Dave Chappelle, but Ricky Gervais is an option. Hiring Gervais would, in one fell swoop, boost ratings and bring back the Oscars. Why? Because people are sick of the rich lecturing them on politics or activism or anything else. Gervais is known for taking them down a peg and all of the country and world would tune in to see that.
But if not Gervais, then someone who isn’t known as a political activist and won’t make it all about the Democrats hating the Republicans and voting rights or Democracy Itself, like Stephen Colbert or John Oliver. Jon Stewart or Bill Maher are possibilities. They are, at least, more fair-minded. Beg Eddie Murphy or Kevyn Hart to do it. The Rock would be a good choice. Apparently, Tom Holland is being considered, and that is a very good choice. Memo to Tom: ignore Twitter. Ignore Twitter. Ignore Twitter.
- Let jokes be jokes, apologize for NOTHING. Let it be known in advance that this is an outrage-free zone. Anyone who might feel unsafe is invited at the outset not to watch. “Protect yourselves from jokes” should be the warning label. Watch at your own peril. Now, of course, this is going to cause a ruckus. But you have to withstand it. It’s like COVID. Everyone eventually will have to learn how to withstand it. The outrage isn’t going to die. The “safetyism” isn’t going anywhere. People WILL BE OFFENDED by something. Let them be. Let Twitter rage like a wildfire. Your job is to put on a good show with funny jokes. Let jokes be jokes. Let people groan. Let them be offended. The majority needs to laugh and they need to laugh at funny jokes. Not dumb pandering jokes offered up on late-night comedy or SNL, but real jokes. Funny jokes. You know them when you hear them because you laugh at them.
- Glamour matters. Big stars matter. As long as they aren’t giving political speeches. Length doesn’t matter as long as there is plenty of glamour. Great jokes. Good fun. Lots of film clips. Bring on the big stars, the gorgeous gowns, the goofy dance numbers. Bring it all back: movie stars, Hollywood, vicarious living, fun for a country that has just been through hell. Don’t worry about making it short. Just make it grand. Grand AF.
- Think bipartisan. I know this is a tough one. From Twitter to Hollywood, only one ideology is allowed. But this is a big country. Millions of people voted for Trump. Plenty of people don’t vote for the Democrats who might want to watch the Oscars. Why would you want to make it only appeal to one side of the aisle, a side that is struggling for survival as we speak? Spider-Man shows that the public can unite if all are expected in the door. Be unifying in a time of division. Be open-hearted at a time of extreme dehumanization and hatred. The Oscars did use to be a unifying event for the entire country, and world. It can be that again.
I guess the bottom line is that to survive this moment is going to require:
You have to suck it up, grim up, and weather the storm for your own survival. Don’t even go in expecting Twitter to be happy. Expect them not to be. Expect everyone to complain about everything. But most people will be at home watching, throwing parties, making cocktails, having fun. Think of them instead.
And where the Oscars lead, the rest of Hollywood will soon follow.