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The Post-Meta Academy Awards Experience

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | TV Reviews | March 3, 2014 | Comments ()


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I can’t name more than a half dozen Oscar winners, be it films or actors or directors, from the last twenty years. I have never watched an awards show, except for a year or two of drunken weakness in my early twenties when I managed to watch the MTV Movie Awards two years running. That reason alone should probably be reason enough for Dustin to fire me and delete all articles I’ve ever written from the system. Burn out the taint, such as it is.

Every year, most American televisions tune into the Super Bowl, and half the people watching insist that they’re just doing so for the commercials. And the actual football lovers either glare at everyone walking between them and the television, snarl at the well-meaning ignorant who ask “are you rooting for the blue team or the white team?” or just gave up years ago and watch the game at home, alone and in blissful peace.

The Oscars are a lot like that, with the spectacle swamping the substance. It’s an awards show. The stated literal purpose of it is to announce awards. There is no process to it on display, we don’t see voters deliberating or arguing with each other, see a debate presented over who should win. It’s just a single page of results being read publicly over a four-hour span by exceptionally well-dressed individuals. It’s an event that exists for the spectacle because the substance wouldn’t take more than ten minutes to get out of the way, and half of that would just be watching Leonardo DiCaprio’s face to see if he’d end up crying in the end.

Of course, I read Courtney’s live blog of the Oscars every year, because it’s entertaining as hell. Last night, I had that open on one screen while I played video games on another and watched reruns of Leverage on the television. It’s ritalin’s world, we just live in it. But that gets to the really weird phenomenon that’s growing denser with every year of social media. The median age of actual viewers of the Academy Awards is rising (above 50 for the last few years, up from 40 back in the early nineties) even while the hype and discussion of the awards grows online.

See, the way we interact with reality is becoming more layered, I think. With an infinite selection of entertainment, and an infinite selection of people talking about that entertainment, we’re no longer faced with a dichotomy of watch or don’t watch. Go to the Oscars? Ha! Watch the Oscars? Ha! Listen to commentary on the Oscars? Ha! I’m about four levels deep in this, going full Inception by exclusively reading a writer’s observations about an event they themselves are watching on television.

But it’s more than that, more than just a selection of who reports the facts. Every layer through which the words pass is another layer of added interpretation. The layers themselves are not transparent, and so with enough of them, the original content is a hazy memory through the opacity. And now you’re reading an article talking about people talking about the Oscars, which adds yet another layer, which means we have officially gone full meta.


86th Academy Award Winners -- Complete List | Here's the Obligatory Jimmy Kimmel Post-Oscar Movie Trailers


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • e jerry powell

    I got your meta, mister...

  • kirbyjay

    I too am in it for the gowns and the pretty people.
    I DVR'd the Oscars and the Walking Dead. I turned TWD on half way through the recording, fast forwarding through the commercials and when it was over I went to my recording of the AA's and fast forwarded through the commercials, many of the songs and most of the acceptance speeches. I think I probably watched a full hour of it and that was enough for me. I don't remember when I lost interest in so much of this annual show because I started watching it the year To Kill a Mockingbird won and now I can barely sit through it. But I do like the pretty colors.
    Maybe I have Dementia?

  • Mrs. Julien

    Mr. Julien adjusted something for the TV during the show because I wasn't "watching it" and I pointed out that I was watching it, but I was also participating in the liveblog on Pajiba. I didn't tell him, I was also occasionally looking at Facebook, too.

  • Tom

    Often you end up unconsciously absorbing the consensus on an event even without watching it. I didn't watch the Oscars last night but I know that 2 years ago James Franco was bored and didn't try while Anna Hathaway tried too hard and now we don't like her. John Travolta was weird last night and Matthew McConaughy's speech was lovely. For me, this is often the way I experience big events like this instead of watching them.

    The internet has freed me up from having to actual watch shows that are just people reading results. I don't have to watch the NFL or NBA draft because I can just get alerts on my phone when players are picked. We live in a golden age.

  • The same way folks watch the Superbowl for commercials, I watch the Oscars for the gowns. And pictures after the fact don't work, because part of a gown's appeal is how it moves, how it looks close up and far away, etc. I want to see how a particular cut works (or really doesn't) on a particular actress, and stills don't give me the full view.

    That said, I totally had my computer open, working on various web sites and tweaking a story and chatting with a friend.

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