Are award shows worth watching anymore?

Upcoming events prove problematic


Lilia Gonzalez

Art by Lilia Gonzalez

Modesty Manion

Until the 1980’s, most television sets only had around five or six channels. Because of these limited entertainment options, glamorous events filled with celebrities were extremely exciting to viewers. Enter: award shows. At the time, people mainly watched nominated films at theaters, and music awards were based on record sales. So, with the creation of music and TV streaming services, and the vast increase in the sheer amount of this type of event, the dynamic of award shows has drastically changed. Because of this wide selection, I can’t help but wonder; are any of these award shows worth watching anymore? 

“And the Oscar goes to…”: Announced by various A-list celebrities for nearly a century, the statement is used at the Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars. Set to air March 27, this annual event intends to recognize the very best in the world of acting and filmmaking. The music equivalent of the Oscars is the Grammys, which similarly gives awards to the most creative and talented artists, writers and videographers. Other notable award shows include the Emmys, Tony Awards, Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, Film Independent Spirit Awards, iHeart Radio Awards, MTV Awards- and the list goes on. 

At first, award shows were viewed simply as a way to celebrate high achieving artists for their work. In the last few years, however, many of these celebrations have become redundant. There are so many, in fact, that one may start to question the validity of the awards themselves. 

In the U.S., there are over 30 film and over 10 music award shows. Why are there so many shows all judging the same things? The main culprit is capital gain. Although these events started with only creative interests in mind, they have now turned into money-making affairs. Between 3 hour runtimes, various performances and appearances by A and B-list celebrities, and elegant red carpet entrances that pull in the fashion crowd, award shows draw in a lot of cash. In fact, the main purpose of many of these shows is to create a big commercial for their respective industries. Advertising pulls in millions of viewers, and TV and commercial deals help rake in tens of millions of dollars annually. 

The red carpet is another major advertisement aspect of award shows. Brands will fully dress celebrities, making their entrance into the show a walking billboard. This portion of the show is often just as anticipated (if not more than), the award presentations themselves. Many tend to only tune in to this portion, making it more of a fashion show than an award show. 

The judging of such exaggerated awards can get both biased and racist. At the 2020 Grammys, artist Tyler, The Creator won Best Album in the previously named “Urban Contemporary” category. During an interview at the show, he bashed the Academy for putting his album “IGOR” in such a category, saying, “When I hear that, I’m just like why can’t we be in pop? Half of me feels like the rap nomination was just a backhanded compliment. Like, my little cousin wants to play the game. Let’s give him the unplugged controller so he can shut up and feel good about it — that’s what it felt like a bit.”

This kind of racial organization has been present in the music industry for years, but has no place in the 2020s. Frank Ocean and Kanye West have also boycotted the Grammys for racial inequality. 

In 2015 and 2016, the Oscars got a lot of backlash for having mostly white nominees. Especially considering that, according to Barron’s, the voting committee consisted of 93% white members at the time, it makes sense that people of color have some issues with the credibility of these awards. Sometimes, the voting committee at the Academy will compensate for this by choosing a predominantly non-white group of nominees, as if to say, “Hey look! We aren’t racist, look how many people of color we nominated!” This kind of pendulum swing between racism and performative inclusion shows how biased and influenced many of these award shows are. 

Basically, all award shows are problematic, and many have become redundant. If you plan on watching any, prepare yourself for this. But if I still want to indulge in a glamorous event and see my favorite celebrities dressed to the nines, which shows should I watch? Here is my analysis and rating of a few popular award shows, and whether or not I think they’re worth tuning in to.

Oscars: Watch

The Academy Awards was the original film award show. It sets a basis of the biggest movies, actors and filmographers of the year. The show has been around since 1929, so it’s credibility has been established over the last nine decades. Although there are some issues regarding their nomination process, the Academy has addressed these problems and is working to create an inclusive film award show experience.

Grammys: Watch

Like the Oscars, the Grammys has been the framework for musical award shows since the ‘50s, proving itself a valid yet prestigious event. The new Glambot that takes slow-motion clips of celebrities in their luxurious attire has become a crowd favorite. Seeing one’s favorite artists getting the recognition they deserve can be very gratifying. The racial issues of the Grammys are obvious, but they claim to be trying to improve. Changing the “Best Urban Contemporary” category to “Best Progressive R&B Album” has been a big step. Because the awards are based on streams and downloads, there is not an issue with racism in the selection process. 

Tony Awards: Watch

The Tony Awards is the main show that recognizes Broadway musicals specifically. Presented by the American Theatre Wing and started in 1947, it acts as a crucial aspect of many performers’ musical theater careers. The ratio of nominees of color is slightly better than that of the Oscars, but in the past it has still been predominantly white. But, with a frequently changing group of voters, the nomination tendencies have begun to change. If you’re a big Broadway fan, the Tony’s is the event to see. 

Emmys: Watch

Along with the Oscars and Grammys, the Emmys are one of the main entertainment award shows, recognizing talent within the television industry. The Emmys are put on by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, granting it a reputable position among the award show world. It started around the same time as Tonys, setting the standard for the best TV shows. There aren’t any other major events that acknowledge television acting, writing and camera work, so the Emmys are definitely worth the watch.

MTV Music Video Awards: Don’t Watch

The MTV Music Video Awards (more popularly known as the VMAs) started in 1984, right around the height of 80’s music videos. At the time, this made sense. But now that music videos are on Youtube, and MTV only airs reality TV, it seems like it might be time to retire the show. Considering that the Grammys started presenting the Grammy Award for Best Music Video in the same year, the VMAs have become a way for MTV to try to hold on to any form of relevance they have left. At this point, they should just quit while they’re ahead. I would not include this in my list of award shows I’m watching going forward.

Billboard Music Awards: Don’t Watch

The Billboard Music Awards started in 1990, a whopping 31 years after the Grammys began awarding artists for their musical abilities. The surprising thing is, for years the Grammys based many of their awards on record sales and Billboard Chart placements. Taking this into consideration, it seems like a waste of time to watch both productions. If you’re not going to watch the Grammys, the Billboard Music Awards is a good alternative. Otherwise, it can be skipped.

Screen Actors Guild Awards: Undecided

The Screen Actors Guild Awards has a few major faults. Firstly, the show awards movie and television actors. Even though the Oscars and Emmys already cover both of these, and go more in depth with a myriad of individual categories, the SAG Awards still thinks it’s necessary to hold their show. Every few years, the Screen Actors Guild chooses a new president. The second issue with the SAG Awards is that since it’s formation in 1933, there have only been three female presidents, and they’ve all been white. However, it’s nominees and winners in recent years have been a lot more diverse than that of the Oscars. So, if you’re completely against the Oscars (which is understandable), the Screen Actors Guild Awards might offer a more equitable experience. Other than that, there’s no real reason to watch it. 

People’s Choice Awards: Don’t Watch

In theory, the People’s Choice Awards is a good idea. Rather than a small group of voting members, the people of the U.S. vote for their favorite movies, TV shows, musicians, etc. However, what actually happens is the most popular content wins. The problem with this is that the most deserving of the award aren’t always chosen. When the Academy chooses a movie to become the next Oscar winner for Best Feature Length Film, it is carefully selected by a group of industry professionals. Because of its lack of validity, the People’s Choice Awards can be omitted from your viewing choices.

iHeartRadio Awards: Don’t Watch

The iHeartRadio Awards are the bottom of the barrel. They were started a mere seven years ago, and offer the exact same categories as the Grammys, making them very unnecessary. The iHeartRadio Awards is really just a big advertisement for iHeartRadio. Taking into account the fact that music streaming services are starting to take over for the radio industry, it seems that starting this award show is their last resort to stay afloat. In fact, iHeartRadio filed for bankruptcy in 2019 to lessen their debt from $16.1 billion to $5.75 billion. By copying a decades-old event with little to no variation, the iHeartRadio Awards are really just a cash grab. Clearly, this is not an award show that is worth anyone’s time.