A rift is growing in the United States. As of August last year, more than one in five households have cut the proverbially umbilical cable TV cord, and new giants (Netflix and the like) have risen in its place. This past Sunday’s Oscars had the lowest ratings in nine years, and the cable-free College of Wooster dorms counted among the immense non-viewership. For many of my peers, that metaphor of maternal television to the fetal self cuts deep, suckling at the teat of TV in our living room/womb. We’re faced with a serious question: do we give enough of a damn about the Oscars to go crawling back?
I do not. The 89th Academy Awards were the 89th year of suck and I don’t have to actually watch the ceremony to know that. Why would I want to sit through a grueling three hours and 49 minutes of late night television’s resident lame-o Jimmy Kimmel? This Oscars set itself up to be even more of a self-congratulatory circle jerk than usual, giving the Hollywood-hugging La La Land enough nominations to tie with Titanic.
It’s telling that L.A., the city so loved by La La Land, counts among the places where the Awards did fairly well, along with other high density metropolitan areas. Yes, it’s true that these cities happened to be where ABC allowed online streaming, but I think this all suggests another kind of severance: between urbanity and rurality.
The town/country divide has long been thought of as an essential societal faultline (see: Engels), one that today seems even more profoundly deep and wide. I’m not one to suggest Hollywood and the Academy are some straw-cabal of ‘liberal elites’ who are ‘out-of-touch’ with real America, but there’s clearly a critical gap between Hollywood as a major cultural force and towns like our very own Wooster.
Luckily, we youths are equipped with a beacon in the pastoral dark: memes. Instead of four hours of red-carpeted golden-plated slog, we get grainy zoomed in shots of Meryl Streep’s aghast face and Click Hole tweets. If you want some thoughtful discourse, there are boundless thinkpieces on the subject, like “A happy ending at the Oscars” from SocialistWorker.org to LA Weekly’s “La La Land Is a Propaganda Film”. From these you can put together a facsimile of the Academy Awards. All the essential bits are there: the ‘historic upset’ for Best Picture, Brie Larson not clapping and Suicide Squad being crowned an Oscar-winning film.You can say soundbites like this distort truth, but remember, the Oscars are historically really, really bad. And it wasn’t just bad this year, it was ridiculous, so what’s more appropriate than memes?
What I’m saying is this: stop watching TV. All the good stuff will be on Netflix eventually and all the bad stuff with good bits will be turned into memes. Cut the cord. Face the future. Embrace your new overlords.