The catastrophe of the Oscars award telecast last Sunday is now official: Ratings were the lowest in its history. Many conservatives, like this columnist, chose to not watch as a statement rejecting the increasingly politicized nature of the film Academy’s awards show.
Yet, the ratings disaster this year is so significant — down a whopping 20 percent compared to last year — it suggests a significant cultural shift has occurred that portends a great loss not just for the entertainment industry, but for the nation as a whole.
With this debacle, one would think its producers would snap to it and try to reverse the slide. Even the entertainment trade magazine Variety co-editor in chief vented on Twitter, “How low does the final ratings number have to be in order to prompt the Academy and ABC to freak out? Where is the bar set at which some serious changes will be made to the telecast format in order to reinvigorate the franchise?”
If they mean change the format that attacks half the population of the country to one that doesn’t, yes, that would be a good idea. But a change like that is not likely to come. For Hollywood, their rage at people who aren’t like them (conservatives, Trump supporters, Republicans, et al) has overcome any desire to return to their original mission — make movies that entertain and provide their audience with an escape from the strain of daily life.
Now, ironically, the film industry itself has become one of the problems from which we seek to escape. Consider in 2014: 43.7 million people watched the Oscars. Last Sunday, just four years later, 26.5 million watched, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Like the hyper-political 2016 and the hyper-anti-Trump 2017 Oscars, the 2018 version of the Oscars was an anti-Trump marathon disguised as an awards show. Naturally, it wasn’t a surprise when on Monday President Trump mocked the doomed program on Twitter. “Lowest rated Oscars in HISTORY. Problem is, we don’t have Stars anymore — except your President (just kidding, of course)!”
The president was gloating a lot and kidding a little, and he’s also right. Yes, Americans are tuning out in droves because we’re tired of being lectured, but also because Hollywood has replaced entertainment with personal contempt.
Think about it — where are actors like Clark Gable, James Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant and Spencer Tracy? Where are the equivalents of Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Vivian Leigh, Greta Garbo and Lauren Bacall?
Part of the lasting power of actors like Gable and Davis relied on mystery, as well as the actor being a blank slate onto which the audience could project their hopes and dreams. When going to the movies, the audience agrees to be transported to a state where they can suspend disbelief, allowing a miraculous escape from the real world and its concomitant problems.
None of this is possible when social justice warriors have donned the mask of “actor” or even more absurdly, “entertainer.”
The entertainment pact is destroyed when actors behave as though it’s their job to condemn you if you don’t pay allegiance to the liberal worldview. When you see them, there is no blank slate, only scolds who accuse, condemn and malign.
The Jimmy Kimmel-hosted Oscars have been ratings disasters not because the Oscars have been too long and sometimes boring (that’s usually been the case), but because an angry host isn’t funny or endearing. Instead of being transported away from the day’s tribulations, we become Dustin Hoffman in Laurence Olivier’s dentist chair.
There is a standard for hosting the Oscars, as two particular men have proven that being a late-night television host, entertainer and actor doesn’t require you to be an exhausting, political combatant. Bob Hope and Johnny Carson were talented men and were consummate entertainers in part because they didn’t use their work to castigate or mock the beliefs of their audience.
Americans love the movies, and we’ve loved our movies stars even more. It is an extraordinary thing to have a talent that is able to help people enjoy their lives by briefly transporting them into a fantasy world. It’s an equally tragic thing when that same industry decides their new job is to punish people for daring to think differently and not conforming to the Hollywood liberal worldview.
• Tammy Bruce, author and Fox News contributor, is a radio talk show host.