Convenient Truths: A Commentary on the 2007 Academy Awards Ceremony as a Global Event

By Goff, Robert | Nebula, June 2007 | Go to article overview

Convenient Truths: A Commentary on the 2007 Academy Awards Ceremony as a Global Event


Goff, Robert, Nebula


Introduction: Hollywood and Improving the World

   "... So many of you have causes that you are equally passionate
   about. That is really what is so wonderful about the movie
   industry--not only do we get to make films that matter, but we also
   work in a culture where we are encouraged to speak out. We may not
   always agree, but we do always care."

   Sherry Lansing receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, 2007.

I'm not sure if it was due to the Democrats coming back to power in Congress a few months before, but "liberal Hollywood" seemed to be more confidently on display throughout the television broadcast of the 2007 Academy Award ceremony, much more so than had been the case in the last few years. The prominent presence of Al Gore during the evening seemed to confirm the suspicion of many conservative Americans that there is a close association between Hollywood and the Democratic Party. An Inconvenient Truth, which documents Gore's case against global warming, won the Oscar for best documentary and Melissa Etheridge's song, "I Need to Wake Up," from the same film won in the best song category. Early on in the evening, the former Vice President announced that the Academy Awards ceremony had "gone green," (although what this actually meant in practice was never really explained).

As if to counter the decline of America in world opinion since the Bush administration went to war in Iraq, the evening's host, Ellen DeGeneres, announced "this is the most international Oscar night ever." The ceremony also celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of awards given to foreign language films, and there did, indeed, seem to be a wider variety of international films and stars from several nations up for nomination. The prominent appearance in particular of non-American musicians seemed to confirm that film, as well as music, was an international language. Ennio Morricone, an Italian composer, was given a special Oscar during the evening and his acceptance speech was delivered in Italian. In another acceptance speech, Gustavo Santaolalla, an Argentinean musician and composer, espoused a universal vision: "In our soul rests, I think, our own true identity, beyond languages, countries, races and religions."

Were the audience members in the Kodak Theatre and viewers at home stirred by these transcendent words? And did Al Gore's more pragmatic exhortation to fight global warming have an impact? (His acceptance speech concluded with these words: "We have everything we need to get started, with the possible exception of the will to act. That's a renewable resource. Let's renew it.") Was it possible that some of this globally transmitted broadcast--watched by a billion people, according to the host--"made a difference" that night? It would be good to think that America, along with the rest of the world, had been set on a new course during the evening, with protection of the planet mandated, multiculturalism championed, gender equality taken for granted (Sherry Lansing, a woman executive who had once headed two Hollywood studios, was given a humanitarian award during the evening) and the invisibility of sexual minorities finally ended (DeGeneres and Etheridge are both openly gay women).

The American television ratings are the most important measure taken of the broadcast and 39.9 million American watched the broadcast--up by three percent or one million more viewers than the previous year and, according to Neilsen, 75 million American watched at least six minutes of the nearly four-hour telecast. Polling viewers after the broadcast might have provided some evidence of the impact of the broadcast. Drawing upon social scientific methods, communications scholar Michael R. Real detailed the findings of a telephone survey from the early 1980s which found the majority of viewers had "low involvement" in watching the broadcast with larger numbers viewing only to find out who would win, to watch celebrities or to enjoy the fashions on display. …

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