World markets dropped on Tuesday as debt talks faltered in Europe. Egypt was struggling to maintain order in the opening session of its first democratically elected parliament. Unrest and violence continued across the rest of the Middle East. President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union Address as Republicans continued to battle it out in the presidential primaries. Yet one of the top stories on all major news sites was this: who got snubbed in the 2012 Oscar nominations?
Movies and entertainment are good distractions for an American public that is plagued by unemployment, a degrading planet, international conflict, and increasing health woes. By putting so much emphasis on a meaningless award, however, the media is encouraging an ill-informed population that cares more about George Clooney’s latest girlfriend than about the number of Americans who go to bed hungry every night. The media needs to stop pandering to the lowest common denominator and instead strive to lift the mental prowess of its readers. This change will only happen if the public lessens the demand for gossip and unnecessary pop culture debates.
This is the season of award shows. In the two-month period of January and February, viewers are able to witness the Critics Choice Awards, the Golden Globes, the Writers Guild Awards, the Directors Guild Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the BAFTA Awards, the Grammy Awards, the Independent Spirit Awards, the Golden Raspberry “RAZZIE” Awards, and the Academy Awards (better known as the Oscars).
Later in the year are a variety of film festivals (each with their own set of awards), both the MTV Movie and Video Music Awards, and the Academy of Country Music Awards. Not to be confused with the Country Music Association Awards or the Country Music Television Awards.
I consider the annual awards season a quintessential example of what’s wrong with the news media, and with our country’s values as a whole. I have nothing against the Oscars in and of itself and was excited to read the nominations on Tuesday. I may question the power and influence given to the Academy during the voting process, but overall I love the arts and think that the public should celebrate them. My issue is that the entertainment industry has been celebrated more than other sectors that are equally, if not more deserving. Actors receive millions of dollars for a film, are awarded an Oscar, and then receive an even higher fee for their next project. Musicians who earn a Grammy nod consequently receive free advertising and increased revenues on tour and in album sales. Meanwhile, non-profit professionals and teachers working in inner city schools have a hard time making ends meet on their meager salaries. Corporations earn record profits as foundations struggle to support an ever-growing number of poorly funded institutions.
Celebrate your favorite movies and enjoy the entertainment industry. Read articles that keep you informed on the minutiae of each political candidate’s life. But let’s also push the media to put more of a spotlight on those people who are working to help communities in need. News outlets should spend less time discussing Kim Kardashian’s divorce and instead press presidential candidates on societal issues that aren’t being addressed. By demanding that reporters focus on topics that are central to a sustainable and just society, we can create informed debate that will lead to more innovative and inspired solutions to our world’s ills.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons