For any of us older than 35 we remember the 1998 Academy Awards show where 55 million people tuned in to watch Leonardo DiCaprio win Best Actor for Titanic. Wait, I wrote that wrong, Titanic won Best Picture despite the star of the movie not being nominated (He had to sleep inside of a bear for that to end up happening). But there was a time when the distance between US and THEM was huge. Famous people lived off somewhere in a high castle and people in even higher castles decided whether they got to be famous or not in the first place. We’ve all seen with the downfall of people like Harvey Weinstein that perhaps it was’t such a good idea to let a few people decide who was famous or not. (Yes, I still believe Weinstein’s Shakespeare in Love won Best Picture due to bribes and chicanery and not because it was better than the absolute epic that was “Saving Private Ryan”} So throughout the 1970s and until the late 90s the country would gather around and worship the famous at the Oscars, because they were ‘elites’ in every sense of the word and many of them were war heroes, civil rights activists and all around good human beings.
But something started happening in the late 1990s with the advent of the Internet that took off and exploded with full adaption of the popular website YouTube. Your average ordinary person started becoming famous too. There was no longer a wall between US and THEM, and after a decade of normal people who used to watch the Oscars and other awards shows in awe, many were now more famous than than the people they were looking at on those shows. If you ask anyone who is 18 to 21 who they are most interested in, it is not the Actors in Hollywood right now. It’s Instagram, Twitter, Twitch, Youtube and OnlyFans stars. Almost everyone in that age range can list off who “Mr Beast (Youtube), Ninja (Twitch) and Blac Chyna (OnlyFans and Instagram) are. I seriously doubt they can name very many actors (You are missed Chadwick Boseman, you were the exception!). So that gets to the point of this article. Why did the last Oscar ceremony garner only 9.85 million viewers in a country that has grown by 30-40 million people since Titanic won best picture in 1998? The answer is simple: those people are boring! Honestly when movies first emerged as a form of entertainment they attracted the people from Vaudeville and Live Street Theater. Thy were the edgiest people of their day and while movies became a bit more serene in the 1940s and 50s they reflected an American character that had made it through the Great Depression and World War II. People were looking for stability and character. In the 1960s when the Baby Boomers were coming of age and challenging the status quo they produced Rebels in Hollywood.. Everyone from Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Warren Beatty, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and Marilyn Monroe. These were icons (No one more so than Audrey Hepburn). But we should also comment that there were many rebels even in early movies pushing for female equality (thank you Katharine Hepburn) even before World War II. Through the 1970s and 1980s we took our cue as a society from the newest Stars, the masculinity of Stallone and Arnold to the Coming of Age Brat Pack. Then the 1990s came and being ‘against everything establishment’ took hold but Americans never abandoned the movies or the actors and actresses that graced our screen. Luckily the 90s were filled with Non Stop Action movies, like Speed and the Matrix, Independence Day and yes even Titanic, which were anything but boring.
But now what exactly do we have? We have actors and actresses who try to appear on that High Hill but spent the last 4 years down in the muck with politics and lecturing, which brings them down with the rest of us and even closer to the Internet Celebrities they are now competing with. You also just have a general crop of cookie cutter actors and actresses that much like the movie Starship Troopers look good, but aren’t exactly who you want on the front lines helping save a movie industry that was in decline before Covid-19 and now seems to be on it’s last leg. It of course has not helped that Hollywood spends as much time looking at China and the foreign market as making movies Americans will love. I don’t blame them as the foreign movie market is now bigger than the domestic one.. But Hollywood is in fact losing it’s own audience at home to Youtube, Twitch and OnlyFans. I don’t know about you but I can positively say I’d have a better time viewing things on those platforms than anything Hollywood produced in 2020. I know that more media is going to be consumed on those platforms in 2021 than the hours people spend watching Hollywood’s cookie cutter product.
So if Hollywood wants to win the culture back and get people to watch the Oscars and consume their movies they need to start taking cues from what Gen Z finds entertaining. That means actually being interesting and being more exciting than the average Youtuber that all of us can watch for FREE. I laugh more at ‘Critical Drinker’ and my son laughs more watching Youtubers playing video games than either of us have laughed at a Hollywood movie in years.