Oscars Drama: Why Care?


It was the slap heard around the world. Even if the Oscars aren’t your thing, somebody you know texted you on Sunday night after watching Will Smith slap Chris Rock following Rock’s joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

If this is somehow news to you, Rock’s remark was aimed at Pinkett Smith’s shaved head. He referred to her as “G.I. Jane,” a comment that Pinkett Smith showed little reaction to, but that compelled Smith to march up on stage and slap and cuss Rock out.

Considering Pinkett Smith’s openness about her alopecia, the cause of her hair loss and shaved head, Rock’s ad-libbed joke is widely considered to be offensive, and Smith’s reaction was a valid defense of his wife.

On the other hand, maybe the joke hit a little too close to home for other reasons. People have been obsessed with the Smiths and their ambiguously-open marriage for years, so Smith’s impassioned response is particularly interesting to those who keep up with celebrity drama.  It should be noted that the joke came after a recent rise in discussions on social media about Pinkett Smith’s “poor treatment” of her husband due to her alleged relationships outside of their marriage. 

Either way, it, and the Oscars in general, shouldn’t really matter that much to us.

Social media has its annual spikes of celebrity obsession: the Met Gala, the Oscars, the Grammys. Our year is routinely interrupted by the latest celebrity event, during which we drop every other issue “du jour” in favor of tearing apart outfits, nominations and speeches. 

Every week, it feels like another celebrity couple’s personal issues take the internet by storm. There’s something to be said about how these events are put on by the inner circle, for the inner circle, and yet we keep looking in, like this should interest us at all. Caligula himself could never have imagined the low-quality circuses we choose to focus on.

It’s not like we’re tuning into these events for their actual merits. The Grammys are allegedly rigged. The Oscar nominations and winners are so predictable that the term “Oscar Bait” commonly refers to tragic films addressing social and historical issues, was parodied by Seth Meyers in 2017 and still hasn’t fallen out of style. While there’s no “winner” at the Met Gala — other than perhaps the Costume Institute itself, as the gala is the source of the majority of its funding — it’s mainly a way for designers to gain publicity by dressing the celebrities whose tickets they pay for. Sure, the outfits are pretty to look at (and absolutely tear apart on Twitter), but the focus of the event is still largely about the elite networking and looking good for the cameras.

The question is, why do we care? Few charitable events get the attention the Met Gala does. The Hugo Awards, a series of literary prizes, get little attention outside of writer’s circles. Do we watch random shoppers in Target duke it out over their impending divorces, or do we reserve this honor only for the richest and most famous? Sure, we all mock the tone-deaf lipservice the attendees pay to the latest social issue at the Academy Awards, but that at least is an attempt to focus on something that matters more than who looks good and what inanities of their personal lives are going to be on display.

It’s time to stop caring so much about Oscars drama. The bread has gone stale, and the circuses are closed. Oscars drama is the most superficial of superficial entertainment: It’s not impactful, it’s not meaningful and it’ll be irrelevant by the time this is printed. 

Maybe we only continue to care due to the same instinct that inspires our consumption of cringe compilations and college Barstool accounts. It could be that, in the past, we would have all been medieval peasants gleefully watching our feudal lords sic their hunting dogs on each other. After all, life can be thankless in many ways, and engaging in celebrity worship is a form of escapism like any other.