This Sunday’s Academy Awards will be a litmus test of whether Hollywood can uncouple itself from the political agenda of young woke radicals that is proving so unpopular in America. Joe Biden had a stab at it during his State of the Union address, criticizing the “Defund the police” movement for fear of a Democratic wipeout in the midterms, and the New York Times did an astonishing volte-face last week, publishing an editorial in defense of free speech. A bit rich from the paper that recently forced out its most distinguished science reporter at the behest of its junior staff for using the N-word in a discussion about the appropriate use of the N-word.
But will the luvvies be able to resist trotting out all the usual fashionable platitudes about sex, race and gender? The producers of the Oscars certainly hope so. Last year’s telecast only attracted 10.4 million viewers, down from 23.6 million in 2020, and various initiatives have been introduced to boost the audience figures.
For instance, this year’s hosts are three potty-mouthed comedians: Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes. Schumer has said she intends to emulate Ricky Gervais, whose politically incorrect monologues as host of the Golden Globes have attracted huge audiences on social media. “I’m going to get myself in some trouble,” she said earlier this month. “I’ll burn every bridge.”
Then there’s the addition of a new “fan favorite” category, voted for by Twitter users. This is to give the producers an excuse to show clips from some of the most commercially successful films of last year — such as Spider-Man: No Way Home, Venom: Let There Be Carnage and No Time to Die, none of which has been nominated for Oscars in any of the major categories. But Twitter has allowed each user to vote up to twenty times a day, creating an opportunity for fans of particular films (and actors) to game the contest. Already, a hard core of Johnny Depp enthusiasts have ensured that his latest film — an obscure art-house offering called Minamata — is on the shortlist. It’s one thing for the Academy Awards to become slightly less woke; quite another to honor a man whose ex-wife has accused him of repeatedly assaulting her.
Presumably, one of the reasons Depp’s fans have got behind Minamata is because they’re unhappy that he’s been dropped by Hollywood — it’s a protest against cancel culture. Which gives me an idea. If the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences really wants to push back against the Torquemadas of the progressive left, it could include an addendum to its “In memoriam” section listing all the Hollywood celebrities who were canceled in 2021. Number one on the list would be Alec Baldwin, clutching a prop gun and flashing a cheeky grin.
Here’s another suggestion: why not introduce a rule whereby any winner who expresses support for a political cause during their acceptance speech has to forfeit their gold statuette? This is a role that Ricky Gervais was born for. I can imagine him marching up to Steven Spielberg, snatching the Oscar from his hand and saying: “Sorry, but a man who owns a $70 million private jet doesn’t get to lecture us about climate change.”
And if the producers want to win back some of those disgruntled red-state viewers, why not hire the British pro-Brexit musical comedian Dominic Frisby to perform some of his songs? There’s one I particularly like called “Maybe” that includes the line: “Maybe Donald Trump is not all bad.” I’d actually stay up till four o’clock in the morning just to see the look on Frances McDormand’s face. Now there’s a clip that would go viral on social media.
But in truth I don’t expect 2022’s Academy Awards to be much of a departure from previous years, i.e. a snorefest of nonstop virtue signaling. Just as most leading Democrats cannot help but engage in ritualized bouts of racial self-flagellation, even though they know it’s Kryptonite to white working-class voters, so multi-millionaire movie stars will drone on about the under-representation of women and minorities in spite of the television audience’s lack of interest in their political views. I don’t suppose Joe Biden’s tack to the center will save his congressional colleagues in November, and the inclusion of a couple of risqué gags by Amy Schumer won’t be enough to stop the Oscars hemorrhaging viewers. It will be a few years yet before America’s liberal establishment learns the lesson that’s currently being meted out to the mainstream media: get woke, go broke.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s UK magazine. Subscribe to the World edition here.