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Awards Shows: Tone-Deaf Excess or Conspicuous Consumption?

Awards Shows: Tone-Deaf Excess or Conspicuous Consumption?

[Posted by David S. Cohen]

The gang at the NYT’s take on the awards season and the red carpet is pretty downbeat. Laura Holson reports that updated old-Hollywood hairstyles will replace gaudy baubles on the red carpet, and that understated is in. Meanwhile Brooks Barnes says the glitter and self-congratulation of Award Season is “treacherous ground” and suggests Hollywood is in danger of looking like a bunch of Marie-Antoinettes. He notes that Hollywood has turned down the glamour before, after 9/11, and suggests it should do so again.

Brother Barnes might want to catch up on his Thorstein Veblen and the idea of conspicuous consumption. To be fair, I think everyone’s still figuring this out, as Tim Gray suggests, but there’s no evidence that the public will resent women for dressing up for the red carpet — or if there is, Barnes isn’t citing any. He does cite the more-opulent-than-ever menu at the Golden Globes dinner, but I don’t recall the menu ever being a feature of the broadcast. I bet 99% of the viewers and the public have no idea what people eat at the Globes, even after this article.

As for the 9/11 analogy, I think that’s flat wrong. What’s happening now isn’t a national tragedy, as 9/11 was (even if it feels that way to those of us in the newspaper business). It’s an incipient depression. The Oscars were nurtured in a depression, remember, and in those days Hollywood stars getting dressed up seemed like a good thing. That, apparently, is the thinking of NBC, which is behind the swankier GG presentation this year.

Oddly, while there is some evidence for Barnes’ argument, he’s missing it. There are only three on-site after-parties at the Globes this year; the once-coveted Miramax/Weinstein party has vanished. There are several official parties elsewhere around town, where presumably attendees won’t be required to be in black tie and evening gowns. But does that have anything to do with public perception? Or is it because of a the economic downturn within the industry itself? I think it’s the latter.

And while he scolds that “The swag is back too, with six ‘gifting suites’ for presenters and nominees operating in conjunction with the awards,” I believe our own Mia McNiece, who writes that swag is hardly “back,” gifting suites be damned.

[Originally appeared on Variety.com]

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