Every year, 40 million Americans and I spend three hours in front of the TV watching celebrities collect their Oscar. They talk about the sacrifice, the skill, the risks, and the importance of their craft, and we share the joy and disappointment our favorite actors feel win they win or lose the Academy Award. We do the same when watching the Emmys, Grammys, Tonys, and countless other awards shows.
A month ago, 111 million (!) people watched a terrible football game because it was the Super Bowl. There were millions of gatherings centered around this yearly television ritual, with parties and office pools and catering and multi-million dollar commercials supporting the spectacle.
Countless hours and pages and tweets of commentary, analysis and predictions surround these annual events. There are few other landmark moments in U.S. pop culture that receive this amount of attention and hype.
Meanwhile, CNN’s “Heroes Awards,” a program celebrating the top 10 real-life heroes of the year, earns about 250,000 viewers when it airs, barely a sliver of the Oscars’ and the Super Bowls’ audience. Yet most of us would agree that the actions and achievements for which these people are recognized have far more impact–and are often far more amazing–than those of any actor or athlete.
And what of the AMA or the Lasker Awards, which celebrate achievements in medicine? Or the AACR and the Breakthrough Awards, recognizing accomplishments in the field of science? And then there are countless awards for teaching and other important professions. Who’s watching their TV shows? And are these awards even televised?
We pay more money and attention to our stars and athletes than anyone else in this country, while people in nobler roles and professions struggle for funding, income, and recognition. No public relations campaign in the world could motivate millions of Americans to watch an awards show for them. Perhaps we should pause to think about where our societal priorities lie, or at least ponder the question of why we give so much greater value to our celebrities and their achievements than to anyone else. Your thoughts?