The Oscars: Why do students watch?

by Brian Burns
Last year, the Grammys surpassed the Oscars as the higher-rated telecast for the first time ever, and viewership of the Super Bowl frequently overtakes the annual celebration of movies by a large margin.  After a record high in 1998 when Titanic won the best-picture award, the ratings hit an all-time low in 2008 and have been underwhelming ever since.
The fact that the Oscars tend to salute little-seen films is one possible cause of the ceremony’s sliding popularity. Still, some students have their own reasons for watching that don’t involve the films nominated.

The Host
The master of ceremonies may be a factor in viewership for students.  Ricky Gervais’s biting one-liners at the Golden Globes attracted national attention, and Neil Patrick Harris is now recognized as the face of the Tonys.  In a desperate appeal to youth viewers, Anne Hathaway and James Franco were chosen as hosts of the Oscars in 2011.  Due to negative reception of Hathaway’s over-exuberance and Franco’s lack thereof, the Academy swung around in 2012 when Billy Crystal was chosen as host for the first time in more than 20 years to reinvigorate the awards show with nostalgia value.
This year, Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy and Ted fame was chosen to host.  Known for his raunchy humor, the voice actor and director will have to tone his jokes down for primetime television.
“I’ve previously thought he would be a good host and was waiting for his turn,” said sophomore Sam Mahler, who cites other comedians as successful in the past. “I thought Jon Stewart was good when he did it.  I think Seth is even funnier than Stewart so I see no reason why he shouldn’t be a huge success.”
The Fashion
Many students count fashion as their primary reason for watching.  The red carpet coverage on E! as well as the major networks can be just as popular as the Oscars ceremony itself.
Stars can leave an impression with their choice of dress.  For example, Jennifer Lawrence stunned in a slinky red dress two years ago, when she was nominated for Winter’s Bone.  In contrast, Emma Stone was chastised last year for wearing a dress with a  red bow at the neck.  In some cases, the dresses can be a distraction from the ceremony.
“I don’t like really extravagant dresses – the simpler the better,” said junior Leigh Abramson, whose favorite celebrities to see include Tina Fey and Mila Kunis.
“I hate to see dresses with long slits and excess jewels because I think it is too over the top and takes away from the beauty of the person,” said sophomore Elisa Staniac.
Even after the ceremony, shows such as Fashion Police and magazines such as People rank the best- and worst-dressed celebrities of the night.
The Stars
The awards are known for cutting to reaction shots of celebrities during the ceremony.  The camera also focuses on famous couples like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and calls on the audience to participate in skits, such as when Justin Bieber made a surprise appearance in the Oscars opening last year.
The acceptance speeches are also a rare chance for audiences to get a glimpse behind the parts the actors play.
Highlights in past years included Natalie Portman’s acceptance speech for best actress in 2011 when she was pregnant with her first child.
“I love seeing the reactions of the winners because I know how great it feels to finally achieve something you’ve been working  for,” said senior Kelly O’Leary.