CHANGING THE CHANNEL

Somebody Tell the Award Shows That We're Still in a Pandemic

"Socially distant" red carpet events are a special kind of hell. So why are we still having them?
Lady Gaga at the 2020 MTV VMAs accepting an award in a face mask
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Last night, I tuned into my second virtual award show during the COVID-19 pandemic to cover it for work, and last night, I also tuned into what will hopefully (my schedule permitting, wink wink) be my last. This is not to say that performers shouldn't be given awards during the year of our Satan 2020 — it is to say that we don't have to cling so heavily to the pre-pandemic days, at least while there's still no vaccine in sight. Maybe it would be better for now if these trophies (highly sought after, well-deserved, iconic as they are) could just be mailed to the winners without the usual fanfare.

I'll admit that I've never been much for these shows, so perhaps I am a little biased. However, I have softened my stance on them over the past few years. I love watching artists joyfully accept their awards. I enjoy listening to the heartfelt speeches. (Especially those that have real heart behind them and aren't simply pandering attempts to cash in on the buzzword of the moment.) But something is different now. Without the ability for these stars to gather in a room together, in front of live audiences — without the community aspect, albeit a community different from any demographic you or I could imagine — it's just become stilted and awkward, akin to watching a Skype conversation between two people you don't care about. 

The socially distant interviews are awkward; the interviewer and interviewee can barely fit on the screen at the same time. They're always done in some random green room, or worse, on a weird dock or in an abandoned lot. Rather than providing a distraction from the pandemic we've been dealing with for the better part of this year, they actually serve as a visual reminder.

And while it can be fun for fans to see their favorite artists perform their hit songs, the current method of getting around COVID-19 includes airing prerecorded, remotely-produced videos. These are typically not the same caliber as music videos, yet they also don't have the same thrill as a live performance. They exist in some sort of purgatory between the two, a hellish limbo space that frankly none of us need to be in right now. 

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A behind-the-scenes look at the production of the 2020 MTV VMAs

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Perhaps the only redeeming quality of these shows is the fashion and beauty, but even that is little consolation for the bizarre manner in which we're forced to view it. We see shots of our favorite performers (and, let's face it, our problematic faves) "walking" a red carpet, but where are they going? To a strange parking lot to be interviewed from yards away? To a makeshift backstage area at an undisclosed location to present an award over FaceTime? Others stand in front of what is nearly always clearly a green screen displaying some sort of futuristic background to accept their award. All of this combined creates an eerily dystopian effect.

Sure, it's true that these artists should be recognized for their talents, and for the hard work they put in this year. They should be acknowledged for the fact that they gave us an escape through their art during 2020, a year that's given us all enough collective trauma to keep therapists in business forever if we ever — cross your fingers — get universal health care. But that doesn't mean we should pretend this is fun. It isn't. Let's treat award shows the same way many of us celebrated our birthdays early on in the pandemic (shout-out to some Pisces, Aries, and fellow Taurus friends): by doing nothing at all and calling this year a wash. We'll go big the next time around.


If that didn't scare you off, here's some coverage of this year's virtual award shows:

Now, watch an Olympic surfer's routine, from waking up to hitting the beach:

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