The Oscars are trying to be hip and young, but failing miserably

The Atlantic Wire

Yesterday, Lady Gaga revealed that she'll be performing live at the 87th Academy Awards ceremony later this month. It's unclear if she'll be joined by Tony Bennett, the Maude to her Harold, just as it's unclear what she'll be singing, or, most importantly, why anyone thought this was necessary. Jennifer Hudson — who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2007 — will also take the stage to perform an as-yet-to-be-announced song for as-yet-to-be-announced reasons.

Guys, the Oscars are going through something.

We don't mean to suggest that Hudson and Gaga aren't talented or broadly culturally relevant, but… why now? These women are utterly random choices to play the Oscars ceremony in 2015, especially considering the broadcast is already jam-packed with musical performances. As is customary, the nominees for Best Original Song will be played live, including performances by Canadian indie rockers Tegan and Sara (you can thank the Quin sisters for The Lego Movie's "Everything Is Awesome"), Kmart's Adam Levine, and Rita Ora, who seems as surprised as anyone that Rita Ora earned an Oscar nod.


The Grammys are a boring industry circlejerk, the Golden Globes are an unconscionable shitshow, and the Emmys are sort of just… there (I mean, I watch them, but I don't have much of a life). Flawed though they are, the Oscars — the longest-running media awards ceremony — have always been something of a wise eldest sibling, and the prestige an Academy Award brings is unrivaled by any other showbiz honor.

But rather than embrace their natural stodginess, it feels like the Academy Awards are nakedly, desperately grabbing for a younger audience. Why else would they bother staging performances by musical artists simply on the basis of their familiarity? We'd call this a mid-life crisis, although it's a little late, considering the ceremony is 87 years old. Maybe the Oscars are becoming the Regina George's mom of awards shows.

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That's not a good look, even on Amy Poehler.

What's truly shameful is the 2015 Oscars' two-faced treatment of people of color. Despite nominating Selma for Best Picture, the Academy egregriously snubbed both director Ava DuVernay, who would've been the first African-American woman nominated for Best Director, and star David Oyelowo.


Oscars producers, seemingly in damage control mode, have recently made a concerted effort to line up black performers and presenters for the televised ceremony. In addition to Jennifer Hudson, Common and John Legend will perform their Best Original Song-nominated "Glory" from Selma. Among the scheduled presenters are Oyelowo, Viola Davis, Kevin Hart, Zoe Saldana, Octavia Spencer, Oprah Winfrey (who produced and appears in Selma), Kerry Washington, and Lupita Nyong’o (last year's Best Supporting Actress).

But the Oscars protest too much: this is an empty gesture. They're angling for cultural cache with the appearance of diversity ("Look, kids, we're young and hip and not at all institutionally racist!"), while crossing their fingers that viewers simply forget about the unbearable whiteness of the artists they're actually honoring.



Several more presenters have been added to the 2015 Oscars slate, including Chris Evans (that is, Captain America), Dakota Johnson, and 18-year-old Chloë Grace Moretz. Nope, definitely not trying to pander to young people at all.


Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.

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