Oscars as a wokefest

The Oscars event is one of the most prestigious in the entertainment industry but its ratings have been dwindling for years. Many have put the viewer decline down to the Oscars being a “wokefest”. “Wokefest” comes from a festival of “woke”.

In 2021, the Oscars experienced an all-time low viewership of just 10.4 million. This was a significant drop from 2020, which was the previous lowest number of viewers at 23.6 million. In 2016, there was a social media reaction to the Oscars with #OscarsSoWhite as all 20 nominations went to white actors.

Almost as if to liven them up, the 2022 Oscars blew up all over the media due to actor Will Smith slapping comedian Chris Rock on stage. Rock told a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith (Will Smith’s partner) that Smith took offence at.

Meaning of woke

“Woke” is a modern-day term that became popular in mainstream media after 2014. Being “woke” is to be aware of and actively attentive to important social issues. Before 2014, the use of the word “woke” was rarely heard of and only used in black communities in the US.

After the US murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri at the hands of police, staying “woke” became a cautionary watchword for Black Lives Matter activists. It meant to stay alert and keep watch for police brutality.

However, now the word “woke” has evolved into a single word summary of leftist political ideology, centred around social justice. It has also become a common term of derision from the right. It is edging out “political correctness” and is used to mock or infantilise supporters of those movements.

Woke as a signifier of pretentiousness

While not rejecting the concept of “woke” altogether, detractors often claim they are rejecting “woke” as a signifier of pretentiousness and “cultural elitism”. It more often refers to people getting on a social bandwagon without real conviction.

Wokefest = non-stop virtue signalling

And this is where we come to the with the Oscars. Toby Young, an editor at The Spectator (a politically conservative UK magazine) and founder and President of the Free Speech Union, had dubbed the Oscars, “a snorefest of non-stop virtue signalling”, basically a place for celebrities to show how much of a good character they are by being “woke”. That seems to hit the nail on the head.

Examples are celebrities claiming environmental sensitivities while flying their fuel-guzzling private jets to attend events. Ricky Gervais controversially attacked woke celebrities at the 2020 Golden Globe awards. He left many actors in the audience squirming:

If you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. If you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your god, and f**k off.

Piers Morgan in 2021 stated in The Daily Mail,

the Oscars had one job after the whole world had endured a year of hell with the coronavirus pandemic: to make us feel better, the fact it made us all feel slightly worse by the end is an almost miraculously bad achievement worthy of winning an award itself.

A wokefest indeed.