Celebrity Culture and the Awards Show

27 08 2010

Awards shows play an unusual role in celebrity culture. On one hand, they (allegedly) reward the famous for their talent—for actually doing something to deserve our adulation and, in turn, their fame. We are asked, if only momentarily, to put aside any extratextual details of the star’s life and focus only on her performances. The awards show privileges the extraordinariness of stars…these are exceptional individuals who do exceptional things, wear amazing and glamorous gowns and tuxedos, and generally are gorgeous and fabulous at all times.

But, as is always the case with stardom, the private or “real” person never goes away. Thus, the awards show is also a key, albeit tightly controlled, moment for the audience to see the “real” and private person appear in public as her extraordinary self. We logically know we are looking at Katherine Heigl as she accepts her award, not at her Grey’s Anatomy character. But we are always brought back to her talent in portraying that character as the key to her image (despite any extratextual reports we may have read about her). We are also asked to equate the “real” Katherine Heigl with the fabulous extraordinary person we see on stage, without bothering to think about all the effort that went into producing the self we see on stage (hair, makeup, dress fittings, endless campaigning for the award etc). In other words, her private “real” self is the effortlessly extraordinary vessel of glamor and talent!

Aren't I Fabulous? Now give me an award!

Thank You! I REALLY mean it!

Contemporary awards shows are a throwback to the glamor and control of the Golden Age of Hollywood, when stars were created to support the interests of the studio and then tightly policed by the studio to uphold that image. Make no mistake, the awards show is work for the star, and they know how to put on the proper kind of private self in this public moment. A successful appearance at an awards show (whether nominated or not, and whether or not the star actually takes home a trophy) is key to continued work in the industry and audience devotion. Even if they end up on the worst dressed list, their still wearing designer dresses and hanging out with other celebs and you aren’t.

On the hallowed ground of the awards show, the stars are nothing but special. Even Joan Rivers saved her snarking for the next day. Awards shows are full of ridiculous, self-aggrandizing, and ass-kissing behavior, so obviously they are perfect vehicles for celebrity culture! Where else do you get a bunch of beautiful people congratulating each other for being so beautiful and fabulous? I kid, celebrities, I kid. I do (much to my partner’s chagrin) love the major award shows precisely because of the stylized glitz and glamor that, I think, perfectly encapsulates stardom.

Which, of course, means I am quite excited about this weekend’s Emmy Awards. At the request of frequent (dare I say favorite?) commenter, An Admirer, I’ll be live blogging the event on Sunday. I’ll probably start with some pre-show red carpet ridiculousness on E! around 6pm EST, but will definitely be on board for the entire awards show proper.

I’ll even venture some picks for the major categories, based mostly on my personal preference over what industry buzz I might have read. I’m gonna stick to just the acting categories (and “big” award of best comedy and best drama series), since that’s most relevant to my focus on stardom here. Though I will say Lost’s final episode is probably the one to beat in the Drama Writing category. I invite you to share your own picks or tell me why mine are wrong in the comments section. You can find a full list of nominees here

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series
I’m gonna go with Alec Baldwin for his continued excellence on 30 Rock. Though the fact that Steve Carell is leaving The Office after this season may make him a dark horse. Sorry Mr. Shue.

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series
Tina Fey’s my favorite here, but I think Julia Louis-Dreyfuss has a shot since her show, The New Adventures of Old Christine, was canceled and there’s nothing like sticking it to the man by rewarding a show that did not make it (see: Arrested Development)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Will the Modern Family men cancel each other out? Will NPH finally get his due? How much do I love Chris Kofler as Kurt on Glee? I don’t know, so let’s say Ty Burrell as doofus Dad Phil Dunfey on Modern Family. One part of me loves to see so many gay characters (and actors) nominated, but sort of sad (though not entirely surprised) that it is in the supporting category.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester on Glee. The end.

Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
My heart says John Hamm, but my head says Bryan Cranston. Who completely deserves another win for his portrayal of Walter White on Breaking Bad. Dark horse is Matthew Fox from Lost. He did a great job this season, and the voters love to reward a show in its final season.

Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series
This is a tough one for me, because I only watch one of the nominated actress’s shows. Which probably makes me a bad feminist spectator, what with the strong characters and actresses nominated here. So I’ll say Julianna Margulies for The Good Wife because I know some other people like her. 😉 And because as much as I enjoy January Jones’ portrayal of ice queen Betty Draper, I somehow think her performance is related more to the luck of finding the perfect role for her than her acting chops. Though no one furrows her brow quite like Jones.

Outstanding Supporting Actor Drama Series
Gah, this one is so hard! I really want John Slattery to win for Mad Men’s Roger Sterling, who always gets the best lines. But I think it will be either Terry O’Quinn or Michael Emerson for Lost, both of whom were fantastic in the final season. Edge to O’Quinn for so convincingly turning Locke into FLocke.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
I am still a bit miffed that Anna Gunn was not nominated for her tense and nuanced performance as Skylar White Breaking Bad. She really was outstanding this past season. Nevertheless, Christina Hendrick’s Joan on Mad Men keeps getting more complex and fascinating. Her scenes with her no-good husband last season were brilliantly subtle. Go Joan!

And the really big ones:

Outstanding Comedy Series
Though 30 Rock continues to be one of my favorite shows ever, I think they’ve probably won it enough times. Torn between Glee and Modern Family, I’m gonna go with Modern Family because the sneaky punchlines and deadpan delivery make me laugh out loud and rewind my DVR to see it again.

Outstanding Drama Series
As much as I love Mad Men, no other show makes me say “holy crap!” more consistently than Breaking Bad, which just keeps getting better. That said, Lost is totally winning this category.

See you back here on Sunday night!




6 responses

28 08 2010
An Admirer

“In other words, her private “real” self is the effortlessly extraordinary vessel of glamor and talent!”

Yeah, bit of a paradox, right? I remember the excitement of award shows as a child for the reasons you mention: this idea that I was getting to see the “real” person rather than the star as their character. But that “realness” is never constructed the way the “realness” of people on “real”ity shows are, for example; there’s definitely a clear remove or wall that’s significantly maintained via the glamour presentation.

Nowadays I really care only about who wins, and can’t really stand the Rivers and Rivers red carpet stuff (sorry!). As for your predictions:
– Thanks for picking Julianna Margulies – but hey, even if she wasn’t my favorite, she’s won everything this season, and it would be a big shock if she didn’t get the honors on Sunday.
– I know Archie Panjabi won’t win for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, but she would if hotness were the metric (oops, did I just say that? Bad feminist, bad bad!).
– I don’t know if Lost’s final season status will be enough to give it the statue for Best Drama. I hope not; I mean, even if The Good Wife doesn’t win, I’d rather another show did.
– Any picks for Best Guest Actors/Actresses? Those are competitive this year, I think. For Best Guest Actor in a Drama, I loved both Alan Cumming and Dylan Baker in The Good Wife.
– You make me think I should be watching Breaking Bad.

29 08 2010

Do Joan and Melissa even still do red carpet? They were relegated to the TV Guide channel at one point, and I’m not sure if they are still on. E! red carpet is Ryan Seacrest and Guliana Rancic, the hosts of E! News. Not sure who is doing the NBC coverage…

I hear you on Lost, but I’m sticking with it. More out of a sense that it was a critical darling when it first started and I think they’ll want to reward it for its work wrapping it up. But my heart stays with Mad Men

You so should be watching Breaking Bad! I’m not gonna lie, it’s intense. But so good.

They already awarded the guest actor awards at last week’s Schmemmy’s (as Kathy Griffin calls them). Comedy series winners were NPH for Glee and Betty White for her stint hosting SNL. Drama winners were Ann-Margaret for Law and Order: SVU and John Lithgow for Dexter. Lithgow accidentally thanked HBO in his speech…forgetting that his show airs on Showtime!

29 08 2010

Oh, I just learned that Joan Rivers will be doing the Fashion Police rehash of the fashion successes and failures on E! tomorrow. So she’s not on the red carpet, as she used to be, but will be dishing it out tomorrow.

29 08 2010

I wish I could stay up and watch the live blogging, but will definitely check in Monday to see how it went. Have fun!

29 08 2010

It’ll probably be hard enough for me to make it to the end of what is always a long show…so I don’t blame you considering the time difference!

17 11 2013

In regards to the picture, it looks like if she sneezes her dress will fall off

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