PRizes and PRiorities

oscarEvery year, 40 million Americans and I spend three hours in front of the TV watching celebrities collect their Oscar.  They talk about the sacrifice, the skill, the risks, and the importance of their craft, and we share the joy and disappointment our favorite actors feel win they win or lose the Academy Award.  We do the same when watching the Emmys, Grammys, Tonys, and countless other awards shows.

A month ago, 111 million (!) people watched a terrible football game because it was the Super Bowl.  There were millions of gatherings centered around this yearly television ritual, with parties and office pools and catering and multi-million dollar commercials supporting the spectacle.

Countless hours and pages and tweets of commentary, analysis and predictions surround these annual events. There are few other landmark moments in U.S. pop culture that receive this amount of attention and hype.

Meanwhile, CNN’s “Heroes Awards,” a program celebrating the top 10 real-life heroes of the year, earns about 250,000 viewers when it airs, barely a sliver of the Oscars’ and the Super Bowls’ audience.  Yet most of us would agree that the actions and achievements for which these people are recognized have far more impact–and are often far more amazing–than those of any actor or athlete.

And what of the AMA or the Lasker Awards, which celebrate achievements in medicine?  Or the AACR and the Breakthrough Awards, recognizing accomplishments in the field of science?  And then there are countless awards for teaching and other important professions.  Who’s watching their TV shows?  And are these awards even televised?

We pay more money and attention to our stars and athletes than anyone else in this country, while people in nobler roles and professions struggle for funding, income, and recognition.  No public relations campaign in the world could motivate millions of Americans to watch an awards show for them.  Perhaps we should pause to think about where our societal priorities lie, or at least ponder the question of why we give so much greater value to our celebrities and their achievements than to anyone else.  Your thoughts?

44 thoughts on “PRizes and PRiorities

  1. taylorpaige

    This post could not be more accurate. It is kind of silly to think that this is the world we live in today but it really is the reality. How did we all become so involved in entertainment and how could we all forget about the people who do such great things for this world. Its crazy and pretty sad to see the results of how many people watched the Oscars and superbowl over the last AMAS and Lakerawards. I guess on an average day we don’t normally think of that but when it is right in front of you its crazy to see the reality of it.

  2. David Salomon

    I agree with this post but on the other hand the television business is all about entertainment and making money. They promote and televise what they feel the public wants to see. Product companies and organizations will spend a lot of money for commercial spots for highly rated televised events. If they don’t feel an event will entice a large audience they will not put it on primetime or on a major broadcasting network. On the other hand, there has been an improvement on bringing awareness to the non-entertainment programs and award shows.

  3. Yejide Collman

    I think the points made in this post are spot on. We have become oblivious to the individuals who are making meaningful changes in our world. We are constantly consuming ourselves in the fantasy of having the same fabulous life of our celebrities and our athletes. Public Relations can not be the only vehicle used to get the message out. If we want to have more coverage on award shows honoring AMA, Lasker Awards, AACR, or the Breakthrough Awards we as a community have to start the dialogue. We hold the key to what we decided to consume. Much of what is marketed to us is what we choose. No smart marketer would waste its time nor money trying to promote a message they know we will not want to engage with.

  4. Nina Vasiljevic

    I absolutely agree that we need to sort out our social priorities. We celebrate people that are payed to pretend to be small town heroes, activists and humanitarians, while we give so little recognition to the people who actually are. The world needs a reality check.

  5. stephleal

    I completely agree with this post. I think is extremely disappointing to have a society that seems to have their social priorities mixed up. We should be celebrating everyday heroes and focusing in how to better our everyday lives instead of the lives of celebrities. I have watched CNN Heroes before and I think they need to do a better PR campaign. Perhaps if they had celebrities presenting awards to everyday heroes their viewership will increase.

  6. Samantha

    In a perfect world, award shows that honor social and medical achievements should have the highest ratings. Alas, that’s not where a majority of the public’s interest lies. If we ever elect to shift the country’s focus, some serious re-programming would have to be done. In order to celebrate non-celebrities people have to be taught quite early on that teachers, thinkers, and other like-minded individuals are those that should be lauded for their efforts.

  7. afitting

    It appears that we are misguided in placing greater value to celebrities and their achievements than to anyone else. But as I think about the role of Hollywood in our society, I realize the prevailing influence it has in the world and how it helps to promote American culture, beliefs and values. From this point of view, actors and celebrities personify in their performance American ideals and philosophies well-defined in movie plots. Hollywood promotes and supports American culture and our society aims to preserve and publicize it to the rest of the world.

  8. Anthony Lucero

    In my opinion this country’s shameless love affair with anything celebrity stems from the glorification of the wealth, beauty, and social status associated with stardom. Whether it’s a movie, music, or sports star society will boost these stars onto a pedestal. On this pedestal celebrities are marveled and their every move followed. With the advent of twitter and overall growth of social media it has made it so we stay constantly up to date with our favorite stars every bowl movement if we desire. In other words our priorities are out of loop. Those who we admire do not deserve our admiration. The ones who do, well, they struggle to keep a job or even afford care like the veterans in our country. With enormous amounts of money invested into Hollywood, advertising, and big business the attention will continue to remain on them and their people. It’s a shame really, but just the way the system works.

  9. Avalon Bohunicky

    I have been obsessed with watching the Oscars since I was a child. Aside from being obsessed with the entertainment industry, I have always been fascinated with the glamour of the awards show. It gives us a chance to see celebrities come out of their character and show their background and gratitude when they accept their speech. Many people tend to idolize these movie stars, as opposed to the actual heroes among us. We care more about actors receiving recognition than those who save lives or have made advancements in the fields of medicine, mathematics and science. Celebrities get paid millions of dollars to act, yet we still have volunteer firefighters. Although I eventually want to work in the television industry, I believe that they earn too much recognition and praise, when more should go towards the scholars and heroes in our society.

  10. Kendall Berman

    I personally disagree – not with the numbers because those are facts. But to say there is no public relations campaign that will motivate millions to tune into influential awards shows is a bit harsh. In my opinion, it’s about raising awareness of these other award shows, because I didn’t know that they existed. I think it’s more advertising than anything else. If they hyped up these award shows the way they do for the Grammys, maybe more people would be aware that those shows actually exist and thus higher viewer ratings.

  11. russellrothenberg

    I agree with this post 100 percent. I do enjoy watching the super bowl and oscars but when it comes it more important things I tend to tune out. It’s a series issue that a lot people don’t notice. We need to focus in the field of science. Movies and sports are fine to watch when we have time for ourselves, but science has been making a major breakthrough and is advancing as time goes by. Who knows, maybe we can finally find a cure for cancer and when that happens we ALL will remember where we were when we find out.

  12. Candace Brown

    As sad as it is, our society doesn’t value or appreciate the individuals that deserve it. We praise entertainers and athletes and disregard the true heroes of our every day lives. When considering the audiences gathering to watch the Oscars versus the AMA’s, it’s obvious (and unfortunate) to acknowledge what it would take to increase the viewership of the latter: celebrities. If the lesser known shows were hosted, attended or participated in by celebrities the viewership would undoubtedly increase. Realistically that’s what it would take to raise the notoriety of these shows. Though an optimist would like to believe that people will eventually start watching these shows on their own, from a PR standpoint something more (for lack of a better word) superficial would need to be done.

  13. Katherine Hammer

    I agree with you completely that our society focuses way too much of their attention to celebrities. We focus more on these people because it is thrown in our faces more; we adore the glitz and glam of society. We love watching people in the spot light, because we wish we could be like them. Many times when someone is asked who their idol is, it’s a celebrity. I am not saying that celebrities have not accomplished anything in their lives, but why wouldn’t someone want to look up to a professional in the medical field? A professional who made huge strides against a disease? I think that the fact that we do not celebrate and emphasize the greatness these heroes accomplish is a great loss. We don’t recognize the people who dedicate their lives to change the world.

  14. Olga Varnavskaya

    The values of the society are wrong. Unfortunately. I guess, that’s the reality of the consumerism society. There is no way that a well-qualified teacher or a highly professional doctor will make the same amount of money as a superstar basketball player or a famous singer.
    I don’t want to diminish the significance of talented sportsmen, actors and singers, but if to think for a second, about the scale of the contribution of a basketball player, who successfully scored three goals in a row vs. three successfully performed heart surgery, or the scale of the contribution of a singer, who released three hit albums vs. three students, who, thanks to their teachers’ efforts, successfully graduated from high school unlike the majority of their neighborhood peers, it becomes clear what’s important and what’s not.
    The entertainment business artificially created its own reality and values and became very proficient in positioning and advertising itself. Being the “consumers” we buy it. But maybe because the entertainment world values are artificially created, we can also create and stimulate the interest to some more important aspects of our life?

  15. Chris Swenson

    I don’t think I’ll ever understand why our society is so interested in celebrities and athletes, despite the fact that I, too, am guilty of this. It’s interesting to me that I struggle to even look inside of myself and get an answer to this question, nonetheless to figure out an answer on a societal scale.
    I do have to say though, that I’m not sure that our intense interest in things like the Superbowl or the Oscars is, inherently, problematic. I’d argue that the problem isn’t that we are watching these things instead of more important award shows and news. To me, the problem is just that we aren’t watching some of the things we should be, whether instead of or simply in addition to the entertainment programs we watch.

  16. Geena Pandolfi

    I am guilty, along with the majority of the population, of indulging in celebrity gossip and pop culture. I do agree that award shows that don’t involve celebrities are less appealing to watch, even though the achievements of the people receiving are more notable. This makes the jobs of the PR people for those award shows more difficult because at the Oscars or other popular award shows basically promote themselves, people will watch them anyway despite the promotion. We need to be more aware of real people’s achievements and not just be aware of the celebrity culture of movies, music, and TV.

  17. Mike Iadevaia

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. Our society does not realize that, believe it or not, there’s more to the world than what dress Jennifer Lawrence is wearing to the Oscars or where “Brangelina” is. We become so obsessed on the materialistic aspects of culture that we forget the foundations of this country. We should recognize people who strive to not only make this country a better place but also the world. More attention should be shown to heroes like on CNN for challenging the status-quo and being a trailblazer for us all.

  18. russellbenner

    This couldnt be more accurate in describing today’s society. We are so caught up in the mainstream media that we lose sight of what is actually important. instead of wondering who was the best actor this year we overlook breakthroughs in medicine and other fields of study.

  19. Kristin Neuman

    I couldn’t agree more. There are plenty of people that would much rather watch an entertainment awards how than one that honors real-life heroes. I feel that part of this is due to the fact that people use celebrities, movies, and pop-culture solely as a source of entertainment. I think we all know that someone acting in a movie is not nearly as important as someone making a breakthrough discovery in the science field, yet we pay more attention to the former. I think another part of the issue is how these events are publicized. Months before they air, there is hype about the Grammy’s and the Oscars and other award shows; constant talk about who will be hosting or who will be attending. The programs that celebrate those real-life heroes don’t get nearly enough publicity. These programs should receive the same amount of publicity, if not more, than the programs about Hollywood’s celebrities.

  20. LIhunger

    I absolutely agree with you in saying that society pays far too much attention to celebrities and athletes. We are on a constant need to know basis and it is most often concerning want to know news. The amount of people who tune into E! news at night but tune out when the commercial comes on asking them to donate money to injured animals or starving children is upsetting to say the least. As a society we care more about what Lebron had for dinner than we do about suffering people in other countries or advances in technology that make it possible for those without a leg to walk. It is important that we all take the time to look at what really matters, it doesn’t mean you have to stop caring what movie takes home the award for best film, but it does mean being aware.

  21. Devon Hambrecht

    I feel that this is very accurate and extends across all media like the news as well. More people are interested in watching or reading the news due to the overwhelming amount of celebrity gossip spread throughout its columns. Most people don’t understand what is going on in the rest of the world, because it isn’t a subject that immediately catches their attention.

    Our priorities have been towards these “celebrity” figures that are made to seem worthy of higher praise, when in reality they are not. They do nothing to better the world and are put up on an unnecessary pedestal. Unfortunately, i believe this epidemic is going to continue to get worse with each generation. They are fixated on media, technology and these celebrity figures that are there constantly. This is what they grow up knowing and caring about.

    The Oscars are just one form of media that takes all the attention away from the real important things in life. The fixation will most likely never end, and newspaper don’t help. The question now is, how do we get out of this mess we have created?

  22. Brenna O'Shea

    I agree with this post. I never really thought about it this way and it is rather sad to think about. It’s a shame that our society is so fixed on the lavish lifestyles of celebrities whose lives are absolutely irrelevant to us. In reality, we all should be more focused and concerned about heroes and people who risk their lives for our country and safety. This is definitely something we should all think about.

  23. melanief13

    Sadly I have to agree that we live in a world that is obsessed with glamour and stars and honestly I am no exception to that. I do agree that a lot of the time we care more about what celebrities are doing and about their lives than we care about some of the really important things that are occurring in the world. I think that a lot of this has to do with the fact that we are interested more in the lives of celebrities than our own. I do however have to say that I believe that people care about shows such as CNN’s “Heroes Awards” but they are just unaware that it is happening. I didn’t even know that such a show existed and if I did I would be inclined to watch. Award shows and the Super Bowl are very hyped up and they are advertised over and over again. On the other hand shows such as the Heroes Awards slip by almost unnoticed which is unfortunate because they highlight what is truly important in our world today.

  24. Kim Gray

    This post is very interesting. I have to say that I am guilty of being apart of the obsession of pop culture. In this new day and age, society is becoming more and more obsessed with celebrities. We obsess over celebrities because of their glamorous and lavish lifestyles that we dream to have. We acknowledge their success instead of acknowledging real life heroes that are truly more inspiring than these celebrities will ever be. We have to start recognizing these humanitarians for their hard work and efforts. In this generation, we have so much access to information because of the Internet. So it is important for us to be knowledgeable of current events.

  25. EMC

    It’s a strange phenomenon to pay so much attention to the things that are rather insignificant in the long run. Movies and sports events make history but if we are talking about the things that are important in life or the overall sphere of existence, they are mere blips on the chart of human progression. As Professor Morosoff mentioned, awards shows that recognize advances in medicine, science, and the like, are so far behind in viewership even though they help us survive, function, and advance as a species. My hypothesis is that these celebrity awards shows are so popular, simply because they have manifested into cultural traditions. We have to make a big deal out of something, right? And since television’s purpose was always entertainment (I’m considering news as “entertainment” for the sake of this argument) it makes sense that awards shows get the most attention; They have been building an audience for decades. I find myself watching the Superbowl or an the Oscars, even for 15 minutes, because it’s familiar to me. I already see a shift, at least with the rise of Internet culture, of science becoming a more widespread interest for those outside of the industry. We have more access to information, and we aren’t limited to what the TV tells us is interesting (news channels, plots of prime-time TV shows). Maybe it’s our generation that will help shift mainstream interests from movies and entertainment to real-life news and achievements.

  26. Francesco Vivacqua

    This is definitely true. People in our society today are more attentive to contemporary stars than real life heroes. I do not believe that there is a problem with watching the Oscars or the Super Bowl, but I think that we should also pay attention to the people who make a real beneficial impact on our society.

    I think that people are really attentive to Hollywood and Sports, because of the entertainment factor. We are entertained by actors and athletes. As we are entertained by these actors and athletes, we start to have a favorite. Our society tends to become emotionally invested with our favorite athletes and actors, thus making us wanting them to win awards, because we feel them to be a part of our life as a spectator.

    Our society has been like this for many years and it seems to have a stronger link to entertainment than to real life heroes than ever before.

    I also believe that when we see real life heroes, many people associate their work with negative things. People don’t really want to concentrate on the negatives, so they rather just preoccupy themselves with entertainers. Thus why the Super Bowl and the Oscars probably receive such high ratings.

  27. Christine Wallen

    I think most of us would have to agree with this post. We are all guilty of watching hours of award shows, reading gossip blogs but only scheming the news. I can say some celebrities to me are inspiring so I identity with their success. Lupita Nyong’o is a prime example of that to me. She is the main reason, besides Leonardo Dicaprio, why I decided to tune into the Oscars this year. As media professionals, I feel it is important that we know what’s going on in pop culture and the news so we are knowledgeable about all current events. However, if you miss an event such as the Grammy’s or Oscars the next day you might be left out when your fellow co workers bring up the events of last night.

  28. Christina Sewell

    Honestly speaking, this has been an issue for a while. I am not a watcher of the Grammys nor am I of the Oscars but I still don’t watch the AMA’s or the Lasker awards. Many times I have pondered the thought of what societies priorities are and I acknowledged that perhaps they aren’t where they should be. We go to the movies, watch TV shows, listen to music and so much more that we become tied to celebrities. It is much easier to acknowledge someone you hear about every day than the every day firefighter. Real heroes aren’t acknowledged as much.

  29. Christina Li

    What the article post is sad, but true. Nowadays, as people live better and better, they hope to fill their lives with entertainment, which is the key why celebrities’ and athletes’ award shows gain so many audience. Someone said that the difference in the amount of audience is because media. I can’t agree with it. Although media have the responsibility to broadcast those who make contribution to the society, the goal of media is attracting audience. I don’t believe if all TV channels broadcast shows about scientist , the amount of audience will increase a lot. Heroes are worth celebrating, but we must accept the truth that public are interested in entertainment.

  30. Brittany Witter

    I agree, and admit that I am guilty of being obsessed with pop-culture. As a society we focus so much on what celebrities are doing with their personal lives. But why? They could honestly care less about what we do with ours. I think it is important to recognizing real life heroes, not just the Katniss Everdeens of the fictional world!

  31. jmcpha1

    I completely agree.

    You’d think the constant perks and millions of dollars one gets for being a celebrity would be enough. This isn’t to say that (most) celebrities haven’t worked for what they have, it’s just that our culture tends to take pop culture to the extreme. And it bleeds over into lots of other things than just the number of people who watch the Oscars. Celebrity news gets reported on in the news – from Justin Bieber’s arrest to Angeline Jolie’s mastectomy – CNN reports on it. Why? WHY? It’s not news! People get DUI’s and double mastectomies due to actual cancer. All. The Time. The obsession many people have with celebrities which has been fueled by the paparazzi that literally follow celebrities everywhere is absolutely absurd.

    But I don’t know how to make our culture that conscientious. In fact, I only see this phenomenon getting worse.

  32. tatayanayomary

    I agree with this post wholeheartedly. I feel that society is more obsessed with pop culture as opposed to individuals who are actually doing things to make our communities a better place. Its sad to say but our priorities are messed up. Although I agree with this post society is not going to change. We have become media obsessed so any doctor or lawyer who is not on a reality show or in the media light has no effect on us.

  33. yannaloren89

    Though this post is true, people pay more attention to athletes and stars because it’s attractive and fun to watch. People feel they relate to award shows like the Grammys, Oscars and Tony award shows because of its fashion and glamor. That is where most of the attention lie’s. I have never heard of the Lasker Awards, Breakthrough Awards or the AACR. I hardly watch award shows myself but as a person who’s likes fashion and popularity, the Oscars, Grammy’s Super Bowl, BET Hip hop awards and etc. are shows that will forever be well known or the peoples favorite.

  34. LaChele Prophet

    Yes, sad but true, we do pay more attention to celebrities, music, movies, etc. and I happen to one of those who love to watch awards shows like the Oscars and read every blog about celebrities. Media plays a huge role in why people are so consumed with celebrities because their glamorous lifestyles are posted all over TV and newspapers. It’s sad that people don’t pay much attention to the work of doctors, scientists, policeman, etc., who work hard to make a difference in the world every day. They do deserve as much praise, if not more for the work they do. The world is made up of more than just celebrities and we need to share our attention with things like important people and important issues.

  35. Alexandra Cohen

    I think this is all due to advertising from the media. We are constantly bombarded with celebrity information, style, and gossip from social media, to the internet, and to the television. There are constant commercials to remind us about the upcoming awards shows for television, movies, music, or musicals and where there is not much or if any advertisement about the upcoming awards shows for ordinary heroes and people with great achievements. It has become part of our culture to watch these unimportant award shows and the playoff for sports teams and care too much about celebrities who can end up becoming our role models.

  36. Amanda Torres

    I think a lot of it has to do with the media and what is publicized. Even the well-renowned “hard news” outlets pay attention to celebrities a little too often. It is also our fault because we ARE able to chose what we read,watch,listen to… but it’s a little difficult, when our outlets are focusing more on one thing than the other.

  37. sfoley62014

    I could not agree with this blog. The attention that is given to stars and athletes is too excessive for the slim amount they contribute. The scientist and doctors should be the ones receiving the attention for their contribution to society such as curing cancer. In today’s day and age it is blunt to see where we place importance in society. One of the biggest examples of this are the Kardashians, the amount publicity they get for doing absolutely nothing is out of this world.

  38. Sydney Myers

    I believe the main difference between the two kinds of award shows you pointed out comes down to fan bases. Celebrities and athletes have a solid fan base, where as the “Heroes of CNN” don’t have the same sort of following. Obviously, I believe the things these people are accomplishing are remarkable, but they don’t have the same entertainment factor that the Superbowl or the Oscars bring for an award ceremony. Another factor to consider, not so much for the Oscars, but the Superbowl has very become traditional. It brings people together for food, football, and fun.

    I’m not saying that people working towards improving daily life should not be recognized. But maybe hoping that it has the same sort of hype a typical award show brings isn’t the way to go about it. Although they bring in a smaller viewership, what they are accomplishing for society is far greater than a Superbowl ad.

  39. Laura Schioppi

    I agree with your post. It is sad to see that people who have contributed so much to our society are not recognized for their skills and achievements. I believe the public watches what they recognize. We recognize celebrities, movies, athletes, etc. If we saw a doctor, a police officer, a firefighter receive an award, we don’t feel any personal connection with them. We should be celebrating these professionals more because they are the ones who are making a difference in our world today, not the “hot” actor in a overpaid film.

  40. Zachary Kizer

    From the moment we wake up, until the moment we fall asleep, we are constantly bombarded with media. While we may be sitting alone at home, watching our favorite television show we don’t feel truly alone because we have, in a sense, gotten to know the actors we are watching. Celebrities are constantly in the news, and always watched diligently by the paparazzi. We follow the movie stars from their first red carpet debut until their award-winning Oscar speech. A certain bond is created between regular-folk and celebrities; we all have our favorites and root for their success. It is for this reason that so many people watch award shows like the Oscars instead of the Heroes Awards. The majority of Americans probably have not heard of any Hero Award nominees; surely they have not followed their career for years and years either. Why would they want to watch some stranger receive an award? I believe that as a society we place more weight on an actor’s success rather than a humanitarian’s efforts because we feel like we know the celebrities, it is more personal for us.

  41. marissakopech

    The idea of glitz and glam, royalty, and wealth has always been looked at closely in societies that date much farther back than any award show. Having a steady income and getting by should be celebrated but instead societies glorify this unreachable wealth that few are lucky to attain. People watch those who have a higher status than them because they crave that unattainable wealth. Seeing celebrities in their gowns and tuxes makes the goal of wealth seem somehow in reach. They did it, so how hard could it be? We celebrate their talent but underneath I believe we are truly celebrating their wealth and success. That is why when there is an award show that focuses on charity work and helping communities, the ratings and views are much lower. There are so many great stars that work with charities, but their prestige is not from charity work, it is from their talent. As a society I believe we should take a step back and refocus our attention on things more important than the Oscars and other superficial award shows.

  42. Kayla Marzo

    Unfortunately everything in this blog is true. Peoples priorities are completely messed up. Celebrities and athletes obtain way more attention than they deserve just because they live these glamorous lives that we all wish we had. People need to understand that advancements in sciences and real life heroes are just as, if not, more important than award shows. We tend to lean towards the more attracting lifestyle with the designers, jewels, and riches.

  43. Bert Cunningham

    Eva Marie Saint said it best on the CBS Sunday Morning Show today. In response to a question about whether a book on her life entitled: “How To Succed in Hollywood And Live A Normal Life” would sell. Without hesitation she said: “No. People expect people in Hollywood to be a curiosity. To be unusual.” The 89-year-old, Oscar winning actor’s candid response is oh so sad but true. He first movie was On The Waterfront. And she’s appeared in other award-winning box office hits. All while being married to the same man for 62 years. I admire that, because it takes hard work and commitment to achieve success in any profession and in one’s personal life. So for me a lifetime achievement award goes to Ms. Saint for professional and personal success. Applause, please!

  44. Krista Giannak

    I plan on using this post as an inspiration to spark conversation about things that really matter among friends and colleagues. It’s fun to talk about movies we have seen and whether they should have won awards, but it is also interesting to tell friends that when combat veteran Dale Beatty’s community came together to build a wheelchair-accessible home for him, it inspired him to create a nonprofit doing the same thing for dozens of veterans. Thank you. You never know who you might inspire today.


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