Oscars 2021 are just around the corner and the producers of the show have announced that attending virtually won’t be a possibility this year. Hoping for the event to be inspirational and aspirational, they asked the attendees to come dressed to the nines and leave their casual attires at home.
The Event Brew crew is not sure how they feel about in-person-only Oscars 2021 and the authenticity of the gala event’s theme, “Stories Matter”. Sure, we are all excited about the idea of attending in-person events again. However, giving attendees no choice but to attend in-person comes across as rather insensitive and exclusionary in these particular times. In today’s episode, Thuy, Nick, and Dustin read the letter that the producers sent the nominees and share their concerns, both as consumers and as event profs.
Oscars 2021: The Exclusivity Of It All
The first one to share his thoughts about Oscars 2021 is Nick. Having an option to attend virtually would make the event far more inclusive. “It’s a weird thing to really focus on with all that’s going on in the world. Also, it does a further disservice to Hollywood. It comes across as being aloof and being outside of the rest of the world. It’s this ivory tower thing for the Academy to say: ‘You’re going to show up in person, you’re going to be inspirational and aspirational because you’re going to dress really well and expensively’.”
It’s common knowledge at this point that attendees should be the starting point when designing an event. Oscars 2021, however, didn’t seem to consider those in attendance at all. Dustin asks: “What does your audience want to see? Because that’s who you’re creating this for.” He continues. “There’s something really humanizing about seeing some of the awards shows where the celebrities are on Zoom. You get to look at them and think that they’re just like us. Celebrities don’t get to go do all the things they used to be able to do. But forcing everybody back together with a dress code just seems so tone-deaf to where the world is and where your audience is.”
But then again, the events industry will soon start to make very similar decisions. “At some point, we’re going to be asking ourselves whether attendance for something will become mandatory. I can especially see corporations saying this event is only in-person. And that’s totally okay,” says Dustin.
Where Is The Empathy, Oscars 2021?
“For those of you unable to attend because of scheduling or continued uneasiness about traveling, we want you to know there will not be an option to Zoom in for the show”, reads the letter. Nick paraphrases this take. “Look, you may be feeling a certain way, but tough luck, we’re doing it our way. Not the way we learned how to do it, not with new technology and adoption, not ways to make everyone feel comfortable and included. If you feel anxious that’s too bad, because we got a show to put on and you’re going to be dressed nicely for that.”
“It certainly lacks any sort of empathy,” agrees Dustin.
Thuy reads on. “We are going to great lengths to provide a safe and ENJOYABLE evening for all of you in person, as well as for all the millions of film fans around the world, and we feel the virtual thing will diminish those efforts.” Dustin claps back right away. “Every major restaurant goes to extreme lengths to ensure the safety of their guests, but they also still let you order online! Of course, it’s going to be safe, but that doesn’t address how you’re going to deal with the needs of those that are not ready to go back in-person.”
“This is an event that is attended by people from all walks of life and places on earth, not just those who live in a specific zip code in California. They’re saying to those people because there are no loopholes, there will be no place for you. Unless you are comfortable to travel to the United States and all the countries you might have to pass through,” says Nick. He is disappointed because they missed an opportunity to make Oscars 2021 capture the zeitgeist of inclusiveness. Instead, it’s “VIP behind the rope, keeping people outside and looking different than other people who can’t afford it”.
“Why don’t we take this disruption as an opportunity to embrace that there was something about being in people’s living rooms. I think they have a really narrow scope of their brand. They’re clinging onto what it was,” adds Nick.
Dustin agrees. As far as he’s concerned, it’s fascinating to see people in their own environments. “It makes them seem so much more human and they’re not under 10 pounds of camera makeup and perfectly lit on a stage that was perfectly designed. It makes them a lot more approachable.”
We Agree: Stories Matter
The next portion of the letter the Brew Crew dissects is the part about the speeches. “It is our belief the show isn’t “too long” because of the speeches. HAVING SAID THAT, we’d like to say THIS: With great freedom comes great responsibility, and if you’re wondering what we mean by that exactly, we mean READ THE ROOM. Tell a STORY.”
Nick comments first. “Just speak to why this matters to me. What’s the goal of the Oscars 2021 for the attendee and the viewer in this world? This to me reads like the goal is to portray that the attendees are gated. These people are inspirational and aspirational because they have money, influence, and power. Then, I don’t think they’re reading the room! They’re missing the mark. Tell a story – I agree. But it’s the producers who should tell a story, though.” He adds. “I’m always very critical of anyone with lots of opportunity and lots of power. To have a platform and to use it to say dress better is …” You can fill the blank yourself.
The Oscars 2021 Are Doing It – Should We Too?
Next up, Dustin wonders whether Oscars 2021 might be a good thing for the events industry. “Are people going to think that since the Oscars did it, it’s time for us to do it too? Could this have a positive effect?”
“Initially, that was my feeling,” says Nick. “But it feels like not learning the lesson of what we just went through. Hopefully, we’re moving towards validity in other people’s experiences. We’ve gained all these new technologies and learn the new ways to actually design around it. There’s really no reason to go backward and say that in-person events need to be the only thing that happens for all attendees, no matter how they’re feeling right now.”
Thanks to virtual and hybrid solutions, events have become far more accessible in the last year. “Let’s make sure we embrace that. And before we hang it up too quickly, let’s ask ourselves, how does this benefit the audience who are we reaching now that we couldn’t reach before,” adds Dustin. “We’re going to do it in a way where we don’t outcast people,” agrees Thuy.
“There are going to be a lot of in-person-only events in the future. We are going to have figure out how do we communicate that in an empathetic way. Because this can’t be the example of the way we communicate to people when there is no other option. Let’s use this as our example of how not to do it,” concludes Dustin.
To sum up, the Event Brew crew believes the issue with Oscars 2021 not allowing virtual attendance is two-fold. First and foremost, it’s not inclusive, especially for those who don’t live in Hollywood. Secondly, it’s how the producers chose to communicate the news that simply doesn’t sit well with them. Oscars 2021 should be about storytelling and we wholeheartedly agree. Unlike the organizers of Oscars 2021, we know that storytelling is not something that is only possible at in-person events!