Along the banks of the river he met a young woman and said, "Hi. Did you guys have an earthquake? Forget it, doesn't matter. I am a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Oscar pre-parties are about to start. Can I have a ride across the river? I can't swim and for the purposes of this story you totally can."
"Hold on a second, snake," she said. "Last time a snake pulled this one on me he bit me half way across the river and then I got poisoned and then we both drowned and when I asked him why he did that, (I guess we had time), he said, 'Hey sister, you knew I was a snake when you met me.' Which was uncool and not fair."
The snake shook his head. "Now why would I do a thing like that?" He stared off across the river. He could see the cocaine van arriving at the Viper Lounge to get everyone excited enough to laugh at obvious jokes at the hall around the corner. The snake licked his lips with a forkéd tongue. He really liked cocaine.
"Look over there! The cocaine has just arrived. Why would I bite you? I'd drown too, and then I'd get precisely none of that cocaine?"
"Well..." the woman said. "I dunno."
"Come on. I'll introduce you to Jared Leto's beard."
"SOLD," the woman said.
* * *
Some people never learn. The snake represents the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, both literally (he is in PR for the Academy) and figuratively. The woman represents idealists everywhere hoping that their favorite art and artists win awards. That part is subtle but it's there, trust me. The bridge is sense, and we have lost it. The river is prejudice. Can we span it? The Viper Lounge is unrelated to any existing club of the same name.
Now I don't even need to tell you how this one ends, but I will. She gets poisoned and then drowns and dies before the poison can kill her... again! And the snake too. Basically everyone looks bad here.
Such are my thoughts in wake of the Oscars getting caught white-handed in its urge to give more awards to white people. Trust me, we got plenty!
Now here is the most left wing, radical thing I believe: Awards ceremonies exist to reduce anything truly edgy or shocking in art to a well-crafted-pose; but above all else, an award is a marketing tool for the given industry. This reduction of art to product is a way of making the mysterious (artistic beauty) logically explainable (faster than everyone else in a race).
There are holes galore in my logic. The fact that I find myself happy when art I like wins an award I otherwise think is dumb--that's an hypocrisy I can't avoid. (I literally almost cried once telling people about how Bob Newhart won a Grammy for Best Album for his "Button Down Mind" record, which is, believe it or not, a recording of the first night he ever performed.) Another point against my idealism: something that is obscure and excellent will get more exposure if it wins an award--and that's a fact I can't deny. (See: Bob Newhart.)
So it is totally logical that people are outraged at the snakes who promise one thing and then let us down, poison us, and drown us in a river over and over. Minorities getting ignored year after year is, definitely, horrible.
But the very award itself is itself so dubious that I cannot share the anger. In fact, I expect award ceremonies to make the very type of offensive mistakes that they make in the Oscars, Grammys, and National Book Awards* year after year after year. When you invite commerce and marketing to the world of critical appraisal, you will pollute the results. There's too much money at stake; commercial caution is inevitable. That all means: safe art that reinforces the status quo is the kind most likely to be honored. And today, that kind of art is most likely the kind made by, and enjoyed by, white Americans.
* * *
In 1991, Public Enemy (whose name might suggest that they concur with my ideal of an adversarial artist) released the album "Apocalypse 91... The Enemy Strikes Black." It is a classic. PE was nominated for best Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. The award went to....
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.
Public Enemy was nominated for five Grammies. They never won.
Because of that now I grit my teeth.
So here's a song to the strong
'Bout the shake of a snake
And the smile went along with that.
Can't truss it.
*Edited to add: I know that the National Book Award is a different type of award than the Oscars, Grammies, and other televised shows. It is insulated from some, at least, of the art-as-product, award-as-overt marketing that happens in the big shows. However, I included a highbrow award mainly to stress that all awards are silly, if not exactly "offensive." With regard to highbrow awards, you occasionally hear people get all pissed off that Philip Roth or some other aged novelist has not gotten their Nobel. Do we really need the approval of a few Swedes to prove the worth of our favorite writers? Etc.
Also, I realize that my antipathy to awards for art is an eccentric one.