Let me make it clear that I am not talking about the recently held general elections. I am talking of a different people’s choice: the choice of who will be the best amongst the best in the world of showbiz.
People adore celebrities. They look up to them, wear what they wear, follow their every move and try to emulate them in each and every way. From plastic surgeries to buying your favourite bag, the ideal body to what to eat, celebrities are the benchmark. Even in our developing local industry, we see products from a ‘healthy’ cola to ‘broiler chickens’ being promoted on national television.
We think these celebrities have the perfect life. Therefore we try to emulate them. We watch a song, we watch a drama, film or commercial and sum up our definition of an ideal life. What we do not realise is that these ‘celebrities’ are also human. Slaves, in fact. High-earning, good-looking slaves, but slaves nonetheless.
Created from scratch, ‘celebrities’ are gradually promoted by their mentors or let us say slave-owners. From what they wear, to the colour of their shoes, the tint of their hair to which events to attend, everything is ordained. The onus is on the benefits and dividends that the chosen prospect will bring in – ‘rake in the moolah’ as they say. Just like a race horse, the success of a celebrity depends upon its owner.
Thus we come to the influx of awards functions all over the world. From the random and ‘non-serious’ MTV Awards to the ‘Lota’ awards in Bollywood, we come to the lavish and sophisticated Oscars, Academy Awards, Grammys and our very own LUX Style Awards. A celebrity’s success is boosted manifold as a result of a win, or even a nomination. Fees get multiplied with each nomination or award, and of course the ultimate benefit goes to the award function organisers.
The concept of Awards is an oxymoron in itself. Like the age-old question of what constitutes or qualifies as ‘good art’, what are the parameters for selecting one artist over the other? In fields as subjective as film, television and music, is any one really qualified to select one over the other? You can say an artist is good, sensitive or was outstanding in a particular role, but how can you judge who is the best and who is the runner up? A difficult task which will make you one friend and a large number of nominated enemies.
If we consider that indeed the jurors are qualified and competent professionals, and have the best of intentions at heart, then indeed there is some hope and these functions can be taken seriously. However, often we find that jurors, too, are ultimately human. They have their likes and dislikes, either subconsciously or very very consciously. Some are affiliated in various ways with the nominees, others are attached in terms of benefits, professional relationships or ‘mutual understandings’.
In these conditions, ‘Peoples Choice Awards’ represent a stark contrast. It is the People’s choice after all?
Of the people, by the people, for the people. It appears to be the most perfect system. Or is it?
Online voting is the 21st-century way to go. No hassles. You reach a larger voter base and it is easy and simple. But it is easier to manipulate people’s choice too. Not only can third parties interfere in the voting process, but the organisers themselves can change the votes with the click of a button. Not to mention keen artists who arrange votes with the help of their IT-savvy friends.
Another factor is the qualifications of the public compared with an experienced professional. Professionals and experts can at least recognise some degree of merit. While voting ensures fair play to some extent, the quality of actual merit is often sacrificed. Thus comes in the concept of ‘pop culture’, or popular culture.
In so-called pop culture, art forms such as music, film and television become bland. Music is no longer a remedy for the soul, but an unpleasant display of drudgery and indulgence. Film is no longer a means of showcasing new ideas and presenting them in innovative ways, or of commenting on universal themes, but instead it becomes a crass way of earning money. Television, too, is no longer a means of reaching and communicating or entertaining the common man, but a powerful form of manipulating and deceiving the public. Look at TV dramas all over the world. There are exciting ones on science, adventurous takes on ancient mythologies and mind-twisting ones on crime. Now compare these with films and TV dramas of our own: helpless women being mistreated. Either the woman is a ‘goody goody’ house-wife, whose heroism lies in tolerating theincessant injusticeperpetrated on her, or a flamboyant diva with not a care in the world. That such films and dramas are even considered for any awards, let alone ‘Peoples Choice’ is a paradox in itself.
You can see how much power the media moguls and barons have by therecent sex and corruption scandals about top producers the world over. It has been exposed that stars are not born, rather are picked up by the mighty producers and studio owners for unethical favours. They are mere pawns in the games of their masters. It is not the people’s choice when it comes to choosing one of them. The choice is imposed on the people.
I argue that it is merely the naivety of the people if they believe that they have any choice in the ‘Peoples Choice Awards’. Just like in politics, voter’s choice is an illusion. The illusion of your vote.