So the Grammy Awards were last night.
I didn’t watch them.
I never watch them.
If you are among my regular readers (may the road rise up to meet you), this may come as a bit of a surprise. Awards shows are a particular fascination and delight of mine. I watch them with nigh unto religious devotion. Or rather, I watch some of them.
I do not care at all about awards shows doled out by the music industry. Watching their celebrities parade down the red carpet holds no pleasure for me. I will occasionally flip the channel to a music awards show if there’s nothing else on, but it’s nothing like the appointment viewing that the Golden Globes or SAG Awards are, to say nothing of the Oscars.
Today I found myself wondering what the cause of my stark difference in attitude might be. After all, the shows all offer ostensibly similar viewing experiences — ridiculously famous people mingling with each other while wearing clothing that costs more than the black market value of most of my internal organs combined.
It’s not that I think acting awards shows reward merit to a greater degree than music ones. After all, I’ve just said that I watch the Golden Globes. Given that I’ve made a practice of trying to predict Oscar winners every year despite having seen none of the actual nominated films, clearly I understand that they are often awarded based on factors other than the quality of said films/performances. I don’t believe that the Grammy Awards are any more prone to this kind of thing than the ones I favor.
I will say that people tend to take the Grammys less seriously than they do the Oscars, and perhaps that’s a part of it. Even though they round out the coveted EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) quartet, they don’t seem to be nearly as vested with meaning (real or otherwise) as the other three. Frankly, given how silly awards shows really are if you stop to think about them, this may very well redound to the music industry’s credit. But something about the self-seriousness of the acting awards show season makes it seem like it’s about something, and it’s fun to play along even if we all know better.
No, what I really think the difference is is “glamour” vs “cool.”
Glamour is the tinfoil for the magpie in my soul. I love gowns and manners and things that sparkle. I love spectacle and ceremony and all kinds of silly pomp. Acting awards shows have those things in spades. But we all know that it’s just a facade. Nobody thinks Jennifer Lawrence swans around her house in Dior. At the end of the night, the jewels go back to Harry Winston. It’s all a gigantic game of dress-up, and even though I’m not there in a tux myself (a cosmic injustice), I can still play the home game. (Part of what makes Jennifer Lawrence so appealing as a celebrity is how clearly she seems to understand all of this, and while it may all be an elaborate persona, she comes across as someone who’d have a good time at your barbeque if she happened to show up.)
Cool, on the other hand, is meant to be about the person him or herself. Nothing is less cool than trying to be cool. It’s all about some kind of innate legitimacy or credibility. It is an attitude and a posture, and it is as much about differentiating yourself from the uncool as it is about anything intrinsic. You can take a break from trying to be glamorous, but you’re just supposed to be cool.
Having cashed in my chips on trying to be cool many moons ago, I don’t really care to spend my free time watching people who have made a profession of it. I can pretend at being glamorous from time to time under the right circumstances, but I can’t be bothered to try being cool. So the one still gives me vicarious pleasure, while the other leaves me cold.
If you spend time looking at the photographs of those who attended the ceremony over at the best (non-OT) blog in the world, you can maybe get a sense of what I mean. So many attendees don’t bother trying to look particularly good (though plenty obviously do), and are more interested in looking cool. It’s like everything I can’t stand about hipsters in its purest, most concentrated form. It’s probably why I don’t like James Franco, either. He seems to impressed with his own coolness, such that he thought he could coast on it at the Oscars, resulting in the worst hosting job ever.
But the Oscars aren’t about coolness. They’re about putting on your fancy clothes and being excited that your peers like you, they really like you. Nobody would mistake that for cool, and that’s exactly why I love them.