There is nothing more democratic in this country than network television. Regardless of taste, artistic merit or critical response, the shows that no one likes enough to watch vanish, while popular shows return. On cable, the size of a show's audience is often inversely related to the number of Emmys it wins, but on the networks it's the people's choice.
With awards season upon us, I bring this up because much of the response to Ricky Gervais' acerbic performance as host of last week's Golden Globes, which like most awards shows appeared on network television, struck a single chord. Some reviews, many blogs and my e-mail box (I reviewed it negatively) rang with variations of: "These celebrities with their long, boring and ridiculous self-congratulatory awards shows are so rich and self-satisfied that they deserve whatever they get. Thank you, Ricky."
The irony, of course, being that all these celebrity and awards show haters spent three hours of their inarguably finite lives watching the Golden Globes. Instead of, say, figuring out a way to cheaply mass-produce an electric car or shooting some hoops.
Here's an insider's tip on how to put an end to these long, boring and ridiculous self-congratulatory awards shows: Stop watching them.
Also stop talking about them, even in a negative way; Hollywood lives on buzz, especially when it's negative. Just look at Gervais' pal Charlie Sheen.
Celebrities are not, in fact, royalty; they are not born to positions of great wealth and power — we put them there. Without a seemingly insatiable demand for pictures and stories about her, Angelina Jolie would be just a working actor who broke up a marriage and now has a bunch of kids. I cannot be the only person who counts at least one woman, or man, of similar description among my personal and nonfamous friends. It happens.
Film actor or even movie star is a job description — celebrity is a status that we, the people, bestow. We do so with our eyeballs, with our dollars and lately with our tippity-tap typing on the Internet. Certainly, we have been a bit more profligate, or democratic, with the term. There are times when I console myself with the thought that the emergence of Snooki et al. is part of a highly orchestrated and secret campaign to end celebrity culture by rendering it patently absurd, that the rise of the Kardashians is the work of a creative anarchist underground.
But that seems overly optimistic if for no other reason than so many people are watching the Golden Globes.
Every year, my colleague Patrick Goldstein, bless his heart, dutifully points out to whoever is listening that the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. is a small group of foreign journalists with varying degrees of professional integrity who have managed to leverage their little ceremony into national importance. This year, Patrick gave Gervais a pat on the back for ridiculing the Golden Globes, but as he also pointed out, Gervais took the gig (twice) and cashed the check (also twice). Just as he took the Globe he won for "The Office" in 2004 and the nomination for "Extras" in 2008.
I didn't find Gervais' opener funny; not because it was mean but because it was lazy. A Charlie Sheen joke, a Mel Gibson joke, a Cher joke, a Scientology joke — the only original swipe was at Jolie and Johnny Depp for their inexplicably nominated film "The Tourist." That was just nasty. Here's another Hollywood "secret": No one hates awards shows more than celebrities. But what are nominated stars supposed to do? Not show up? Woody Allen got away with dissing the Oscars for years, but these days a star boycotting even the Globes would be labeled a snob, like Jonathan Franzen dissing Oprah.
If everyone is sick of the Golden Globes, let's stop investing them with so much importance. If everyone is tired of big-salary stars, then for heaven's sake start going to smaller movies.
If you actually saw Ricky Gervais raising a banner for revolution, then revolt. Talk about politics, science, literature and theater, follow the lives of humanitarians and great thinkers, of real social provocateurs and artists. It's your culture; take it back.