On Tuesday, President Trump slapped Hollywood by pointing out the abysmal ratings for the Oscars — and noting that the only true star out there was him.
The truth, of course, is that Trump is right. Trump is ratings magic. The media know it. Hollywood knows it. If you could book either Brad Pitt or Donald Trump on a morning show, you know who you’d pick. And part of that is Hollywood’s fault. Hollywood treats politicians as celebrities — Barack Obama being the most obvious example.
With that said, Trump’s diagnosis is off: it’s not that we have no stars anymore (though we don’t have bankable stars in the way we once did), it’s that the Oscars don’t feature those stars. The Oscars feature off-brand films that nobody has seen. And that’s a reflection of elitism in the industry.
As my friend Andrew Klavan frequently says, one of the signs of a dying industry is a mewling self-obsession. And Hollywood is obsessed with its own importance, which is why it nominates the least popular films — to show everyone in America that they aren’t as sophisticated and chichi as their cultural betters. It’s also why Hollywood loves films about Hollywood. Their big moneymakers, of course, are movies that transport us to different times and places. But Hollywood looks down its nose at those movies — unless, of course, they’re filled with intersectional politics. Hollywood uses us as revenue floats for their higher aspiration: propaganda smeared with the patina of art.
That’s why people are tuning out of the Oscars. It’s why no Oscar-winning film since 2004 has finished in the top 10 at the box office. And it’s why the Oscar slide won’t reverse itself anytime soon.