The Emmys in review: An award-winning ploy?

With the Emmys just a few days behind us, we’ve taken a moment to mull over the evening’s events and the speeches made.

Nicole Kidman received the Best Lead Actress Award for her role as Celeste in HBO’s Big Little Lies. As Celeste suffers various instances of spousal abuse, Kidman used her acceptance speech to tackle the issue of domestic abuse. Calling it “shame[ful]” and “an insidious disease”, Kidman teared up, accepting her award in the name of spreading awareness. Harmless, right?

In the last decade, there has been a noticeable shift in the nature of speeches made at televised award events – the Oscars, Emmys and VMAs for example. Previously, acceptance speeches followed a prescribed, admittedly predictable, formula: “What an honour! I’d like to thank my husband, who was always there for me. I’d also like to thank the film crew for making this whole thing possible…” insert funny anecdote here, insert reflection there, thank you and goodnight!

But, over the last decade, speeches have focused less on appreciation and the actual acceptance of the award, and more on homeless youths, global warming, and the US Election.   

So whatever happened to the ‘thank yous’, the crowd-pleasing smiles and the humble entrances and exits? Where did the repetitive, yet lovable speeches of the past go? Award show stages were not created as platforms for socio-political advocacy; they were built for the purpose of celebration. Celebration of film, music, television… they are the epitome of showbiz status.

With Nicole Kidman’s speech follows the question of whether these charitable campaigns are genuine and legitimate, or whether they aren’t. If in fact socialites like Nicole Kidman or Leonardo DiCaprio have decided the former, to use their rare and fortunate scale of a social platform in order to propagate ideas of positivity and humanity, then it’s for the better.

The public listens to celebrities – more members of the younger generation and millennial’s watch MTV than they do CNN. If someone’s favourite celebrity brings to light an issue of global need, it is more likely to register with the viewer because of its accessibility. Similarly, if the latter resonates as true and the points made in these speeches aren’t genuine, then what are they? Charity enhances image and reputation – it’s not entirely moral, but it is true. Celebrities and their publicists are aware that reputation is something to be maintained and they do so accordingly by orchestrating a humbled persona who disregards financial and social successes, showing the public just how ‘selfless’ they are. It is almost as if to say they only became famous to promote charitable causes.

Was Nicole Kidman’s speech a strategic publicity ploy used to curate a desired persona? And if it was, could there be a more perfect way to reach millions of viewers en masse than at an award show?

Contrarily, if someone does happen to give the vanilla speech that we all expect (and love), they aren’t remembered or treated with the same praise as a politicized speaker.

Based on the overwhelming celebrity advocacy in recent years and events, it is doubtful that all of their intentions are pure. Then again, if their speeches are attempts at bona fide philanthropy, then all the power to them.

Image: Eva Rinaldi @ Flickr

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