Award season

Why you should care about rich people congratulating each other

Next Sunday, the 86th Academy Awards will air at 7 p.m., with Ellen DeGeneres serving as our upbeat and relatable guide through a ceremony overripe with the stodginess of history and tradition.

Many millions of Americans will tune in to the ceremony. Millions more will be force fed the ceremony on every social network, without exception. And they will scream at the sky, “Why do we care?”

On the surface, this seems a fair question. A few hundred super rich people hang out in nice clothes and congratulate each other for a few hours. Like many other things about which we question the significance, awards season is important because… well, because it is. Millions of people care about, and are in some way affected by, what happens in that room. Regardless of what is happening in that room, that thing now matters by sheer forces of will and mass.

Beyond that, though, movies shape our perceptions of life. We know they’re not real, but we’re affected by them regardless. We wish high school had been like “The Breakfast Club.” We want to meet our Ryan Gosling or Rachel McAdams.

From a young age, millions of Americans take away deeply held beliefs or desires from the big and small screens, even if they don’t realize it. Then these awards ceremonies tell us which movies we should be watching and taking things away from.

This is why these awards ceremonies matter. They say they’re important, and tens of millions of people believe them. So when the (largely old, white, and male) Academy recognizes a film, that matters. Or if they were to, say, shy away from a grueling masterpiece that turns over a rather ugly rock of American history in favor of a fun heist film…that matters.