Are Award Shows Honestly Serving Their Purpose?

Every year people from all over gather around their televisions and prepare for live tweeting sessions as their favorite award shows air. From the Academy Awards to the MTV VMAs, it can be said that watching some of your favorite celebrities get recognized for their accomplishments can be a favorite past time. Not to mention, the charismatic hosts, entertaining skits and captivating performances that take place during awards shows.

Recently, at this year’s VMAs, hip-hop phenom, Kanye West, received the night’s highest honor, the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. The award was given to him based on his extremely creative to contributions to the art of music videos. As some may know, Kanye West isn’t the smoothest when it comes to award shows. A few years ago he threw a fit because he did not win the “Best Video” category for his Late Registration hit, “Touch the Sky” at the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards. In true Kanye fashion, he crashed the acceptance speech of the winners to explain why he felt he should have won. Ironically, he did the same exact thing three years later when Taylor Swift beat out Beyonce for “Best Video” at the 2009 MTV VMAs.

Now, let’s fast forward back to this year’s show. Kanye went up to receive his award from Taylor Swift, of course, and gave a very interesting speech. What stood out the most, other than his bid to run for president in 2020, was his thoughts on award shows:

“I still don't understand award shows. I don't understand how they get five people who work their entire life, won, sell records, sell concert tickets, to come, stand on a carpet and for the first time in their life, be judged on the chopping block and have the opportunity to be considered a loser. I don't understand it, bro!”

So that brings the conversation to this point-- what are award shows really for?

This past Sunday was a huge win for African-American women everywhere at the 67th Annual Emmy Awards. Actress, Viola Davis, made history by becoming the first African-American to win in the category of Best Actress in a Drama Series. Although it was a very huge moment for Davis, one can’t help but to think, “why did it take so long?” We have been able to see so many talented African-American musicians and actors come and go without getting the true recognition that they deserve.

Time and time again we see some of the best films with Black actors being snubbed at major award shows. Case in point, Steven Spielberg’s rendition of Alice Walker’s novel, The Color Purple was snubbed of its 11 total nominations including Best Director. Also, there have been instances where Black actors finally get their shine at the Academy Awards, but for roles that are stereotypical to the Black culture. For instance, comedienne, Mo’Nique won her first Academy Award for her role in Precious as a unsupportive and insensitive mother who lived in the projects and survived by living off of welfare.

When it comes to music awards, we see the same artists get nominated over and over in the same categories without much of a change in nominees as the years go on. This year Nicki Minaj went on a Twitter rant on how her “Anaconda” video was not nominated for “Video of the Year” at the VMAs. She went on to say, “I'm not always confident. Just tired. Black women influence pop culture so much but are rarely rewarded for it.”

From the message that stemmed from Viola Davis’ win, we can conclude that African-Americans don’t win because they do not have the chance. “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there,” she said.

Award shows are not about race, but they are about representation. They are about seeing your favorite genre of music take over the charts or your favorite kind of movie dominate the box office. It’s about seeing others who look like you achieving and showing those around them that despite the odds, it can be done. That is what makes Viola’s win so powerful. That although it took 67 years for this to be accomplished, African-Americans are not counted out. 2015 has so far been a big year for African-Americans in Hollywood. Hopefully moving forward, we will see more success at future award shows.