We hear a lot about the pandemic accelerating existing social trends. Traditional retail was dying; now it’s all but dead. Office real estate was under threat; now it’s increasingly worthless. The atomization of human existence was on its way. Now it’s our reality.
Another trend that COVID-19 has sped up is the growing irrelevance of Luvvie Lalaland, the Oscars and self-important celebrity actors. I wrote here last year that social media had killed the movie star because nobody cared about big award ceremonies anymore. We are all bored to tears now by morality lectures from the rich and the famous. I had jumped the gun, somewhat. In the 2010s the Oscars were in decline, but the 2020 ceremony still drew in a TV audience of 23.6 million. This year, that number collapsed to 9.8 million. The comparison is a bit apples with pears, but it’s worth noting that the popular stunt YouTuber, MrBeast, gets more than 100 million views every episode. Who wants to see beautiful people prattle on about racial justice and LGBQT rights when you can watch ugly people bury themselves alive for fun?
Yes, COVID-19 has crippled the film industry in unique and temporary ways in the last 12 months. Lots of films weren’t made because of the pandemic and the lockdowns. Cinemas have been closed. As normal life returns, we hope, so too will blockbuster movies and there are plenty of exciting films on the production horizon ahead of 2022.
The Academy Awards will be stronger next year, and after this year’s disastrous low-show any bump in the viewership will be greeted as a triumphant comeback. There’s still plenty of money and E! Channel interest swilling around tinsel town.
But the dreaded virus has given consumers a massive push in the direction in which they were already traveling — away from the movie theater and towards home entertainment. The time when actors and directors and movie moguls held so much cultural capital and even social influence has gone. Social media and online streaming were the pre-existing conditions destroying the Age of Celebrity. But it was the impact of COVID-19 that will kill it off for good.