The oscarfication of political conventions: What you are about to witness in this post is messy: a stream-of-consciousness theory being slung out rather than written (which, come to think of it, about sums up all of my posts). Here goes:
While it is a culmination of a transition that has taken a few decades to unfold (dating from the realization by states that they could get some national media attention if they held a presidential primary with the unintended consequence of devaluing the importance of smokey rooms), this Republican National Convention marks the full realization that these quaderinel events are considered by the producers as nationally televised Oscars/Grammy Awards Ceremonies rather than any exercise in the democratic process. (Except the networks don’t have to pay for broadcast rights.)
The session (show? ceremony? performance?) each night (there are four shows at a convention to make up for the years skipped between each one) is tightly staged so that the big awards (Award for Best Hero from the Vietnam era goes to…., and the Award for Best icon of courage and leadership in a time of crisis goes to….) will appear when the TV audience is peaking. The other awards (Best Speaker of the House who we all love but are afraid will scare people at home goes to…) all happens “before the telecast” — that is, unless you are a C-SPAN junkie or watch the Oscars via streaming video.
The evening is a series of quick obligatory tributes and traditions that could be compared to the Lifetime Achievement Awards (past-president videos) and the Accounting firm disclosure statement (the roll call of the states).
Interspersed are musical numbers (the top five nominated movie theme songs) performed by the original artists (unless they are too busy to make it or are afraid that appearing at the convention would do harm to their career). Like at the Oscars, at a convention there are plenty of “presenters” — people who come out on stage for a moment of glory as some form of pay-back or as an expression of diversity or a nuanced nod to a certain group or cause.
The outdoor “red carpet” (except at a convention, the carpet is inside) is the same, except with political conventions, the networks have decided that all of their coverage should be outside rather than inside the convention hall…and when inside, a belief that people are more interested in predicting and reviewing what will happen in five minutes and what happened five minutes ago, than what is actually happening.
However, the real reason I believe we have finally entered the “Convention as Awards Show Era” has more to do with economic and cultural similarities than with the production values and blocking.
This is an event where the industry (with a central part of that industry being the media covering it) can all gather and network, party and deal. After 24 hours at my first convention, I can attest that the pre-parties, post-parties, who’s who wondering, big-wig gawking, promotional gifts for the presenters, etc., all have similar analogies here.
One more thing. If you’re truly, truly hip, you skip all this stuff and spend time developing theories on how the movie and recording and broadcasting and news and political and educational and military and whatever else industries are all one big conspiracy anyway, and besides, truth can only be found at the Burning Man Festival.
At least that’s my theory. Aren’t you glad I didn’t go with the earlier one I had that would have used college bowl games as a metaphor?
Update: Arnold apparently agrees with me: “This is like winning an Oscar,” he tells the audience, adding the self-deprecating caveat, “Like I would know.”