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Exploring the Oscars and the Definition of “Online” Insanity

5 years ago by Reg Seeton
The 85th Annual Academy Awards (aka The Oscars) will aire February 24 on ABC

The 85th Annual Academy Awards (aka The Oscars) will air February 24 on ABC

The 85th Academy Awards are dominating the headlines, as outlets and editors scramble to clog the Internet with the same “seemingly original” features we see each year come Oscar time. Hundreds, if not thousands of Top 10 and Top 5 lists put Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity to the test.

Although Einstein couldn’t explore the online world since he died in 1955, the acclaimed physicist did leave us with his own take on the definition of insanity as related to repetitive behavior.

As we know, Einstein defined insanity as doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result. Each year before the Academy Awards, outlets and writers churn out the same exact features about the Academy Awards as we’ve seen in previous years. From Oscar prediction features to articles about the best dressed on the red carpet, the same concepts and language are repeated year after year under the guise of originality.

But now that Google has forced big brand editors to raise their games even more to produce highly original content, it’s interesting to see just how unoriginal the many online Oscar features really are before Sunday night’s ceremony.

Having been at this online entertainment game for the past 15 years, there aren’t many Oscar pieces I haven’t seen. I’d even argue there’s nothing new to be said about the Oscars that hasn’t already been said a few million times over. In today’s online landscape, repetition continues to be the highest form of originality when it comes to Oscar related features.

Just a quick Google search for the term “Top 5 Oscars” produces a slew of repetitive, unoriginal concepts. From “Top 5 Directors Overlooked at the Oscars,” “The 10 Best Oscars Dresses of the Past 5 Years,” “Top 5 Oscar Hosts,” “Top 5 Films to Have Missed Out on Best Picture,” and “What You Need to Know About the Best Picture Nominees” to “Top 15 Oscar Hopefuls,” “Top 5 Oscar Snubs,” and “Top 10 Most Shocking Oscar Speeches,” it’s all the same en masse.

Even backdoor attempts at originality aren’t that original anymore, like “play the Oscar drinking game” or determining the price of an Oscar statue in today’s market, which I definitely remember seeing in 1999.

As the online traffic pool continues to shrink, desperation in the media has increased ten-fold. Some of the biggest online entertainment brands are rabid to snap up every last click they can get from the Oscars. I mean, “Who Will Win, Who Should Win?” features are a dime a dozen on the Internet. It’s easy to grind out these types of Oscar pieces over and again before the ceremony, but it’s much harder to be original. Let me rephrase that: It’s easy to be the same, it’s much, MUCH harder to be different.

Prior to both the Golden Globes and the Oscars, we even saw such online features as the “Academy Awards and Golden Globes Battle for the Spotlight.” From one perspective, when’s the last time the Academy Awards DIDN’T battle the Golden Globes for the spotlight?

The fact is, the Golden Globes and the Oscars don’t battle for the spotlight at all. Both ceremonies occupy their own space in the media spotlight with the Globes always perceived as the lesser of the two. That’s just the way it is, the way it was, and the way it always will be no matter who spins fiction.

But if you take a look at the slew of mainstream Oscar features in the last few years, it’s all the same. Here are just a few of many examples:

In 2011, you had “Overlooked at the Oscars: 109 movies not nominated for best picture” and “10 Films That Should Have Won the Best Picture Oscar!”. The following year, “Best Seriously Overlooked Films of 2010”. From the year earlier you can find “Overlooked for Oscars in 2009”. In 2008, it was the same with “Overlooked by Oscar: The Award Doesn’t Go To …”.

The Oscars will air February 24 on ABC with Seth MacFarlane as host

The Oscars will air February 24 on ABC with Seth MacFarlane as host – Photo: ABC

Sure you could argue that the movies and people are different each year at the Oscars, and that new things happen each season, so therefore the content is original. But does that really make the content original within a tired, unoriginal concept?

In 2013, with social media in play, the volume on repetitive creative behavior is louder than ever before. Just two months into the new year, “Oscar snub” features are more like knee-jerk re-tweets. Again, a quick Google search for “Oscar snubs 2013” shows that people are simply writing the same thing over and over. Is this truly the power of crowd behavior?

You can even look at some specific Oscar related features and the thousands of Harlem Shake videos in a similar light of repetitive behavior. In some ways (not all) they’re cut from the same psychology when it comes to repetition. I mean, people are now writing “7 Key Ingredients To A Successful Harlem Shake Video”. Is that really any different than “5 Ingredients To Make An Academy Award Winning Film”? Actually, don’t answer that. I don’t want to know.

But hey, to each his own. I get the game all too well. As an entertainment writer, I used to place a lot of importance on the Oscars earlier in my career until I realized that I was writing the same thing over and over, year after year, expecting it to matter. If it sounds insane, it certainly felt like it.

Interestingly, as Psychology Today once published, it’s not necessarily the definition of insanity that matters in this case but rather the difference between “perseveration” and “perseverance.”

“Perseveration feels compulsive, hopeless, helpless, automatic and unsatisfying,” the article states. “There is a desire to stop, but stopping doesn’t feel like an option. Perseverance feels like striving toward a noble goal, and whether or not it’s reached it there is virtue in the effort. Perseverance is a strong, valuable quality. Perseveration is a troubling issue needing clinical attention.”

But let’s be honest here, Oscar features get a lot of traffic leading up to the big ceremony. That’s the long and short of why the Internet is clogged with so many similar pieces. Well, that and a fear of ostracism by not producing the same Oscar related content as everyone else. Writing the same Oscar features each year with the expectation of a different result is one thing. Writing the same Oscar related articles with the expectation of the same traffic-to-revenue result could be considered strategically sane.

Since Oscar features continue to be churned out each year ad nauseam, what’s your diagnosis of why people keep repeating the same creative behavior each year?

What do you think?

Reg Seeton

Reg Seeton created The Deadbolt in 2005 after working for the pioneering movie news website, Coming Attractions. Reg has over 15 years experience as a top online entertainment journalist and interviewer, has worked with several award winning actors, musicians and writers, and has managed entertainment networks in New York and Los Angeles. And he's done it all with one eye!