As the weather grows brisk and the holiday lights come down, I brace myself for the bluster of the harshest season, relishing in the comfort of my scarves and sweaters. Still, my favorite thing about this season comes not in the sparkling snow, but instead, in the shine of its best entertainment: awards.
At the risk of falling into the stereotype of a Yale student, I must confess that I love awards. I also love the seasons which accompany them: the ballgowns, the reviews and predicting winners. But I cannot divorce my love for awards from their most insidious implications. Now, awards season is the season in which we are more potently aware of the lack of recognition and representation that women and people of color face in the entertainment industry. We should be angry about this. But as I am inundated with #OscarsSoWhite discourse, I must reflect upon why the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards consistently neglect some of the most phenomenal artists available. It’s discrimination, of course. But I think it runs deeper.
By advertising these hashtags and complaining about a lack of diversity, liberals are advertising the Grammys. They’re advertising the Oscars. And I cannot help but think about how our own outrage, our frustration and our righteous anger have been torn away from us to become yet another tool for corporate profit. Hear me out: awards shows have been navigating declining viewership and increased skepticism about their merit. More than ever, writers, artists and fans alike have been questioning whether awards themselves are actually accurate. Sure, Billie Eilish might be a talented musician, but did she really deserve all four major awards at the Grammys?
Instead, I would posit that award shows are offering increasing accolades to few artists and neglecting others altogether because they realize that it is a lot easier to cultivate and profit off of an atmosphere of elitism than make it clear what your definition of “merit” is. When we are awash in outrage, pitchforks drawn when Lizzo is robbed for every major category at the Grammys or Green Book wins Best Picture at the Oscars, we give those awards press — we advertise for them. But we also identify them as the locus of merit. By being angry about the Grammys and the Oscars, we aren’t merely acknowledging that they have power. We are actually providing them with power.
Yale functions in the same way. Rather than making Yale more socioeconomically diverse in a substantive way, Yale refuses, choosing instead to thrive on our outrage. We write column after column in the Yale Daily News, post our screenshots on Overheard at Yale and bemoan our privileged status so frequently in seminars that it feels trite and uninteresting. Yale thrives on a capitalist, racist and misogynistic power structure. We are standing on stolen land. And yet, little to nothing changes.
It’s not that saying it again and again doesn’t make it less true. Of course it’s true. But I’m so tired of hearing conversations that merely request we admit more people into the academy rather than question whether the academy is the correct place to define merit. If the Ivy League is the Grammys, then congrats, we’re all nominated. And yes, we should be questioning: “At whose expense?” But we often do this questioning in lieu of questioning why it matters. We do this questioning as part of our performative due diligence, as a way to acknowledge our privilege without confronting it.
Thus, we are advertisements for Yale. It’s much easier for the Yale Corporation to present to donors that the Directed Studies program and their beloved legacy admissions remain the same despite angry liberal outrage. It’s much easier to lean into being a snowflake than question where our outrage goes and whether it’s worthwhile.
This is, of course, not to say that issues don’t demand our anger. They do. But I question the effectiveness of being angry about short-term frustrations without questioning the long-term hierarchies that create those frustrations. I question the feeling of profiting — socially and financially — off our outrage, as if being angry is necessary for clout, rather than a reaction to injustice and a driving force for digging deeper. Yale gets bad press when enough of us get angry, and when enough of us make noise — so do the Grammys and the Oscars. But while we wait for them to act, that anger merely festers, settling in our stomachs like a particularly unpleasant meal.
And most importantly, I question what it means to thrive on awards — my own, and others’ — without considering what those awards mean. Who cares what the Recording Academy says? “Truth Hurts” was the Record of the Year. So this time around, I’m skipping the Oscars. I’m skipping talking about the Oscars. And I’m engaging with things worth engaging in, not because they’re winners, but because they’re good, and goodness — not outrage — should be enough.
MCKINSEY CROZIER is a sophomore in Timothy Dwight College. Her column runs on alternate Fridays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .