Columns, Opinion

Don’t be a hypocrite: Award shows should not be blind to social issues

Content warning: This article discusses sexual assault.

As 2021 draws to a close, the entertainment industry prepares itself for the 2022 award season, and with that, nomination announcements are making the news. Recently, The Grammys announced its 2022 nominations on Nov. 23.

Chart-toppers like Olivia Rodrigo and Justin Bieber found their names among the nominees, but it’s not them I have problems with. I’m not here to talk about who I think was snubbed or excitedly surprised by. Instead, I want to talk about how some of the nominees this Grammy Awards season are rigidly entangled with the events of 2017.

Remember the #MeToo Movement? In October 2017, Alyssa Milano reignited the hashtag created by Tarana Burke to provide people space to share their experiences with sexual assault online. The #MeToo movement was broadly defined by The New York Times’ expose on film producer Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexually harassing and assaulting employees and actresses.

Yvonne Tang / DFP Staff

From that point on, the rest of 2017 was marked by the impact of the #MeToo Movement, especially in Hollywood, and it continued into the 2018 awards season. This is where the Grammys come back into the picture.

On Jan. 28, 2018, the Grammys held their 60th annual show. In response to the #MeToo movement, guests of the show were encouraged to wear white roses in solidarity with the many people who had spoken out about sexual assault in the industry.

During this time, many actors and performers who had been accused of sexual misconduct or assault disappeared from the limelight due to protests and internet backlash. Now, about four years later, one of these performers is being considered for awards like 2017 never even happened.

Who exactly am I talking about? Well, the 2022 Grammy nominations included Louis CK for the Grammy for a Comedy Album. Louis C.K. was one of those individuals who faced sexual assault allegations in 2017 and then actually admitted to the allegations.

CK’s nomination is for his first comedy special since 2017 called “Sincerely Louis CK,” which he released through his website in April 2020. The special discusses his sexual misconduct issues in a way, but it’s not really an apology or taking responsibility for his actions.

In the special, CK vaguely references the 2017 allegations in a joking manner, asking the audience, “How was your last couple of years?” Later on in the set, he tells the audience that he asked the women he assaulted for consent but then indirectly — through a joke about slavery — acknowledges that he may not have done enough to ensure his victims were comfortable.

So here we have Louis CK, who admitted to sexual misconduct and made a comedy special, brushing aside and making jokes about his actions. And we have the Grammys, one of if not the most prestigious award programs for music and audio performances, basically saying, ‘Hey, this show that was a gross excuse for an apology was so funny and here is a nomination for a comedy award.’

You could tell me that the Grammys are based on the art, not the person, and then we can go into this whole conversation about separating the art from the artist, but I don’t care.

Here is the thing — when one is discussing the fate of a comedian, a profession in which the comedian speaks about their own life and their opinions of the world, the argument that you can separate the art from the artist is nearly impossible. Comedians are their art — they are the person on stage and the writer of the words they speak.

It is Louis CK’s words that are spoken in his special by him telling his story and his view of the situation and making jokes about his sexual misconduct. That comedy special is intrinsically Louis CK, and he is his comedy special. You can’t separate the two because there is no version of the special where it’s someone else performing or someone else who wrote the jokes.

And now you’ll want to argue that award shows should stay blind to social issues, but no, they should absolutely not.

Harvey Mason Jr., the Recording Academy’s CEO, said in a November interview with The Wrap that the Grammys “won’t look at people’s history, we won’t look at their criminal record.” He went on to state that just because someone is nominated doesn’t mean they are invited to attend the show or perform, but that the Academy won’t restrict their access to being awarded.

People love to say that politics, sensitivity and social issues don’t belong everywhere, but they are wrong.

If music stans can cry and take to Twitter blasting the Grammys for their favorite artists getting snubbed, survivors of sexual assault and allies should have the same right without being called controlling or restricting. These issues should be at the forefront of our discussions. They should always be considered when deciding who an industry wants to award because an award is personal, but it is also representative of the organization that gave it.

So, here we are in a world where people will tell you that cancel culture is toxic and horrible, but let me tell you that cancel culture isn’t real and if you want proof, just look at the people that your favorite award shows are nominating. Tell me, what do you see?

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