Why Are ‘Socially Distant’ Award Shows Happening During a Pandemic?

Last night, I tuned into my second virtual award show during the COVID-19 pandemic to cover it for work, and last night, I also tuned into what will hopefully (my schedule permitting, wink wink) be my last. This is not to say that performers shouldn’t be given awards during the year of our Satan 2020 — it is to say that we don’t have to cling so heavily to the pre-pandemic days, at least while there’s still no vaccine in sight. Maybe it would be better for now if these trophies (highly sought after, well-deserved, iconic as they are) could just be mailed to the winners without the usual fanfare.

I’ll admit that I’ve never been much for these shows, so perhaps I am a little biased. However, I have softened my stance on them over the past few years. I love watching artists joyfully accept their awards. I enjoy listening to the heartfelt speeches. (Especially those that have real heart behind them and aren’t simply pandering attempts to cash in on the buzzword of the moment.) But something is different now. Without the ability for these stars to gather in a room together, in front of live audiences — without the community aspect, albeit a community different from any demographic you or I could imagine — it’s just become stilted and awkward, akin to watching a Skype conversation between two people you don’t care about. 

The socially distant interviews are awkward; the interviewer and interviewee can barely fit on the screen at the same time. They’re always done in some random green room, or worse, on a weird dock or in an abandoned lot. Rather than providing a distraction from the pandemic we’ve been dealing with for the better part of this year, they actually serve as a visual reminder.

And while it can be fun for fans to see their favorite artists perform their hit songs, the current method of getting around COVID-19 includes airing prerecorded, remotely-produced videos. These are typically not the same caliber as music videos, yet they also don’t have the same thrill as a live performance. They exist in some sort of purgatory between the two, a hellish limbo space that frankly none of us need to be in right now. 

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