Anyone tolerant enough to have seen the first 20 minutes of Birdman knows that the Academy Awards are a matter of opinion – and that the opinion is oftentimes a bad one. And this is because (whatever the people at the Academy Awards would have us believe) there is no other way to judge a film than by the way it makes you personally feel. There is no science of film criticism, and there will never be (as Jeremy Bentham proposed) an accurate mathematical formula for measuring happiness. The question on America's mind should never be whether the Academy gave an award to the right movie or people. It should be whether they gave the award to the right feeling.
This is always a matter of debate, which is why the awards are given by a kind of inscrutable oligarchical decision. Some cinematic aristocrats, unknown to the American public and somehow responsible for telling us how America feels about films, have been telling us for decades why their opinion is better than others. The question nobody has asked until recently is why their opinion matters more than IMDB's or Rotten Tomatoes'. If any vote is necessary, why should it be the Academy's? If someone is going to tell us what America loves, shouldn't it be the American public?
Never has the question been more necessary than now. The reason we should be asking isn't because the Academy has been giving bad opinions; it's because the Academy is no longer capable of giving an honest opinion. The man who occasionally tells you he loves a bad movie may invite your derision, but at the very least he's the kind of man who tells you what he loves. The moment anyone makes him recommend anything he wouldn't recommend is the moment he's ceased to give an opinion. And the moment he's ceased to give an opinion is the moment his recommendation has entirely lost its value. He's no longer interested in sharing the best of the world with you. The question then becomes, what is he trying to share?
The answer to the question is no longer the greatest films in his opinion. It is whatever you should see in someone else's. The most mystifying aspect of all of this is that the someone else he represents is even less representative of the American public than the Academy itself.
For centuries, Americans have been warning us of the tyranny of the majority. What we have forgotten is that a tyranny of the majority is a historical improvement over a tyranny of the minority. What we have done with the Academy isn't an improvement over anything at all, but an obvious and irrefutable regression. With the Academy's decision to nominate more black actors and films according to the opinions of black people alone, what they have decided is to exchange the minority of the majority for a minority of a minority.
These ironies aside, what black America has asked by demanding a perversion of the Academy is not that whites consider blacks our equals. It's that we prostitute the very dignity of our praises. It's that we recommend to our friends and families not movies, but colors. Or that we believe that art itself serves no purpose other than glorifying the artist – and that glorifying the artist has nothing to do with whether we like his art. Art for art's sake is dead, and what has followed it is worse. Criticism for beauty's sake is dying. Truth for truth's sake is being murdered. The entire world is convulsing is spasms of racial jealousy, shattering everything we trust about even the most harmless forms of recommendation. Our entertainment has become too serious to enjoy. Our ideologies are our religions, and we are all engaged in a universal inquisition.
A few years ago, Kanye West stormed a stage and interrupted an awards ceremony only to say that his opinion was better than everyone else's, which resulted in the entire world giving an opinion about him. The opinion was that he is an ass. Today we would apologize and promise to listen to him next year. We would say that his feelings matter more than our own. We would promise to ignore the people we love, and to love the people we would have ignored.
Black activists think that forcing someone to give you a trophy is the same thing as winning it. They pester and protest because they know that we'll listen. We've given in to some unreasonable demandsand found dozens more following them. We keep trying to show that we care – how much better would the world be if we showed them that we didn't?