Dominic Lawson: Spare me these orgies of self-congratulation

We are decreasingly able to gain a sense of personal pride simply in knowing we have done a good job

Share

I realise none of us is compelled to watch the interminable displays of professional log-rolling and improbable frocks otherwise known as movie awards ceremonies; but somehow the obsession of the broadcasting media with these festivals of self-congratulation leaves us with no escape. Thus, at 7am yesterday, I – along with everyone else whose reluctant emergence into daily consciousness is punctuated by Radio 4's news bulletins – had to endure the sound of a hyper-ventilating Meryl Streep telling an invited audience at the "Orange Baftas" that her performance in The Iron Lady "located something real".

That's a news headline? Actor telling other actors that she has "located something real"? There's nothing real about it: it's the opposite of real and that's the whole point. The movie business is make-believe: men and women pretending to be people they aren't to an audience which wants to forget who and where they are – a monumental exercise in mutual self-delusion.

The awards ceremonies themselves don't even have the justification of being great art, since that's been and done, watched and paid for. We, the public, are merely being asked to gawp at the exponents congratulating each other for their handsomely remunerated displays of impersonation. And, being superb impersonators, those of them who fail to win do a brilliant job of looking delighted for the victor as he or she walks up to collect the award. In fact, that might well be the best acting you will see during the entire event.

How very different from our own British Press Awards, an event which as an editor I had been obliged to attend for 10 years in a row. Not for us the cosmetic grin of ecstatic empathy as a rival grabbed the prize for which we had been shortlisted: instead, quite visible displays of anger and, on the odd occasion, a punch-up at the bar afterwards. Now that's what I call real, Ms Streep.

It is hard now to come across any trade or profession which doesn't have a slew of awards. We all seem to have become infected by the actors' love for self-congratulation. You can't enter a hotel, a supermarket, a school, or even – I imagine – a funeral parlour without seeing prominently displayed on a wall a framed award for the provision of some service or other: Most promising new Bed & Breakfast of the year, Best Provider of Organically Farmed Pork, Most Environmentally Conscious Geography Department; Most Imaginative Embalmer in the South-East of England.

The main difference between these and such events as the Baftas is that the latter attracts the television cameras, as its participants are officially the Beautiful People (with dresses to match). Yet in the age of YouTube and Twitter, you can be sure that even the most obscure awards ceremony will be urging the world to take full notice of its distribution of industrial gongs and baubles. It's a wonder that anyone manages to get real work done at all, so obsessive and increasingly time-consuming is the business of award-hunting.

It is said by psychologists that we have become as a people increasingly dependent on various forms of praise and decreasingly able to gain a sense of personal pride simply in knowing that we have done a good job. The shrinks have divided the world up into those whose sense of self-worth is internal and those who gain such validation only through comments and compliments from others – and the latter group is becoming an alarmingly large slice of the human pie.

In this context, the manic expansion of show-business awards ceremonies can be seen not just as yet more evidence of the increasing power and scope of film companies' marketing departments, but also of the character of almost all actors. These are needy, needy people. Applause is the drug that they cannot live without – which is fair enough, given that they are in the performance business. And, boy, do they get that applause at their awards ceremonies. The readiness of these audiences to put their hands together at the slightest cue is something not usually seen outside sessions of the general assembly of the North Korean Communist Party. This especially accompanies the clips of the films being paraded, and as the applause mounts, the star in question sheds an obligatory tear or two for the benefit of the television audience watching her watching – not least to demonstrate how deeply moved is she by the quality of her own performance.

It is all rather American, you might say – and if so, that is most appropriate: the commercial significance of the Baftas is to influence the members of the American academy in its frenetically lobbied deliberations over the Oscars, which take place at the end of the same month.

That truly is the alpha and omega of self-congratulatory ceremonies, the one which every year captures the undisputed prize for most grotesquely overblown display of manufactured emotions. I suppose it is harmless compared with President Bashar al-Assad's bombardment of Homs; but that's all the more reason, my dear BBC, not to confuse it with real news.

d.lawson@independent.co.uk

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant - IT

£25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Question time: Russell Brand interviewing Ed Miliband on his YouTube show  

Russell Brand's Labour endorsement is a stunning piece of hypocrisy

Lee Williams
IDF soldiers and vehicles in an image provided by campaign group Breaking the Silence  

'Any person you see – shoot to kill': The IDF doctrine which causes the death of innocent Palestinians

Ron Zaidel
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before