Each year, Hollywood stars go to the Academy Awards dressed in couture that costs thousands of dollars. Even more surprisingly, the nominees receive gift bags. Reportedly, this year’s gift bags have a $25,000 credit for home renovations and a $40,000 luxury stay included in them, among other gifts that exceed $100,000 in total.

In a time where many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, it may seem excessive to some to give away a gift bag that is worth more than double the salary of the average American, per the Motley Fool. But the event itself costs tens of millions of dollars, per Insider, and dressing an A-list actor for the event runs north of $1 million.

How to watch the Oscars and all nominated films
Oscars 2023: Inside the $125,000 Oscars gift bags

How many people are watching the Oscars?

In recent years, viewership of this ritzy event has plummeted. Statista revealed that while in 2000, 46.33 million people watched, viewership has steadily declined. In 2021, the show hit the lowest amount of viewers it had in two decades at 10.4 million. Viewership recovered slightly at 15.36 million in 2022, but it was still much lower than it had been historically.

The decadence of awards shows may be to blame during a time of economic struggle, but it also might be the prevalence of the awards shows and the shift from moviegoing to streaming. Matthew Gilbert gave those two reasons in his article on this subject for the Boston Globe. The Academy Awards come towards the end of a long awards season, so that’s a possible reason.

But other awards shows aren’t faring too well.

This year, the Grammys had their third-worst viewership in history. According to Statista, millions of viewers have stopped watching the show. Maybe people are disillusioned with these awards shows because Old Hollywood glamour is gone. Now, Hollywood is giving more and more excess.

Why aren’t people watching the Oscars?

The way that we watch television has changed significantly since the early 2000s. Instead of watching cable, people are now using streaming services. Since awards shows aren’t on every streaming service, that might be a reason why fewer people are tuning in. Getting a new streaming service just to watch the Oscars or another show is a bigger expense than many want to take on.

Another reason might be the nominees themselves. According to CNBC, there’s something of a disconnect between the films people love and the films that are nominated for awards. If a person doesn’t recognize the films, they might be less likely to watch it.

It also could be that the awards shows are long and often not particularly eventful (well, except the one time that Will Smith slapped Chris Rock). Many Americans might not want to tune in for hours of listening to celebrities talk about films.

But there also other potential reasons.

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Are politics and bad jokes to blame for low viewership?

Of course, some evidence points toward the disillusionment with Hollywood being about the way that Hollywood personnel treat politics.

While films have always dealt with political subjects and entertainment, that seems to be treated differently by the public than political statements from actors and actresses at awards shows. Deadline said that the Oscars will try to avoid politics this year. For a while, conservative America and middle America have been the brunt of jokes, which might contribute to lower viewership.

Some research even shows that Hollywood stars giving their political opinions hurts causes. According to Hill-Harris X and YouGov polls reported on in Forbes, the majority of people either ignore Hollywood stars giving their opinion on candidates and issues or are less likely to support the person or the cause.

“Celebrity endorsement of a candidate may also irritate voters with opposite opinions who are then even more motivated to vote,” said Gene Del Vecchio for Forbes. Since voters know that celebrities aren’t usually policy experts, it can be easy to dismiss them as out of touch — especially when their awards shows are as decadent as they are.

Some of the jokes have also not landed well. In 2018, when Michael Che said that “the only white people who thank Jesus are Republicans and ex-crackheads” at the Emmys, many were offended by the joke. A lot of Americans are Christians and that type of humor alienates them.

Not only that, but religion has positively impacted many people who struggled with real addictions. Making jokes at their expense isn’t popular and could be one of the reasons why some people may think that Hollywood is out of touch.

People often don’t want to watch shows where they are made fun of: that’s why certain audiences expressed being upset at other types of stereotypical jokes. These jokes alienate viewers and would-be viewers alike.

The Oscars are aware of this issue. “We want to embrace the diversity of talent and nominees this year, and we want to try to go back to the days of escapism,” one source said, according to Deadline. That might just be what brings viewers back.