What makes the annual pageantry of The Academy Awards (aka The Oscars) so alluring to millions of everyday folks? Are we transfixed by the film industry’s recognition of its worthiest, or are we just voyeurs glimpsing a glamorous world a scant few of us will ever experience? Award-winning journalist and podcaster Andrew Gold joins us for this Skeptical Sunday to demystify the mystique and break the spell behind one of the world’s most celebrated events. (And don’t worry, David C. Smalley fans! David will return soon for future installments of Skeptical Sunday!)
On This Week’s Skeptical Sunday, We Discuss:
- Who decides who’s worthy of winning an Oscar?
- How does someone become a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences?
- Were Will Smith and Chris Rock paid big money to stage that infamous slap in 2022?
- Why is the number of people tuning in to the annual ceremony dwindling compared to its heyday?
- Why would anyone object to shortening the length of the ceremony to suit the attention span of a modern audience?
- Connect with Jordan on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. If you have something you’d like us to tackle here on Skeptical Sunday, drop Jordan a line at email@example.com and let him know!
- Connect with Andrew on Twitter and Instagram, and check out On the Edge with Andrew Gold here or wherever you enjoy listening to fine podcasts!
- Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider leaving your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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This Episode Is Sponsored By:
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Miss our conversation with spooky mentalist Derren Brown? Catch up with episode 150: Derren Brown | Using the Power of Suggestion for Good here!
Resources from This Episode:
- Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
- Harry, Meghan, Reparations, Israel, and Gender with Coleman Hughes | OTE Podcast #227
- Why Are the Academy Awards Statuettes Called Oscars? | Mental Floss
- Academy Awards: Number of Viewers 2023 | Statista
- Oscars Audience Jumped After Will Smith’s Slap of Chris Rock | The New York Times
- Louis CK: Actors ‘Like an Empty Coffee Cup’ | Opie & Anthony
- Imagine | Gal Gadot, Instagram
- Frasier | Prime Video
- Jerry Seinfeld: ‘All Award Shows Are Stupid,’ HBO Comedian Award, 2007 | Speakola
- Who Votes for Oscars and How Academy Awards Voting Works | Variety
- Dolby Theatre
- Who Gets Invited to the Oscars? | Los Angeles Times
- Can Robots Satisfy Us In Bed (And Other Big Think Questions) with Paul Bloom | OTE Podcast 240
- QuickFacts: United States Population Estimates | US Census Bureau
- A Breakdown of the Oscars Diversity Problem, by the Numbers | Insider
- How #OscarsSoWhite Changed the Academy Awards | BBC News
- Judith Butler: ‘We Need to Rethink the Category of Woman’ | The Guardian
- The Joy and the Trauma of Carrying a Celebrity’s Baby | BBC
- The Dark Knight Rises | Prime Video
- There Will Be Blood | Prime Video
- A Timeline of Brendan Fraser’s Career and Comeback | People
- The Whale | Prime Video
- The Mummy (1999) | Prime Video
- George Of The Jungle | Prime Video
- Everything Everywhere All At Once | Prime Video
- Michelle Yeoh | Instagram
- Ke Huy Quan | Instagram
- Leonardo DiCaprio Won His Only Oscar After Fighting a Bear in The Revenant | Esquire
- The Revenant | Prime Video
- Ana Spanakopita | BoJack Horseman Wiki
- Emma Thompson Says Oscar Campaigning Made Her ‘Seriously Ill’ | The Guardian
- Amelia | Prime Video
- Alexander (The Ultimate Cut) | Prime Video
- J. Edgar | Prime Video
- Oscars 2023: How Campaigns for the Academy Awards Turn Movies into Winners | Vox
- Oscar Campaign’s Costs: Leonardo DiCaprio and More Hit the Trail | Variety
- Shakeup at the Oscars | The New Yorker
- Why The Oscars Are Reviewing Their Campaign Procedures | BuzzFeed News
- Christina Ricci on “Elitist” Andrea Riseborough Investigation | AV Club
- Did Titanic Deserve to Sweep The Oscars 25 Years Ago? An Investigation | Slashfilm
- The Night Lord of the Rings Swept the Board | Empire
- Nomadland | Prime Video
- Coda | Prime Video
- Parasite | Prime Video
- Green Book | Prime Video
- The Shape of Water | Prime Video
- Spotlight | Prime Video
- Moonlight | Prime Video
- Emmy Awards | Television Academy
813: The Oscars | Skeptical Sunday
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Please note that this episode was recorded prior to the 2023 Oscars, and because I'm a knucklehead and I don't pay any attention to pop culture, this didn't air until afterwards. Whoops. It's all still relevant though. Enjoy.
[00:00:12] Special thanks to Peloton for sponsoring this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:20] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger, and this is Skeptical Sunday, a special edition of The Jordan Harbinger Show where journalist and podcaster Andrew Gold and I break down a topic you might never have thought about, open things up, debunk common misconceptions — topics such as why the Olympics are kind of a sham, why expiration dates on food are nonsense, why tipping makes no sense, recycling, banned foods, toothpaste, chemtrails, and a whole lot more.
[00:00:44] Normally, on The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people and turn their wisdom into practical advice t hat you can use to impact your own life and those around you. We have long-form interviews and conversations with a variety of amazing folks, from spies to CEOs, athletes, authors, thinkers, and performers.
[00:01:03] If you're new to the show or you want to tell your friends about the show, our episode starter packs are a great place to begin. These are collections of our favorite episodes organized by topic that'll help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on this show — topics like persuasion and influence, disinformation and cyber warfare, scams, conspiracy, debunks, crime, and cults, and more. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or take a look in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:01:27] All right, today on Skeptical Sunday, it's that time of year where we all seem to lose our frigging minds over the people that we are already losing our minds over the rest of the year. That's right. It's the 95th Oscars, and on the 13th of March, the rich and famous will gather, they'll wear ostentatious outfits made of meat that cost more than many of our houses or cars, and will sit and will gawk and will applaud. But in a world increasingly concerned by the gaps between the haves and the have-nots, even as that gap widens, why do we continue to observe the ritual? What are the Oscars? How are they chosen, and why do they have such a hold on us?
[00:02:03] Here to demystify the mystique and break the spell behind one of the world's most celebrated events is podcaster Andrew Gold. Andrew, how much do you just love the Oscars?
[00:02:13] Andrew Gold: Honestly, I've never tuned in, even though I do cover sensationalist gossip, and I do find myself fascinated by the gossip around the weirdness of Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and so on. I've never gotten the Oscars, which is why it was so intriguing to look into the event for this episode.
[00:02:29] On the surface, it seems so popular, so be loved. One of my former guests, Coleman Hughes, spoke to me about the Justin Bieber paradox where someone appears to be incredibly popular and successful, yet he's never met a single person who listens to his music. And it occurred to me that even though the Oscars seems to be huge and the news outlets cover them back to front, I don't actually know a single person who gets excited come January or February for the upcoming Oscars. I'm often unaware they've even taken place unless something controversial like the Will Smith slap happens.
[00:03:01] Jordan Harbinger: I often think about this. It could just be a question of demographics that you just, you don't cross paths with the type of person who enjoys the music of Justin Bieber and the type of person who enjoys the unrivaled glamor of the Oscars.
[00:03:13] Andrew Gold: That's true. I would be intrigued to know how your audience splits on the Oscars, which by the way are called Oscars because an Academy executive said the statuette that you win reminds her of her cousin, Oscar. So I thought I'd do some investigating into the viewing figures in the year 2000 46 million people viewed the Oscars. Just over two decades later, in 2021, that number dwindled to 10 million.
[00:03:38] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. That is a huge drop. Less than 25 percent, considerably less.
[00:03:44] Andrew Gold: Yeah, exactly. So this means I'd be four or five times more likely to have friends who are interested in the Oscars back in 2000. In 2022, the viewing figures climbed back from 10 million to 15 million, but the figures were inflated by the Will Smith slap, which led many to believe the conspiracy theory that the slap was orchestrated by the Oscars to increase figures.
[00:04:05] Jordan Harbinger: That seems a little bit unlikely to me. I know they say there's no such thing as bad press, but Will Smith, basically, completely ruined his reputation as this together, focused nice guy in one fell swoop by slapping comedian Chris Rock live on stage who he was probably also kind of friends with. And since, he's already a multi, multi, multi-millionaire, I just can't see how there'd be a figure high enough to bribe him to throw away the thing that he cannot buy, his reputation. This is the guy who refused to cuss in his rap albums.
[00:04:36] Soundbite: Will Smith don't gotta cuss in his rap to sell records. Well, I do, so f*ck him. [The Real Slim Shady]
[00:04:41] Andrew Gold: Yeah, I tend to feel the same way. Of course, if that had happened, if Will Smith had been paid for the slap, we'd probably never find out. But this is Skeptical Sunday and we are here for the facts, not the speculation, but if we may speculate for a moment, the decline in figures makes the upcoming Oscars really interesting. If something as controversial as the Will Smith slap happens again, it'll certainly raise a few eyebrows, and even if not, it'll be fascinating to see if the viewing figures will continue to fold given 1.1 billion people tuned into the Soccer World Cup Final as we discuss in an upcoming episode about sportswashing. And given 113 million tuned in for the Super Bowl, if that 10 million number for the Oscars falls any further, the event will be knocked from its perch as a world contender.
[00:05:26] Jordan Harbinger: Some would say it's already fallen. I mean, 10 million is pretty low already compared to all these other events. That's 1.1 billion compared to 10 million. It's not even a rounding error at that point.
[00:05:37] Andrew Gold: Yeah, I think that argument can be made, and yet we know before the event starts that the news outlets will be all over every single minute detail of this thing. And I guess that means that despite diminishing popularity, it still possesses some intangible magnetism, some mystical allure, or historic cache because for some reason, of all the things that our society could have chosen as preeminent, the elite of the elite, at least as far as social media popularity is concerned, we went not with doctors, nurses, and scientists, but with actors. The people Louis CK refers to as empty coffee cups, people with little to say outside of a script with relatively little talent outside of the skill of impersonating others, but with wealth and beauty, the likes of which the rest of us can but dream.
[00:06:27] Jordan Harbinger: Maybe that's why the Oscar ratings fell so much during the pandemic in 2021. I mean, in an emergency, it seems we're able to concentrate on what's really important. The status of nurses and doctors, I know that rose dramatically.
[00:06:39] Andrew Gold: Yeah. And we saw actors for what they are talented, beautiful people. Among the most important of the unimportant things. There was that tone-deaf viral video released by actress Gal Gadot, where she called in her famous friends to sing Imagine, the John Lennon song, and it went down like a lead balloon in a time when most of us were concerned with what we could eat and navigate shopping aisles for toilet paper without catching a deadly virus. The world stops looking at celebrities. That Imagine video seemed like a desperate appeal because their status stock and sex appeals sunk. It was an incredible, perhaps unprecedented moment in our culture.
[00:07:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Celebrities are like those monsters in horror films who lose their power when you don't believe in or pay attention to them.
[00:07:23] Andrew Gold: I think so. And that takes us to the ridiculousness of an award ceremony for acting in the first place. I'm rewatching all of the sitcom Frasier at the moment, and I happen to see an episode where he missed out on an award and another character had this great quote that I think we can all learn something from. "It's not about awards, it's not about accolades, it's about a body of work. If you can look at yourself in the mirror and say you've done a good job, that's all that matters. If you can do that, let the awards fall where they may." Ironically, Frasier swept up most of the awards in the '90s and 2000s, and of all the genres, comedy is particularly awkward as a category up for an award because the comedian is supposed to mock and satirize pomp and ceremony. The role of the jester has typically been to challenge elitist hierarchies and expose injustices but by accepting an award from the elite, it compromises that delicate position.
[00:08:14] When comedian Jerry Seinfeld won the HBO Comedy Award, for example, he gave a very awkward acceptance speech about exactly that.
[00:08:21] Soundbite: At moments like this, I would like to quote my good friend Carl Reiner, who has often said to me, "You don't give awards to comedians." Your whole career as a comedian is about making fun of pretentious, high-minded, self-congratulatory BS events like this one. The whole feeling in this room of reverence and honoring is the exact opposite of everything I have wanted my life to be about. I really don't want to be up here. I want to be in the back over there, somewhere over there saying something funny to somebody about what a crock this whole thing is. [Jerry Seinfeld]
[00:09:07] Jordan Harbinger: You know, I was going to bring up Seinfeld before because he also said something about not winning an award, and I can't remember where he said this, but he's like, "My award is the audience keeps showing up. People keep showing up to watch me do standup." It was something along those lines. And so I always tell podcasters that. They're like, "Oh, I didn't win a Webby." And I'm like, "No one cared about those. You didn't even care about those until last month when you heard about it. It doesn't matter. You have an audience. This is your job. The Webby doesn't matter. This is like a group of 20 random people that don't know your show. Who cares? You have a hundred thousand people who love your show. Stop complaining." It does also seem a little ridiculous, although comedians make sense. They make more sense than actors in a way. At least they have to think of something. They have to write it down. If you think of them as Louis CK does empty cups of coffee, then I think the public are catching on. Maybe that's why the public are not watching the Oscars as much. They realize we've been deifying these people and it's sort of time to stop.
[00:10:00] Andrew Gold: I'm sure that's partly responsible as well as the lack of transparency around the ceremony. Jordan, you and I, you even more than me, as you're a touch older, grew up in a world without Twitter and without the Internet, which has been in some sense, is a great equalizer. The idea of being able to put out a tweet, which takes you five seconds, and there's a very real chance that Jerry Seinfeld or JK Rowling or Donald Trump actually respond. That was unfathomable just a few years ago. It has made actors and other celebrities more accessible, which is great, but it has also reminded us that they're human. They're not shadowy or elusive enigmas propped up by PR companies. They're humans, just as stupid as the rest of us. Snapping photos of their breakfasts and checking their Twitter and Instagram in bed. It's possible that not only have we stopped venerating them quite so much because of that openness, but we're also less open to opaque and shadowy processes. We like fairness. We are also becoming more used to voting with our feet being part of the process. How can the best actors be chosen by anyone other than us, the people who actually went to watch the movies?
[00:11:04] Jordan Harbinger: We're used to voting for contestants on reality shows. Why can't we vote on the Oscars? I mean, decades ago we weren't as used to being involved in the voting process. It was for people who were more enlightened and cultured than us. We were just happy for a glimpse of the stars on the red carpet. But for a process that is already extremely subjective, who's the better actor? Who's the better director? It would probably help if the Oscars could at least be upfront about how they nominate and how they vote. Speaking of which, I barely know anything about this. How do they vote? How does this actually go down?
[00:11:34] Andrew Gold: Well, I couldn't make heads or tails of the voting system on the Oscars' official website, which simply states most categories are nominated by the members of the corresponding branch. Actors nominate actors, film editors nominate film editors, et cetera. What does that mean? Which actors, any actors? Am I an actor? I'm a podcaster. Is that a kind of acting? Can I vote? Obviously, you have to be some sort of member. In fact, you do. You have to be a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. There are now around 10,000 members of the Academy, and they each vote for their favorite film or actor or director from their own category. So that does make sense. Each member also votes for best picture, and that's a different process. For Best Picture, they have to write down their favorite films in order, and a film has to get at least five percent of the top spots to get a nomination. And there's no further voting. That's what I didn't realize. The accountants at PricewaterhouseCoopers simply tally it up from the nominations and we've got our winner. There's almost no point in having the nominations because it's predetermined by the time the nominations are actually announced. Does that make sense, Jordan?
[00:12:37] Jordan Harbinger: Kind of, I mean, it's like you can nominate, but you have to nominate from these people that we've nominated. That's kind of what it sounds like.
[00:12:43] Andrew Gold: No, it's like once the nominees or nominations are done whoever got the most is the winner already.
[00:12:49] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, you can't even vote from the nominations. You literally just nominate and then it's like you're not voting anymore. Wow. Okay.
[00:12:57] Andrew Gold: If you're a runner-up, there's like no point. Obviously, you don't know until they open the envelope, right? But—
[00:13:01] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:13:01] Andrew Gold: —it's annoying because it's like, oh, they could have told me this weeks ago because they already knew who had won. The two people who know, by the way, which I'll get onto. So as for the voting, you can apparently apply to be a member. But I think that really they go about choosing how and when they want to expand their membership. Of course, they've come under criticism for a lack of diversity, so they have said they want to get a greater range of people and backgrounds, but it's hard to prove.
[00:13:25] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:13:25] Andrew Gold: Anyway, I sent an email asking if I can be a member and have not heard back.
[00:13:30] Jordan Harbinger: Gotcha. I did spend years living in LA, specifically Hollywood, and I used to get DVDs all the time. I'd move from one apartment to another and I'd still get these DVDs from the Academy because I'd be renting an apartment where an actor had lived before and they just didn't change the address. You wouldn't get their Comcast bill because they would notice that. But then during Oscars season, you'd get all these DVDs in the mail and you'd sometimes you'd get multiple copies because either roommates lived there and they were both actors or the guy before that person also forgot to change their address. So you're getting like three years' worth of nomination films or whatever, "for your consideration." And it was kind of nice because we had a huge DVD collection of really good movies. They send you the DVD, you're supposed to watch it, screen it, and use it to vote. Did you really request to be a member? It can't be that hard because I lived in some dumpy ass apartments in Hollywood. This is not George Clooney's old bachelor pad or anything. So the bar for who an actor member of the Academy is has to be pretty low. I mean, I was in some basement-level, leaky roof apartments back in the day.
[00:14:34] Andrew Gold: Yeah. And yet Jordan, they haven't even gotten back to me. So what does that say about me? I'm below the lowest. I'm the lowest of the lowest.
[00:14:40] Jordan Harbinger: You should take it personally for sure.
[00:14:43] Andrew Gold: I am taking it personally. It is all very opaque, that's the thing. You do apparently need to have a feature film credit, but I have credits on films I made for the BBC. I don't know if they are definitely classified as features but they could at least get back to me and say, "Well, is that a feature?" You know, they haven't even got back to me at all.
[00:14:59] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:14:59] Andrew Gold: The really difficult thing is getting a seat at the Oscars—
[00:15:02] Jordan Harbinger: Literally?
[00:15:02] Andrew Gold: —the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles. Yeah, a literal seat.
[00:15:05] Jordan Harbinger: Like a literal chair. Okay.
[00:15:06] Andrew Gold: Yeah. You can't get a chair there. The Dolby Theater in Los Angeles seats 3,400 people, so the majority of voting members can't even attend themselves.
[00:15:15] Jordan Harbinger: Ah.
[00:15:15] Andrew Gold: Each Oscar nominee there are usually around 200, get a pair of tickets and can request another. Then, the rest of the seats are filled by TV executives, sponsors, lawyers, media, and Academy donors.
[00:15:28] Jordan Harbinger: Huh.
[00:15:28] Andrew Gold: On that note, don't you have some sponsors to read out?
[00:15:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yes, indeed.
[00:15:32] You know what's better than getting slapped in the face on live television? The products and services that support this show. We'll be right back.
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[00:17:05] Thanks again for listening to the show. All the ways to support the show are at jordanharbinger.com/deals. You can also search for any sponsor or promo code using the AI bot on the website as well. Thank you so much for supporting those who support the show.
[00:17:18] Now, back to Skeptical Sunday.
[00:17:21] You mentioned a lack of diversity — by the way, Academy donors, that sounds suspiciously like somebody who bought a freaking ticket to the Oscars at an exorbitant price so that they can be there, but anyway—
[00:17:31] Andrew Gold: It's odd, isn't it? Like that kind of state is obviously just very important to a very particular kind of rich person.
[00:17:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I think it's one of those like, "Oh, I need to be an academy donor because I'm not a TV executive, sponsor, lawyer, media, or whatever, but I want to be seen around Jerry Seinfeld and take a freaking selfie, and I'm willing to drop 10 grand to do it. So I'm going to become an Academy donor and sit in the donor section with a bunch of like bored rich people." That's what it sounds like to me. I could be totally wrong, but I'm pretty sure I'm not. You mentioned a lack of diversity. What is the deal with that?
[00:18:06] Andrew Gold: Well, most of the talk around diversity is regarding race.
[00:18:08] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:18:09] Andrew Gold: And as you know, race as a polemic discussion is a minefield. Firstly, because race itself is on a spectrum. My recent guest, Coleman Hughes and Professor Paul Bloom, both explained how people with any black ancestry are considered black in the US.
[00:18:22] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:18:22] Andrew Gold: And that's very different in the UK where most people would not, for example, consider Meghan Markle to be black. Of course, that apparently hasn't stopped some members of the tabloid press from being disparaging about her racial heritage. Then, there are extremely complex concepts around cause and correlation. Do we want representation at the Oscars for the sake of representation? Many would say yes as that is the best way to redress societal imbalances. The argument goes that ambitious kids take inspiration from watching people who look like them picking up awards. Others say that a more varied demographic wouldn't be representation for the sake of it, but that more diversity can be achieved through merit. The problem is that the white middle-class voting members might relate better to movies with actors who look like more attractive versions of themselves. What can't be escaped is the fact that in the past decade, 89 percent of nominations went to white people, which is higher than the 76 percent of white people who make up the US. Of course, many winners have been from abroad, such as Britain, where 82 percent of the population are whites.
[00:19:22] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, the Oscars being more racist than reality is pretty striking. You thought reality was racist? You should see the Oscars. That's really bad over there. So there's still a gap there even with the British thing thrown in for good measure. I can understand why people might want that to be closed. So is most of the diversity conversation just around racial diversity?
[00:19:44] Andrew Gold: Yes, and I can absolutely understand why people expect the Oscars to be more diverse. Recent years have shown a buck in the trend. 2020 was the first year more Asians than white people won awards.
[00:19:55] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:19:55] Andrew Gold: Thanks to the hit movie Parasite. There was, of course, that Oscar's so white hashtag in 2015, alongside plenty of photos of smiling mega-rich white people. So 2020 was a big change. So a lot of the discussion is around race, but there is also a lot of talk about gender where we find a wider gap. 71 percent of nominations from the 2010s went to men. I mean, what can the Oscars really do if film directors are not picking a diverse enough cast? There are simply fewer female directors and other roles for women. One awards expert called Paul Sheehan said, "The Academy really just reflects how few women work in fields other than the traditional female ones — costume, hair and makeup, et cetera."
[00:20:37] Jordan Harbinger: It just seems bizarre to me that the Oscars are not woke enough, even though it's peak Hollywood. And you can try to woke-ify the Oscars, but it won't necessarily woke-ify Hollywood. Not that you necessarily need to do that. I don't know. It's a complicated subject, I think.
[00:20:53] Andrew Gold: Yeah, that's the long and the short of it. And then, we're getting into the weeds of gender studies philosopher Judith Butler in post-modernism. We know that men and women are attracted to and chosen for different jobs. I know from both anecdotal and statistical evidence that in the British TV industry, there are far more men involved in lights and cameras and many more women in makeup. There are more male directors, but more female showrunners, which is a higher role than that of director. To what extent are these discrepancies influenced by a patriarchal society and to what extent is it a reflection of our innate biological desires.
[00:21:28] And beyond the nature versus nurture debate, many actresses have to make an impossible choice between progressing their careers and getting pregnant. And there's been a lot in the media about Hollywood's surrogates to try to address that, but maybe that's a topic unto itself for another day.
[00:21:43] Jordan Harbinger: Ooh, Hollywood surrogates, like people who carry babies for celebrities. That's a genius business model. There's got to be some riches in those niches or in those wombs, I think.
[00:21:53] Andrew Gold: Well, there are, but it's also pretty cutthroat. There have been tragic stories of a-list celebrities suddenly changing their minds and leaving the surrogate with a baby and no options.
[00:22:03] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my God.
[00:22:03] Andrew Gold: Many celebrities are apparently nice and caring to their surrogates, but others just see them as recipients and there's just far too much emotion involved in a process like giving birth for that kind of Hollywood's coldness.
[00:22:17] Jordan Harbinger: That doesn't super surprise me. Like, "Oh, I want to have a baby because it's fashionable." And they get all this pressed like so-and-so having a baby via surrogate. And she really enjoys that and soaks it all up. And then, the reality of like, "Oh crap, I'm going to have a kid kicks in," and they're like," You know, I do have a tour coming up. Maybe this year isn't a good time for me." And then suddenly it's like, "You have the baby." "Well, it's not my problem. I don't have to take the baby from you. You're the pregnant one. Bye." I mean, sociopathic narcissism in Hollywood, there's no shortage of that. So this doesn't surprise me one freaking bit.
[00:22:50] Andrew Gold: Yeah. Welcome to the Oscars.
[00:22:52] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:22:52] Andrew Gold: Well, the other side as well because I've read loads of articles about this. I find it fascinating, the idea of the Hollywood surrogates people.
[00:22:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:22:59] Andrew Gold: And there have been also many stories of the other side where surrogates have been a bit too pushy with like, "Hey, I'm carrying a baby. Can I get backstage tickets to your next tour, Shakira?"
[00:23:09] Jordan Harbinger: Oh wow.
[00:23:09] Andrew Gold: Not Shakira, by the way, I'm just coming up with a name.
[00:23:14] Jordan Harbinger: J Lo but also not J Lo. You know that I kind of get it but also, yeah, wildly inappropriate. This is a professional relationship. You don't see, my gynecologist is not asking for backstage passes to my show. So why are you doing that? I mean, I get it, but also, you know, maybe don't do that. You're getting a hundred thousand dollars for carrying this baby, and that's sort of where this begins and ends.
[00:23:36] Andrew Gold: Oh, you want your unborn son to be happy, don't you? You should give me some tickets to your show.
[00:23:40] Jordan Harbinger: I'd probably do it, but I'm also not a Hollywood celebrity. I don't have enough sociopath vibes to make that word or talent. But let's focus on, let's focus on the other part that I lack, the negative stuff.
[00:23:51] Andrew Gold: You're a very talented man, Jordan.
[00:23:52] So anyway, with diversity at the Oscars, it's the voting members who decide, and the Oscars say that they are trying to expand its membership to more underrepresented communities, which I believe raises an awkward question. How can a business that trades off of its exclusive, elusive and pompous image expand its membership to underrepresented cross-sections of society? Does it value social justice or social status? And can the two be combined? It remains to be seen.
[00:24:22] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, I think they are already are combined, right? Social status is sort of now derived from virtue signaling and social justice in many ways. It is funny to watch big elitist institutions literally famous for championing the rich and the famous, squirming to pass themselves off as progressives now that social mobility is more fashionable, right? Like, "Hey, we want everybody to — well, not everybody."
[00:24:45] Andrew Gold: Yes.
[00:24:45] Jordan Harbinger: "And I certainly don't want you at my show sullying up my green room. You can have the kid for me. I mean, I don't care about that, whatever, but don't you dare show your face in the front row of my show, prego weirdo. I don't like pregnancy. That's why I paid you to have my kid." But anyway, beyond diversity, how else do voters decide? I mean, I loved The Dark Knight Rises, the Batman film, but I also There will be Blood, both came out in 2008. How on earth can you decide which is a better film? I like them for different reasons.
[00:25:16] Andrew Gold: Well, maybe, it's not really about which film is better. And that's because of the infamous Oscar campaigning. Movie stars go to great lengths to win an Oscar, and campaigning has become such a hot topic that new rules are springing up around it. Before Oscar season, actors begin appearing at industry seminars and parties and doing all sorts of press. A narrative is also formed around the actor, so you'll notice that Brendan Fraser is nominated this year after a narrative was very firmly crafted of him being sexually abused by a male producer, him disappearing from public view, and dealing with depression and weight gain, and then coming back to play an obese protagonist. The film The Whale actually got very mixed reviews, but this was lost amid Brendan Fraser's campaign narrative. He kept appearing in public with tears of gratitude, and people are swelling up with a mix of sympathy and nostalgia for the years of The Mummy and George of the Jungle that he gave us. That's not to say that he's faking it, but just that the underdog or comeback story won't have escaped the attention of his public relations team. Similar can be said for Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan who co-starred in Everything Everywhere. I'd give them awards in a heartbeat because I loved them in that movie but it's not up to me unless they accept my request, which I'm still waiting for.
[00:26:32] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:26:33] Andrew Gold: Historically, did Leo DiCaprio win because he was the best actor in The Revenant or because there was support for him winning an award because he was such a big name and hadn't yet won? So it was like a comeback thing or an underdog kind of story.
[00:26:47] Jordan Harbinger: It was because I remember there was so much talk that year, Leo DiCaprio, it's such a rip off, he's never won an Oscar. And you're like, "What? Not for Catch Me If You Can. Not for Titanic. I can't believe it." And every article was like, "It's about time." Then, The Revenant, which is a good movie comes along and it's like, was he better in that movie than he was in any of the other ones? I'm not so sure, but it is incredible how powerful the campaign narrative is. If it can make Leonardo DiCaprio one of the most famous, wealthiest, and most, I guess, attractive men on the planet, if that can make him an underdog, fine. I didn't exactly view it that way, but that was the narrative. That was the whole thing, the whole spiel.
[00:27:23] Andrew Gold: I noticed you hesitated before saying attractive there. You added guess what, what's that?
[00:27:27] Jordan Harbinger: He's not my type, you know, being a man and all that. No, but it's like, he had that sort of— Leo, I'm sorry if you're listening, which I know you aren't. You know, if you like sort of effeminate-looking guys and you're young person, like a young gal, I think they're attracted to that and I think that's why Titanic, he was so good for that. But when I look at him as like a cowboy or a tough guy in The Revenant, I'm like, eh, it's kind of a stretch. I don't know. He was a good actor in there, but I'm thinking that's more of a Tom Hardy kind of role, isn't it?
[00:27:58] Andrew Gold: Jeff Bridges.
[00:27:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, Jeff Bridges. Oh yeah, that's a Jeff Bridges' role. So it has nothing to do with like attractiveness. It's just like, is that really what I think of when I think of this actor? Not necessarily heartthrob, but yeah, like '90s heartthrob.
[00:28:10] Andrew Gold: I love how much you have to say about Leonardo DiCaprio's particular style of beauty.
[00:28:15] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that's a whole Skeptical Sunday, right? Leonardo DiCaprio.
[00:28:19] Andrew Gold: Yes, a hundred percent. We should do that because of his, and going out with under, well, anyway, I was going to say younger women, but I think he's now got an older girlfriend I think, and hope.
[00:28:29] Jordan Harbinger: Well, I don't know, that was younger to the point of like side-eye younger, right?
[00:28:35] Andrew Gold: Yeah. Yeah. We could definitely do a Skeptical Sunday on that kind of stuff.
[00:28:39] Jordan Harbinger: Are you on the market for a dress entirely made up of meat? Well, then you'll enjoy the fine products and services that support this show. We'll be right back.
[00:28:49] This episode is sponsored in part by Peloton. We're getting a ton of rain in California finally. I mean, we need the water. We need like a trillion gallons or something like that, literally. But on the downside, we are mostly cooped up indoors, and I don't want to leave the house. There's flooding, there's traffic accidents because all of a sudden they don't know how to drive in the rain. I think that's a California thing. I grew up in Michigan. You can freaking drive in the rain over there. I do like to stay active, though. That's one of many reasons why I'm really digging Peloton. The convenience factor cannot be beat. I don't have to go anywhere to stay active and healthy. Peloton makes top-notch machines. We've never had any issues mechanically with any of this stuff. They get plenty of use. The classes are taught by world-class instructors. Peloton known for the bike. Yes, we have one of those. Of course, you've all heard of those, but they also make a really, really good rowing machine. Rowing is great for a full-body workout and for improving your cardiovascular endurance. I love the flexibility, not of my body, that's lacking, but if a call cancels, I can hop on the rower and I can get a quick workout in. I can get the heart pumping in the morning before the kids wake up, depending on what ridiculous hour that might be. Working out at home is amazing. There's nobody judging me. There's no waiting for a machine. There's no equipment with other people sweat on it or drool on it, or their body oils. There's guys use body oils at the gym. I can't even believe they allow. That's such a gross visual. What is unique about the Row is it gives you real-time form feedback. The seat and handle contain sensors, and during setup, you go through a roughly five-minute calibration process. Just the one time, not every time. It then enables a feature called Form Assist, which is really freaking cool, and it's a little collapsible window on the left-hand side of this screen. You can monitor your technique. It's basically a little avatar of you and the way that you are moving. For me at least, correct rowing form was not intuitive at all, and doing it correctly is a little tricky. It's not hard, hard, but it's tricky if you're a little gomer like me, especially when you start getting tired. Form Assist shows you that figure of yourself as you row, and when you do something wrong or slightly wrong, a portion of your body will turn red. That's a really good way to know where you are messing up and avoid getting super injured, repetitive strain stuff, tweaking. And then of course you can't work out at all when that happens. And that stops a lot of people who are diving in for the first time, getting back into it after a long time and who wants to get some new thing and then you can't use it for a month because you got freaking tendonitis or whatever. So this will make sure that does not happen. At the end of the workout, you get a readout of how well you did in a breakdown of your most common mistakes. So you can be competitive with yourself and see how you can improve over time. I love the scenic rides as well. I think those are really, really cool. You can transport yourself into the Thames River in London where you can see famous landmarks such as the Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye. I know it sounds kind of corny using a rowing machine to take a tour, but it's really a lot of fun and really interesting and probably you're going to get less dirty London water in your mouth doing this. Or you can row through the iconic Sydney Harbour where you can see the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You can also row through beautiful Miami Beach where you can see the vibrant culture in stunning beaches. I think it's a really fun idea and it's laid back. It's relaxing. If that doesn't make you want to work out, nothing will. So try the Peloton Row risk-free with a 30-day home trial. New members only. Not available in remote locations. See additional terms at onepeloton.com/home-trial.
[00:31:58] Thank you so much for listening to and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers is what keeps the lights on all the deals. All the discount codes are at jordanharbinger.com/deals. You can also search for any sponsor using the search box AI search box on the website as well. Consider supporting those who support the show.
[00:32:14] Now back to Skeptical Sunday
[00:32:16] Andrew Gold: That whole campaign thing was brilliantly parodied in the Netflix cartoon, BoJack Horseman, who has an Oscar whisperer whose sole job is to get actors Oscars. These roles getting actors Oscars are very real and people get paid huge sums with bonuses for winning. The Oscar Campaigns can also wreak havoc on the mental health of the actors. Emma Thompson won twice but said that each time the campaign made her seriously ill. Like in the rest of life, anyone who appears to try too hard looks bad. Movies trying to, obviously to attract an Oscar become known as Oscar bait, and they don't win prizes. Big examples in recent years involve the movies — Amelia, Alexander, and J Edgar.
[00:33:00] Jordan Harbinger: So basically movies that are just names of people and/or just their first name. So stay away from names. But that Oscar campaigning is interesting. What are the rules around it? Does it actually help people pushing the issue like that?
[00:33:12] Andrew Gold: It's impossible to measure the exact impact of the Oscar campaign. Many have done it and won while others have lost. But we know that marketing is integral to incepting ideas into brains and those who vote for Oscar nominees and winners have brains. Vox describes the campaign as like campaigning for public office with a twist, and that twist is that you have to be chill about it and pretend you are not doing it. Variety estimated that film studios pay between three million and 10 million dollars in these campaigns, and the New Yorker calculates it as 15 million dollars. They target the voters with ads screeners and more the kinds that you were getting in those basement apartments in Hollywood, was it?
[00:33:52] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:33:52] Andrew Gold: And we don't know how far they go to influence voters who are, for the most part, regular people who might be very open to influence. I wouldn't want to speculate too much but this is a very big business with a lot at stake.
[00:34:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that makes sense that those screeners I got in the mail were part of a campaign because I'm thinking, why do they just send these? How come it's not all of them? And it seems expensive to do this. By the way, there are also billboards all over Hollywood during Oscar season that say things like, "for your consideration." And I always thought that was so weird because growing up in Michigan, I never saw one of those. But it makes perfect sense that if you are going to campaign for your movie, you would do it on Sunset Boulevard where people are driving to and from their gym or their Reiki healing, yoga, goat yoga whatever class, and you want to stay fresh in their mind. So you show the movie title or the cover, or the actor or whatever, and it says "for your consideration." That's all it says. And they're trying to keep movies in our mind. So later, when we, as members of the esteemed Academy, we can vote on them so they win an Oscar. They even show up online if you are surfing the web in Hollywood and you probably haven't heard that phrase for a decade, but you can have a Hollywood or LA IP address and you'll see something that says for your consideration," you're like, wow, they're really getting after it. I can imagine that all these big studios being up against one another. That might cause controversy, might cause conflict arguments, especially once the results are announced, eh?
[00:35:14] Andrew Gold: Yeah. And there is a big controversy this year around actress Andrea Riseborough, who got a nomination for best actress for her role in To Leslie.
[00:35:23] Jordan Harbinger: Never heard of it.
[00:35:24] Andrew Gold: It caused a stir. I hadn't heard of it, either. Exactly. And this is part of the controversy because it caused a stir because it wasn't nominated by most of the other award ceremonies. And her selection came at the expense of actresses, Viola Davis and Danielle Deadwyler who are both black. So the Oscars is once more under scrutiny for lack of diversity. Accusations are being thrown at an actress called Mary McCormack, the wife of the film's director. She's being accused of emailing loads of voters, begging them to see the film. Kate Blanche, Jennifer Aniston, and Edward Norton are among the big-name actors who then further pushed Andrea Riseborough as a nominee. It is being suggested they broke the rules by contacting voters too directly.
[00:36:04] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:36:04] Andrew Gold: But it's all a bit unclear and may lead to tightening of the rules in future, or at least saying what, you know, too directly actually means. Other actors are now criticizing the criticism of Andrea Riseborough of that surprise nomination. Christina Ricci, for example, said it was hilarious that would criticize and review the only actress who had to resort to sending out emails because they didn't have the budget behind them that a-list actors have.
[00:36:30] Jordan Harbinger: That's a really good point. Like, oh, you emailed people. That's so shady. What you should do is have your studio pay eight million dollars to put billboards up all over and then mail everyone in this list a DVD begging them to watch it instead of sort of politely asking by email in this sort of low-touch, low-budget way for your indie film.
[00:36:51] Andrew Gold: Yeah.
[00:36:51] Jordan Harbinger: You should just be more famous and rich next time. It's so much easier. Yeah. So again, we're left with that question — is the Oscars a great equalizer or is it a big glamorous popularity contest that celebrates ostentatious wealth?
[00:37:05] Andrew Gold: I think that's the difficult position it finds itself in. Earlier, I think you hit the nail on the head regarding how ridiculous the whole thing is anyway. A crowd-pleaser like Batman is of no less value just because it's less esoteric than more stylized and highbrow films. In fact, you could argue that despite being broad or for the masses, if it pleases more eyes, if more people take enjoyment and entertainment from it that it is the better film. Equally, you could argue that the subtlety and craft that goes into making something as epic yet nuanced as There Will Be Blood makes it far superior. Both arguments are valid.
[00:37:39] Perhaps in an effort to be seen more as a democratic equalizer, there has been a huge move by the Oscars towards art house movies in recent years. It used to be that the likes of The Lord of the Rings, Titanic, and other blockbusters hugged the limelight, but there's been a huge move towards prestige indie films. And I guess that the snob in me finds that, I guess pleasing. But we can't ignore that the move towards celebrating art house movies has coincided with, or perhaps caused a huge drop in audience figures for the Oscars.
[00:38:09] How many listeners even remember last year's winner? It was Nomadland, which was good, but it was also a tiny, tiny bit boring and long. And on what metric could it possibly be the best film made that entire year?
[00:38:23] Jordan Harbinger: I suppose it somehow makes sense that a film in which absolutely nothing happens wins best film in a year where we all just sat on our ass and did nothing, right? But also it was really a time when we needed distraction in entertainment. And I suppose, you know, the only time a film like Nomadland would seem really entertaining is when you haven't left your house for months on end. You're like, you know, I don't mind this film about somebody walking around various trailer parks and chatting.
[00:38:49] Andrew Gold: Yeah, it's just sort of working at Amazon. Like half that film is her just like working at Amazon, which is really interesting. But you could just watch a documentary, which is a lot more honest about Amazon and what it's like to work there because Nomadland really didn't call that out in a way that it should have done. But anyway, last year the winner was a small indie film called Coda, which I'd not even heard of.
[00:39:08] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:39:08] Andrew Gold: Before that was the Korean film parasite, which was good.
[00:39:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yes.
[00:39:11] Andrew Gold: But highly derivative of Tarantino. Before that, I think, fairly mediocre and forgettable films, and that's just my opinion, of course, but I don't know anyone whose favorite film ever is Green Book. I didn't think The Shape of Water was very good. Spotlight was just, yeah, good film, but not one that sticks in the memory. Moonlight stands out. That was another big winner recently as a brilliant winning movie in recent years. But it was also very slow going and not exactly a mainstream crowd-pleaser. And by the way, the Dark Night wasn't even nominated when it came out.
[00:39:40] So I'm torn. Yes, I prefer that they're considering films that don't necessarily have De Niro or Meryl Streep in, or huge budgets behind them, but the choice of winners doesn't chime with the glamorous branding around the Oscars.
[00:39:53] Jordan Harbinger: Right. The Oscars is known for its glamor and of course, its length.
[00:39:58] Andrew Gold: That's true. It runs for three and a half hours.
[00:40:00] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:40:01] Andrew Gold: And that might also be having an impact on their decreasing viewing numbers. We live in a world of short attention spans, and the Oscars are doing all they can to reverse the downward trend in popularity. And they tried to do what the Grammys do, just televising the main awards. This was met with protests from members of the awards that would no longer be on TV, because that's what this is really about, being on tv, being celebrated, gaining status in the tribe, that is humankind, so everyone gets to be on TV while they wait for their awards. And all that time, the only people in the world who know who's won are two members of PricewaterhouseCoopers. I quite like the idea that literally two people in the world know the results before they're opened. It's cool, but did it have to be a big, boring firm?
[00:40:48] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Couldn't it be like the previous winners know, or just some sort of Oscars' president? Seems like there's a more exciting way to do this.
[00:40:56] Andrew Gold: I guess that's more interesting than a big corporate accounting firm, but I guess they're paying for the event.
[00:41:01] Jordan Harbinger: Thanks Andrew for that insight into the Oscars. The 95th edition will be taking place on the 13th of March, and I now realize that relatively few of you will be tuning in and I will join you in not watching them, unless something controversial happens like Matt Damon slaps Ben Affleck, which I really hope happens. That would be worth seeing live, or at least in a YouTube clip, or Madonna pulls some satan-related stuff again. We can only hope.
[00:41:28] I've got some thoughts on this episode, but before we get into that, here's what you should check out next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:41:34] Derren Brown: I was walking. From one hotel to another, quite late at night, I was at a magic convention in Wales. I was wearing a three-piece of velvet suit—
[00:41:43] Jordan Harbinger: Because why not?
[00:41:44] Derren Brown: Because why not? So this guy is, you know, he is really drunk and is clearly, yeah, looking for a fight. And he is with his girlfriend and all his adrenaline kind of up here. And he starts shouting at me and says something like, "What are you looking at?" Or, "What's your problem?" or something. In that situation, you can't respond with, "Oh, I'm not looking at anything," because then you are on the back and they've got power. Or "Yeah, I'm looking at you. What's your problem?" Because either way, you're going to get hit, but you can just not play that game right from the outset. So I said, "The wall outside my house isn't four-foot high." So his reaction to that is a bit of a pause, he's like, "What?" And I said, "Oh, the wall outside my house isn't four-foot high. When I lived in Spain, the walls that were quite high but here, they're tiny. It meant nothing. So then he just went, "Oh, f*ck," and started crying. His girlfriend walked off and he sat down by the side of the road. I sat down next to him and started asking about what had gone wrong that night. I think his girlfriend had bottled somebody. There'd been some fight, and weirdly that I'm giving him advice.
[00:42:48] I was talking to a friend of mine about this thing and he was an artist and used to walk home from his studio late at night through a rough bit of London, and there were always these kind of like gangs on one side of the road, so he'd always cross over away from them. Of course, they'd always see that, and it's always this horrible, uncomfortable, intimidating thing. So we spoke about it and then the next night, he crossed over the road to them and said, "Good evening," as he walked past them. And of course, they left him alone because he just seemed like a strange—
[00:43:15] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I don't touch, he's crazy.
[00:43:16] Derren Brown: He's just, he's just weird.
[00:43:18] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Who wants to see a magic trick?
[00:43:20] Derren Brown: Yeah.
[00:43:22] Jordan Harbinger: For an inside look at the levers in our own brain alongside Derren Brown, one of the world's most legendary illusionists and mental, check out episode 150 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:43:35] That's it for the Oscars. Enjoy not watching them.
[00:43:38] Definitely keep your ideas coming as well, firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear your ideas for what else we can debunk. And if we got something way off, if you work for the Oscars and you want to set us straight, let me know that as well. Again, email@example.com, give us your thoughts.
[00:43:53] Hey, by the way, a lot of you mentioned that in the cobalt red episode with Siddharth Kara, that there was a Nissan ad for Nissan Electric vehicles. Now, that is some rich irony, and I will say that we probably would've moved that. But then again, I thought, you know, why move something that is actually still better than a fossil fuel-burning car in terms of being a part of the future? It's not like we can just not use cobalt, you know? So I decided what is the big deal about putting this in there. The positioning was weird, but we still need cleaner energy for our devices. There just isn't any yet. And yes, I'm aware of how dirty mining this stuff is. I mean, that's what the episode was about, but we still need to figure out ways to create these types of vehicles and low emissions without having babies in puddles of dirty, radioactive water, mining cobalt. Tesla is actually working on cobalt-free batteries. Other companies will as well, I assume. I think the market can do a lot to make sure that we are getting rid of this kind of human misery in the supply chain. And that's really what the episode was about. So a lot of people who are like, "This is terrible. How dare you, you should dump them as a sponsor." I completely disagree. And I think if you think about it, you'll understand where we're coming from.
[00:45:04] A link to the show notes for the episode can be found at jordanharbinger.com. Transcripts are in the show notes. I'm at Jordan Harbinger on Twitter and Instagram. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn. You can find Andrew Gold on his podcast On the Edge with Andrew Gold anywhere you get your podcasts.
[00:45:19] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Ian Baird, Millie Ocampo, Gabriel Mizrahi, and on this one, Andrew Gold. Our advice and opinions are our own. And I'm a lawyer, but I'm not your lawyer, and I certainly haven't won any Oscars or even been nominated. Can you believe it? So do your own research before implementing anything you hear on this show. Remember, we rise by lifting others. Share the show with those you love. And if you found the episode useful, please share it with somebody else who needs to hear it. Maybe somebody lamenting over how they haven't won an Oscar. Share it with Leo. Share it with Leo when you get a chance. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[00:46:00] Special thanks to Peloton for sponsoring this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
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