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What ended up being the Oscars gaffe heard ‘round the world, became social media’s night to shine. At the 2017 Academy Awards, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced the wrong winner for Best Picture when a backstage mixup had landed the wrong envelope in Beatty’s hand. La La Land producers were already on stage when confusion spread behind the scenes until the Oscar was given to its rightful owner, Moonlight.
Long before the Academy and PricewaterhouseCoopers had a chance to issue an apology, memes of Dunaway and Beatty in their iconic roles as Bonnie and Clyde were already taking over the Twitterverse with captions like “We rob #Oscars.” Twitter users also played into the political conversation, calling La La Land the latest victim of #FakeNews, the biggest buzz phrase of the year. “Guarantee there will be more investigation into the #Oscars2017 #BestPicture mixup than #Russia’s interference in our election. #Oscars,” tweeted comedian Aasif Mandvi (@aasif).
Pop-culture fans often use hashtags to react to a live broadcast on social media. Major entertainment industry events like the Oscars, however, also have seen a shift in who controls the narrative pre- and post-ceremony.
In 2015, April Reign first Tweeted using the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag in response to the nominations, in which not a single person of color was nominated in any of the major acting categories. Reign’s hashtag not only trended but spurred a movement that carried into the next year’s ceremony, where again zero actors of color were nominated for major categories. Honorary Oscar recipient Spike Lee and other celebrities boycotted the 2016 awards, and everyone from George Clooney to Reese Witherspoon, to Don Cheadle to President Obama, spoke out about the need for greater representation of black Hollywood. And it’s likely we’ll see #OscarsSoWhite trend again this Sunday before and during the broadcast—few films with leading actors of color are contenders this year.
The 2018 Oscars are also taking place in the middle of the media firestorm surrounding #MeToo and #TimesUp movement that started with the sexual assault allegations against former entertainment industry titan Harvey Weinstein and has now rippled out to many other industries.
James Franco, who won the 2018 Best Actor Golden Globe for the “The Disaster Artist,” is nowhere to be seen among the Oscar nominees after five women accused him of inappropriate behavior. The people behind the Oscars might want you to believe there was simply too much competition in the category, however snub-related digital content posted to social media tells another story. There were “1,400 Tweets regarding this and in total, 82% of all engagement mentioning an Oscar snub mentioned Franco. While Franco was easily the highest profile snub, his omission wasn’t tied to audience outrage. Of that 82% engagement, 45% of the time the hashtag #MeToo was also mentioned.”
It’s true that only 48 hours remained for Oscar voters to cast their ballots at the time the Los Angeles Times investigation into Franco’s behavior broke on January 11. Not a lot of time, but enough time to come to the conclusion that no one can say for sure just how much the power of #MeToo influenced Franco’s Oscar fate.
While #MeToo will certainly loom large over this year’s event, on Hollywood’s biggest night the #Oscars hashtag connects the social community live-tweeting and reacting to all the flubs, flops, and fashion.
2014 Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres bounded into the audience and took what ended up being the most famous selfie in the world with nominees such Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt, and Meryl Streep among others tweeting: “If only Bradley’s arm was longer. Best photo ever. #oscars.”
Current events commentary and laughable on-stage disasters are one thing, but Hollywood’s biggest night serves as a game-changer for brands when it comes to social media marketing. Hollywood star power burns bright, and brands are smart to recognize how they can make a play to win big by reaching millions on the one night a year those stars burn brightest.
Ellen’s #oscars tweet garnered a whopping 22k comments, 3.4 million Retweets and 2.4 million likes. And the phone? 43 million viewers watched as Ellen pulled a white Galaxy Note 3 out of her pocket, before handing it to Bradley Cooper to take the iconic snap. While the Oscars would have you believe this was an entirely unscripted, organic moment, and Samsung issued a statement saying the selfie was something “nobody expected,” reports soon surfaced online about Samsung’s $20 million advertising deal with the broadcast. Though the moment can be chalked up to simply some great acting, for Samsung, it was well worth it, with the brand getting mentioned 40,000 times across social during the 3.5 hour broadcast.
Whether it’s commenting on the fashion or fueling social change, it’s #hashtags that ultimately connect the conversation and control the #Oscars narrative.