Award shows have personalities just like anyone else; what makes the Oscars different from the People’s Choice Awards is a gulf as wide as what made the prom queen different from the student government kids. Maybe award shows seem like high school archetypes because the experience must be so like adolescence: you’re terrified you don’t look right, you’re nervous over whether or not people like you enough and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll end up being a loser by the end of the night. From the parking lot kids that are The Golden Globes to the slightly too defensive Emmy Awards, here are the award shows you love as the people from high school you knew.
The Golden Globes: the good time parking lot kids
Example: Donald Faison as Murray in Clueless, Emilio Estevez as Two-Bit in The Outsiders
Once upon a time, the Golden Globe Awards were just an upstart foreign exchange student (the awards are presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press), but, almost from the beginning, they were so much fun they gained the reputation as the rare award show it’s just as enjoyable to attend as it is to watch. Everything about the Globes, from the recent emphasis on pushing the comedic boundaries with their hosts (elective improv troupers Tina Fey and Amy Poehler fared much better than back-of-the-class wiseacre Ricky Gervais) to the fact that television and film celebrities are drinking real booze before speaking in public, makes it the devil-may-care good time parking lot kids of award shows. You can totally find the Golden Globes leaning against someone’s rear bumper between periods and, like the stars that gather in the Beverly Hilton ballroom each January, there’s a good chance they’re also drinking that real booze. Sometimes you hang out with Golden Globes and get a little too boisterous hollering at the jocks and cheerleaders passing by, but that’s okay, so long as you don’t make it a daily habit.
Screen Actors Guild Awards: the serious drama club kids
Example: Irene Cara as Coco and Maureen Teefy as Doris Finsecker in Fame
The Screen Actors Guild Awards have many of the same ingredients as the Golden Globes: it’s a sit down dinner (where ostensibly they serve liquor), they honor both television and film, and the results are sometimes seen as a predictor of the Oscar race to come. There’s just something about the SAG Awards though that makes it less fun than the Globes: that something is the “actory” sense of pretension that made the drama school kids only suitable in small doses. Everyone was always happy for the theater department when they put on a great show, but there were always those few kids for whom the show never really ended. SAG is a little like that. All the self congratulatory talk of “the craft” gets old fast.
The Independent Spirit Awards: the too-cool-for-school hipster
Example: James Van Der Beek’s Dawson Leery on Dawon’s Creek would have flipped to attend the IFC tribute, but he was a little too obsessed with Spielberg to truly be at home. James Franco as Daniel Desario on Freaks and Geeks is closer. Actually, James Franco is real life is probably the closest.
The Independent Spirit Awards (presented on the Independent Film Channel) are held every year to honor the small films that often get overlooked by the more mainstream Oscars (although the films have begun to overlap more and more in recent years). As far as award show enjoyment goes, it’s a mixed bag. Like the Golden Globes, the celebrities actually seem to be enjoying themselves (Johnny Knoxville and John Waters have both been past hosts; what’s not to enjoy there?), but like SAG, the organizers can get a little too high on their own artistic importance. The Independent Spirit Awards are undoubtedly that too-cool-for-school anti-establishment hit-or-miss hipster that was always giving you bootlegs of some new band from Denmark (which was actually pretty cool) or lecturing you on Bukowski (which was completely tedious).
The Grammys: prom committee
Example: The kids from Saved by the Bell (minus Screech) were a 24-7 prom committee. Also, they had a band: Zack Attack!
A good Grammy Award celebration is just that: a celebration. More than any other award show, the Grammys seem like a big cool party where you just happen to be able to see multiple generations of talent performing for one another. The planning that goes into every detail from the lineup to the tributes to the over-the-top theme choreography could only be pulled off by the always military-precise prom committee. Getting Gaga into an egg is a cakewalk compared to stringing six hundred balloons along a hotel ballroom ceiling to make it look like “Moonlight in Paris” (your official prom theme).
The Emmys: the legacy student with a chip on their shoulder
Example: Not quite the country club villains of a John Hughes movie but definitely the rich kid who has something to prove.
I’ve always felt like the Emmys has an inferiority complex, like the legacy student who will never live up to their father’s expectations. I think it secretly kills the Television Academy that they’re not thought of in the same esteem as the film industry. Television has given us some amazing things: The Sopranos, Seinfeld, old celebrities doing infomercials. That’s something to feel good about! The slight attitude the Emmys has about this can sometimes wear a little thin, but overall, you like the Emmys. Underneath that little second son snarl, they just want to be loved.
The People’s Choice Award: the over zealous student government type
Example: Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick in Election
If they tell you once, they tell you a thousand times: The People’s Choice Awards are different from other award shows because all the winners are chosen by you, the fans. Vote, vote, vote so your life can have meaning! The PCA’s zealousness about their role in promoting democracy in giving prizes to famous people is like those student government types that treat getting elected Junior Class Secretary with the same fierceness as a Middle Eastern regime change. It’s nice to have a say, but do I really have to vote for best supporting third cameo actress in a Law & Order spin-off?
The Academy Awards: the eternal prom king and queen
Example: Whoever your teen drama/high school movie crush was. For me, it’s Kerr Smith as Jack on Dawson’s Creek a.k.a. the only gay teenager on television circa 2002, or Justin Walker as “cake boy” Christian in Clueless.
Oh, Oscar, you are the award show that all the other award shows hold themselves up to. Even when you’re not at the top of your form (James Franco co-hosting), you set the bar. You’ll never really be besmirched if there’s a misstep (Seth McFarland’s “We saw your boobs”); you can take a risk knowing nothing bad ever sticks to you for that long. Your persona is polished and keenly aware of your importance in the industry. Like all high schoolers in a position of social power, you’re not shy about letting the freshmen know to wait their turn and pay homage at your convenience. You’re pretty, you got into your first choice college and we want to believe your popularity makes you a decent human being. At the end of the day, you know the competition isn’t even close.