The very first Oscars were held on May 16, 1929. They were only 15 minutes long, watched by only 270 people, and hosted by screenwriters Douglas Fairbanks and William C. deMille. Since then, a lot has changed.
The ceremony is now broadcast on television, stretches nearly four hours long, and has a different host every year — sorry, a different male host. For all the change the Oscars have gone through in the past almost-century, that's one habit they just can't quite kick (save for a few exceptions). Bob Hope hosted a record 18 ceremonies, with Billy Crystal coming in second at nine. When put in context with the rest of Hollywood, of course, this doesn't stand out. The Golden Globes, the Emmys, and all the late-night shows are also dominated by male hosts. But after so many years, this homogeneity doesn't seem to be doing award shows any favors.
The big events that actors and creators gear up for year after year have slowly dwindled when it comes to their audience sizes. While the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards stayed consistent with their previous Sunday ratings (they had a brief stint airing on Saturdays, it's a whole thing) and the 2017 Grammys were pretty on par with the year before, the Emmys, the Golden Globes, and the Oscars didn't fare as well. The Stephen Colbert-hosted Emmys narrowly avoided a new low, instead tying with 2016's numbers. The 2017 Oscars Best Picture viral gaff, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, still didn't stop the telecast from hitting a nine-year low with 32.9 million viewers and a 9.1 rating among adults 18 to 49. Not even the buzz around #MeToo and Time's Up could save the 2018 Golden Globes, hosted by Seth Meyers, which also dipped in ratings from the year before. Here is an idea for those in the Academy trying to figure out how to give their babies a ratings boost: have women host!
The number of women who have hosted the big award shows — without a man as co-host — is shockingly low. In fact, just six women have hosted the Emmys (Angela Lansbury, Ellen Degeneres, and Patricia Richardson), the Golden Globes (Tina Fey and Amy Poehler), and the Oscars (Ellen Degeneres and Whoopi Goldberg), either solo or with one of the other women by their side. We saw Anne Hathaway on stage with James Franco at the 2011 Oscars, and Jane Fonda hosted in '86 alongside Alan Alda and Robin Williams, but rarely are prominent women in Hollywood trusted to go it alone, which is made even more baffling by the fact that it could be the answer to this awards show ratings slump.
In 2013, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler took the stage to host the 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards for what would be the first of three consecutive gigs. Their initial appearance ended up giving NBC its biggest Golden Globes ratings in six years: 19.7 million viewers and a 6.4 rating among adults ages 18 to 49, a 28% increase in the demo from 2012.
When Ellen DeGeneres hosted the 2014 Oscars, she brought with her a 10-year high that attracted 43 million viewers, beating out Seth MacFarlane's "We Saw Your Boobs" fiasco (which, admittedly, still fared well in ratings). But even when DeGeneres isn't smashing ratings, she remains a safe bet for both the Oscars and the Emmys, which both had strong ratings when she hosted them in 2007 and 2005, respectively.
Even the shows that weren't smash hits were still, you know, good. While Jane Lynch's 2011 Emmys saw a drop in ratings, she held onto the coveted 18 to 49 demographic, besting Jimmy Fallon's 2010 ratings in the same demo.
Of course, there are exceptions to this. Whoopi Goldberg (the only woman of color to host an awards show solo) hosted the Oscars in '93, '96, '99, and '02, and each time ratings took a small dip from the year before. But this isn't necessarily an anomaly, at least where the Oscars are concerned. Recent repeat male hosts include Billy Crystal, Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, and Steve Martin, and with the exception of Crystal, who must possess some kind of magic, their ratings have both dropped and risen without much fanfare. This fluctuation hasn't once put their gender on the chopping block. In fact, Chris Rock's 2005 Oscars earned him a spot on Time's Top Ten Worst Awards-Show Hosts, but that didn't stop him from being invited back in 2016.
This Sunday, Kristen Bell makes history as the first-ever host of the Screen Actors Guild Awards. We can wait with baited breath to see if there's a spike in ratings from last year, but the truth is a woman shouldn't have to smash ratings to be given a chance, because that certainly hasn't stopped the men — and they know it.
"Considering what has been going on this year with powerful men and their terrible behavior in Hollywood, a lot of people thought it would be more appropriate for a woman to host these awards, and they may be right," Meyers began his 2018 Golden Globes monologue. "But if it’s any consolation, I’m a man with absolutely no power in Hollywood. I’m not even the most powerful Seth in the room tonight."
He did pass the mic off to the women in a recreation of his popular late night segment "Jokes Seth Can't Tell," but some of the best moments of the night happened when a woman was front and center, like Natalie Portman calling out the lack of women nominated for Best Director, and Oprah's unforgettable acceptance speech. Women talked, and people listened, with both of these moments captivating the internet almost immediately. The men, however, still managed to dominate the stage without saying much of anything at all.
In the wake of #MeToo, Time's Up, the lack of women in the directors chair, the lack of women in the writer's chair — do I need to keep going? Women need more representation, and their voices need to be heard. Putting them front and center at a highly visible event like an award show would move the conversation in a meaningful direction. What a better place to start then on stage when the whole world is watching?