An Institutional and Contested Persona Reading of the Academy Awards
Keywords:Oscars, Awards, Taste, Meta-Collective Complex, Non-Human Persona
This article applies a persona studies approach to the case study of the Academy Awards. Key literature is used to situate an ‘Oscar’ persona within existing conceptualisations from the discipline. Oscar represents a composite persona that encapsulates an event, its broadcast, an Academy of individuals, and a larger discursive industry. It is a non-human persona that is coloured by distinctly human elements; it is collectively constructed on a massive scale, the process of which inviting constant contestation. Drawing from these theorisations I conduct a textual analysis to reach a persona reading of Oscar. As collective authors of the persona, members of the Academy, associated performers, and discursive contributors employ three distinct and consistent persona strategies: the Functional, the Spiritual, and the Ironic. Oscar’s taste-making function is enabled by extravagant staging and tempered by expressions of philanthropy yet performed with ironic self-effacement. The cumulative effect of these three performances allows Oscar manoeuvrability across the requirements of the different cultural contexts of each year. As well as providing a unique prism for understanding the Oscars as an institution, this work demarcates different levels of collective persona construction, challenging notions of central authority in production and performance, and accounting for the ongoing constructive work of publics.
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