Movie Stars in the Flesh: The Live Red Carpet Oscars Event

02 december 2014 / Helle Kannik Haastrup
Peer reviewed
In this article the live red carpet event at the Academy Awards is regarded as a specific media genre which has become a matrix of recognition and success in contemporary film and media culture. The analysis includes a brief history of how this part of the Academy Awards has been mediated, how the event has a particular narrative structure and visual style as well as how the stars are adhering to particular codes of conduct in terms of body language and self-presentation. The live red carpet Oscar’s event thus becomes a multifunctional cross-media platform for the image management of the stars, endorsement of fashion as well as film art with a long afterlife online.
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Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe arriving at the 1953 Academy Awards.

The live red carpet event at the Academy Awards documenting the arrival of the movie stars should, I will argue, be regarded as a genre in itself in film and media culture. Contemporary research into celebrity culture acknowledges the pivotal role of the red carpet as a workplace within the film industry as well as a platform for fashion (e.g. Gamson 1994, Cosgrave 2007, Gibson 2013, MacDonald 2013).[1] The live Oscars red carpet thus seems to have established itself as a matrix of celebrity recognition and success and this can be explained more fully by studying it as a media genre. In order to characterise the live Oscars red carpet as a media genre in the factual entertainment category, I combine theories of celebrity culture with theories on media events, para-social communication, performing body language and film style. Basically, I make a distinction between the narrative and the audio-visual style and the narrative is constituted simply by the arrival of the well-dressed stars on their way to the ceremony. Recurring elements include stars posing for the photographers and giving interviews. The live telecast also provides the audience with a double perspective on the performance of the stars on the red carpet from both the front region (the posing) and middle region (the interviews). The audio-visual style follows a certain pattern and the body language of movie stars adheres to two particular codes of conduct. How these elements interact in the live Oscars red carpet as a media genre is demonstrated in the following analysis. In order to briefly address the cross-media “spreadability” of the footage and photographs from the Oscars red carpet, online samples from three different types of websites (news, fashion and gossip) are analysed. However, to explore how the live Oscars red carpet event has achieved its current status, a look at the history of the Oscars red carpet and how it is closely connected to the ceremony is needed.

A brief history of the mediation of the Oscars red carpet

Many of the basic features of the red carpet as genre seem to be present from the beginning: the arrival of selected movie stars and film workers – the dressing up for an elegant glamorous evening – but in different forms and through different media.[2] The first awards ceremony in 1929 was held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel where photographers documented the event.[3] As Levy (1987: 25) argues, the agenda from the beginning was “to bestow prestige on the event by including dignitaries from the cultural and political milieu”. Throughout the thirties and forties, the radio reported live on a regular basis (Hilliker 2012), and photographers and news cameras also documented the arrival of the glamorous stars. A clip from newsreel recordings from the Academy Awards in 1940 shows the stars arriving, and the voice-over poses the questions, “Who will win?” and “Do you want glamour, Mr. and Mrs. Audience? Here is Hedy Lamarr […] and Scarlett O’Hara in her glorious self, Vivien Leigh”.[4]  The voice-over thus enhances the suspense of the event as well as the extraordinariness of the movie stars.

In 1953, the ceremony was broadcast on television for the first time from both Los Angeles and New York.[5] The host was comedian Bob Hope, who pointed out to the viewers that “glamorous stars are going to be in your homes tonight” (Hollywood stars were not usually seen on TV at this time). In this broadcast, the arrival of the stars was barely mentioned by the reporter as the camera was panning along the Ambassador Hotel in L.A. where the ceremony was being held: “here are the stands and the marquee where there is a group of people still coming in… Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh…”. However, photographs documenting the arrivals seemed to accentuate the glamour quite differently, with movie stars like Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe gladly posing.[6]

In 1966 the Oscar Awards were broadcast in colour for the first time, with a very visible red carpet covering the entire entrance area and square of Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. A montage shown as an introduction to the live telecast presented the stars hurrying past the photographers: Warren Beatty and Lee Marvin in their tuxedos, Natalie Wood and Julie Andrews in gowns and fur coats. The reporter’s voice-over quickly names the stars as they appeared and the fans shouting from the bleachers were audible. In the following period, different kinds of broadcast pre-shows covering the red carpet appeared and usually there was a brief montage at the beginning of the telecast.[7]

However, in 1999, the Academy decided to produce autonomous red carpet live shows, each lasting thirty minutes. Different names – such as Countdown or An Evening at the Oscars – were used. From 2011 until the latest live Oscars red carpet in 2014, the shows were extended to ninety minutes. In recent years, the red carpet shows have been streamed live on the homepage of the ABC network. The red carpet event in connection with the Academy Awards has been a cross-media event from the beginning, dependent on print media, news reels and photography. Today, widespread access to photographs on social media, where they can be shared and commented on by stars, fans and the press, seems only to have increased interest. The red carpet event has thus become increasingly popular, judging from its presence on the news on TV, photographs/newsreel footage, in fan magazines, in radio and TV live broadcasts, online streaming as well as social media distribution. Still, what has survived from the 1930s until today is the live broadcast (on television) of both the red carpet event and the awards ceremony. The live transmission – through which the event is shared with millions of other viewers – is thus essential to the study of the red carpet event. Various social media platforms have accentuated the experience of live simultaneity. Thus the Oscars red carpet is interesting because it is a live media event broadcast globally which then has a long afterlife online as digital photographs and videos have an inherent spreadability (Jenkins, Ford and Green 2013).

However, contrary to the paparazzi photographs of stars and celebrities when they are “off duty” (Mendelsohn 2007), the red carpet images are not restricted primarily to the tabloid media. Photographs of film stars from the red carpet transcend the tabloid genre, because they manage to show the star both in a live telecast and at work, enabling a double perspective when showing the stars performing in the middle region (interviews) and front stage (posing) as well as the less choreographed moments in between.

The red carpet as a narrative within the event

The live broadcast of the Academy Awards, including the red carpet, is a media event and in that capacity it is a combination of the “contest” and the “coronation” types (Dayan and Katz 1992). In one sense, it is a competition: there are selected nominees with only one winner declared in each category, and winner of the most important award – the best picture category – is revealed at the very end of the show. However, the Oscars also function as a form of “coronation”, continuing the tradition of honouring the work of the film industry. Certain rituals are followed in the way the show is planned and executed. The live Oscars red carpet works as an introduction, both in terms of a presentation of the principal contestants (the nominees), and as a ritual ceremony with traditional modes of performance. This ritual component is also relevant in terms of body language, as we shall see in the analysis of specific stars’ performance on the red carpet. However, the red carpet also has a specific (albeit very simple) dramatic structure consisting of a beginning – in which the reporters “stall” and talk impatiently about the event because very few of the major stars arrive early – then the middle section, in which presenters and lesser known actors arrive, and the final section, in which the big stars arrive, saving the most famous ones for last. In 2014 this was Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. This arrival of the stars – like royalty, the biggest stars arrive just before the ceremony starts – comes across as heavily staged and choreographed.

The authority of the Oscars as a media genre and event

The importance of being present at the Oscars for actors is explained by the fact that the event has authority as a global event with millions of viewers. This is for three interconnected reasons according to Paul McDonald (2013: 231): firstly, the Academy Awards are supported “by the commercial and cultural dominance of the Hollywood film in the world’s leading film markets”. Secondly, the Awards have authority because they represent the American film industry. Thirdly, the event “enact[s] a ritual of exclusion, conducted under the authority of professional peers” (McDonald 2013: 231-2).

Winning an Oscar can thus make a difference for the actor or director (as well as the many other types of film workers) and it can make a difference for the marketing of the winning film as well – coming out on DVD and streaming platforms if not still in theatres – because the label “Academy Award-winning” will now always be attached. Being present at the live Oscars red carpet is regarded as an honour in the industry and participants are expected to act accordingly. This is evident in the way the movie stars carry themselves as well as the visual style of the genre.

Visual style – framing the stars on the red carpet

The Oscars red carpet live telecast is usually introduced with an elaborate bird’s-eye-view, with craning shots overlooking the event extending into Hollywood Boulevard. After the introduction, the visual style usually settles on medium close-ups for interviews (usually with two cameras), and tilts and zooms focusing on the bodies and clothes of the movies stars. The style of photography when filming a star in a dress is usually a tilt from the hemline of the dress and up, or vice versa, as well as a zoom-in on details of the dress, accessories (jewellery or a clutch) or the face. The tilting of the camera, documenting the details of the dress as well as of the body, could be compared to what is popularly known as “the elevator look”: “checking someone out” by looking up and down, with a subtext of critical evaluation. In another context this look would perhaps be deemed inappropriate, but because the context is film stars and fashion on the red carpet, it has become part of the genre.

To utilise a concept from classical film theory, these images from the red carpet are indeed examples of Mulvey’s (1975) “to-be-looked-at-ness”. However, in this factual entertainment broadcast, the visual style is not exclusive to the “male gaze”, but should perhaps more productively be understood as a “fashion gaze”, making the stars’ bodies and clothes available for both scrutiny and evaluation. These images encourage attention to detail and come across as informative, but one should perhaps bear in mind that this type of camera movement is exclusively used when filming female stars. Below, I use the young movie star Jennifer Lawrence and the more established Leonardo DiCaprio as case studies of celebrity appearances from the 2014 Academy awards.

Red carpet live as genre – disclosing the industrial nature of celebrity work

As Joshua Gamson (1994: 61) has argued, film premiers – and by extension awards shows – are “maybe the clearest example of how the industrial nature of celebrity works”. When viewers are watching the red carpet at the Oscars, they get live access not only to interviews with film stars but also to an insight, however temporary, into this celebrity process. Gamson (ibid.) characterizes the red carpet as a “true assembly line, small parts in the more elaborate manufacture of fame: publicist brings person to media, person pauses, photographers shoot, person becomes image, image is disseminated”. At awards shows there are “program organizers, who see to it that they [the stars] pause at a series of posing stops and that they move on to avoid a celebrity-posing traffic jam” (Gamson 1994: 60).

This celebrity process is uniquely unfolded in an extended live version in order to make way for the many movie stars present simultaneously at the live Oscars red carpet. Using Goffman’s (1959) distinction between “front stage” and “back stage” to characterise the behaviour at the live Oscars red carpet in 2014, it becomes clear that we have access to both dimensions of the performance. In the live broadcast we see the movie stars’ dresses being arranged, re-arranged, trains unfolded or held by assistants during interviews in order to be ready to perform the front-stage appearance for the photographers and the cameramen. We are allowed to see movie stars impatiently waiting their turn for an interview while the reporter addresses the viewer, unaware that they are visible in live footage. To take the stage metaphor even further with Meyrowitz’s  (1987) interpretation of behaviour in the realm of modern media, the live red carpet as genre becomes a performance in the “front region” and can, I will argue, be divided into two codes of conduct. When performing, however, the stars have been trained in decorum in order to avoid behaving in the wrong way in this artificial yet professionally important context (Goffman 1959: 59). I propose that, in terms of body language, it makes sense to talk about a red carpet code of conduct. On the live Oscars red carpet there are two types of conduct in terms of body language. Code of conduct I is connected to the relaxed demeanour of stars being interviewed, while code of conduct II refers to the artificiality of posing for the live cameras.

Code of conduct I: The ‘relaxed’ interview and para-social relations on the red carpet

The slow walking on the Oscars red carpet between interviews and photo-sessions may be compared to a parade. The movie stars are cheered on by a selected audience in the bleachers and may wave and smile at their fans. When movie stars are interviewed, their body language is not as controlled as when they are posing. The topics of conversation and their relaxed attitudes sometimes give way to involuntary expressions of anxiety or even plain discomfort in their designer gowns. This can be explained by the mood and ambiance that the entertainment reporters try to create in these (pre-planned) mini-interviews – a relaxed and positive atmosphere. The reporter, or, in Horton and Wohl’s (1957) terms, the persona, addresses the star in a non-threatening way, establishing a bond of confidentiality. Characteristically for these interviews, the reporters sing the praises of the stars, expressing admiration of their career, abilities, their family and their looks, perhaps even making a joke and teasing the star in a friendly way.

There is one main difference between the male and the female stars with regard to the topics addressed in the interviews: the female stars are usually asked who has designed their clothes (“who are you wearing?”), as well as how they chose the outfit and why, whereas the male stars (though also wearing designer clothes) are typically asked about their latest role and the film they are nominated for. Topics common to both male and female stars centre around their families or anticipate the results to come, explicitly articulating the question, “who will win?”, and thus linking the red carpet event to the upcoming ceremony. The reporters connect the audiences with the stars, directly addressing both the audience (by looking at the camera) and the star as an old friend as interested in the Oscars as they are. This air of confidentiality is also emphasised by the reporter’s body language: hugging and kissing the stars, slightly touching a shoulder and smiling disarmingly. Every interview is finished in an upbeat tone of voice and with a look at the camera, connecting the live broadcast to one of the other reporters on the red carpet with a “back to you, Robin” (for example). In order to blend in, the reporters are also dressed in designer gowns or tuxedos and – although not in the movie business as such – may be seen as non-competitive participants.

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The interview – Jennifer Lawrence. Video: YouTube

In the interview with Jennifer Lawrence in 2014, the reporter addresses her performance and collaboration with American Hustle (2013) director David O. Russell, as well as the role of her fingernails in the movie and her Dior dress. At one point during the brief interview, Lawrence suddenly waves her hand and in order to explain this to the viewers, the reporter says, “was that a fly?” The incident testifies to the fact that live television always has a catastrophic element of the unplanned. Returning to the task, the reporter inquires, “and you are wearing Dior?” Lawrence retorts with irony, “how did you guess?”, implying that it is a well-known fact that she is endorsing Dior in adverts. The reporter later states – commenting on Lawrence’s necklace placed on her back – “next season we’ll all be wearing our necklaces backwards”, while adjusting it in a motherly way. “Intimacy at a distance” is thus established through the dialogue as well as the body language between the reporter and the star. Lawrence’s relaxed and unceremonious behaviour, her influence as a fashion icon, her youth and her willingness to experiment with fashion (e.g. through the necklace) are emphasised.

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Interview with Leonardo DiCaprio. Video: YouTube

In the interview with Leonardo DiCaprio, the main theme of the conversation is his collaboration with Martin Scorsese. He elaborates extensively on The Aviator (2004) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), which he not only starred in but also produced. Almost the same pattern emerges – as with Lawrence’s interview, the reporter sings his praises professionally. However, when the interview is almost over, she remarks that DiCaprio’s mother is waiting for him and that she (the reporter) likes his navy blue tuxedo (by Armani). He then smiles for the first time during the interview: “It is navy blue – thank you”, and thus she succeeds in making him react spontaneously to her by paying him a compliment. The agenda for DiCaprio is to accentuate his role as a producer and collaborator with Scorsese. His performance is thus friendly but he is determined to talk about making movies. At the beginning, he slightly nervously rubs his hands together and then settles for a calm posture, folding his hands in front of him.

In both interviews, the relaxed version of the code of conduct of body language is in play, though Lawrence is younger and more vivacious, with a sense of irony towards the whole set up. DiCaprio has an agenda and insists on representing himself as the consummate professional movie star with an artistic mission. However, both interviews are successful in inviting the viewers to connect with the star, in that they accentuate the ordinary and provide a peek into the middle region with “your mum is waiting”, a surprise smile from DiCaprio and the adjusting of the necklace and ironic comments from Lawrence.

The red carpet code of conduct II: Body language and live posing

What these photographs and recordings do show are for the most part shapely, groomed and controlled bodies posing in a rather similar fashion, showing of their dresses as well as their figures. It is obvious that the stars have gone to great lengths to look effortlessly elegant. The movie stars’ bodies are (with few exceptions) all groomed and toned bodies, often with the help not only of special diets and physical training, but also plastic surgery or the more common non-surgical cosmetic procedures in order to look relaxed and fresh and to maintain (or create) a certain image. This kind of high maintenance of the star’s body is, however, never addressed on the red carpet but only implied. In terms of specific body language, the posture is “shoulders back, tummies in”, with a raised chin and a pleasant demeanour for both female and male stars alike.

Judging by the body language, the aim of the red carpet code of conduct concerning live posing on the red carpet is to look slim on the photographs. This is achieved by having one or both hands on the hip (which makes the waist look smaller) in order to not look stiff. By bending their legs and/or arms slightly, the stars can create subtle angles with their bodies and avoid appearing bigger than they actually are.[8] The poses of the male stars are usually relaxed; they often smile and make a thumbs-up, point at photographers, wave in a funny way or fold their hands in front of them (to look calm and statesman-like or to show off a watch). The code of conduct concerning the pose is a well-rehearsed performance. How similar and uniform the body language is of both men and women is obvious in the red carpet montage from The Guardian:[9]

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In Goffman’s (1959: 59-60) terms, this is “maintenance of expressive control”, and this is made explicit when an accidental gesture “is different from the definition officially projected”. Deviation from the code of conduct can be accidental, for example in 2014 when Jennifer Lawrence tripped when arriving at the live Oscar red carpet and had to be helped to her feet by a police officer, or it can be deliberate, as when Benedict Cumberbatch “photo-bombed” the serious posing of rock band U2 and made them look both self-important and stiff.

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Benedict Cumberbatch photobombing U2 on the red carpet. Photo: Reuters/Mike Blake

These deviations can also be deliberate attempts to break the rules and thus stray from the code of conduct. This happened at the live Oscars red carpet in 2012, when Angelina Jolie planted her hand on her hip and forcefully stuck her right leg out in front of her Versace designer gown. She repeated the pose when presenting an award at the ceremony, as did director and scriptwriter Alexander Payne when accepting the award for best original screenplay for The Descendants (Alexander Payne, US, 2011). Jolie’s pose was judged as being in poor taste by the press because she opted for a rather different and assertive pose than is usually seen.[10] This indicates that the norms for posing and body language on the red carpet are rather conservative and strict, as is made obvious when the unwritten rules are broken. The code of conduct is more relaxed and accepting of improvisation in the interviews, however.

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Angelina Jolie making a stand at the 2012 Academy Awards.

Storytelling bodies and stars as brand

On the red carpet, it is very obvious that stars are brands. If Tom Hanks’s or Cate Blanchett’s name is on the poster – denoting a specific body – it is a commercial offering combining elements of familiarity with uniqueness (McDonald 2013: 49). It becomes clear on the red carpet that movie stars appear in the product (the movie) but also are the product (Dyer 1986: 5). The stars who are interviewed are predominantly nominees and presenters. However, the Academy has the opportunity to include big stars who have not been nominated when they invite the award presenters. The star as a specific body and name is presented at the live Oscars red carpet and thus becomes an advert or reminder of a film now available on DVD/streaming platforms, or a film opening soon in theatres. This is usually emphasized in the pre-planned interview on the red carpet because the stars are asked what they have been doing or what they will do next. At the 2013 live Oscars red carpet, the highest grossing film of 2012 was represented by Chris Evans, who starred as Captain America in Avengers Assemble (Joss Whedon, 2012). Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx appeared on the red carpet as a preview of the upcoming action film White House Down (Roland Emmerich), which opened in June 2013. Two nominated female stars on the Oscars red carpet in 2012 were an exception to the rule because they both had starred in very successful films in terms of box office revenues that same year, as well as in critically acclaimed movies for which they were nominated for an Oscar (which they also went on to win). Jennifer Lawrence was nominated for her role in Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell, 2012) and starred as Katniss Everdeen in the box office hit The Hunger Games (Gary Ross, 2012). Anne Hathaway starred in the musical Les Misérables (Tom Hooper, 2012) as well as playing Selina Kyle in Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises (2012). The presence of the movie stars on the Oscars red carpet embodies a connection to the films that they have or will be starring in and to the characters they have formerly played.

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Oscar 2014: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence. Photo: Photo PA.

Hollywood stars, extra-cinematic identification and red carpet fashion

The star is an “achieved celebrity” and thus has a prominent place in the hierarchy of celebrities because their stardom is based on merit (Rojek 2001). Stars appeal to an audience because they combine the ordinary (that which is recognizable) and the extraordinary (that which is desirable but unattainable) (Dyer 1979: 39). Stacey (1994: 126) argues that the film star not only invites identification when playing a character on screen, but also invites audiences to identify with his or her public image – the extra-cinematic identification. The star can encourage consumption of clothes and make-up and can work as a role model for the fan. As Gibson (2013: 66) points out, in recent film culture, what is important is not only what the star is wearing on-screen, but also off-screen at spectacular events. This is why red carpet events have become a desirable platform for designers seeking exposure. To understand the star as brand, we must consider two key dimensions. Firstly, there is the “star as brand” within the film industry, and secondly there are the so-called “commercial extensions”: endorsement deals for products other than films (McDonald 2013: 59). The live Oscars red carpet is a good example of the meshing together of “star as brand” and the star as engaging in “commercial extensions”. When wearing designer outfits on the red carpet, the movie star does both things simultaneously – being a movie brand and endorsing a particular fashion house in a live media event broadcast globally.

The interconnectedness of the “star as brand” and the “commercial extensions” is addressed in the interview on the red carpet because the stars are asked who designed their clothes. At the Oscars in 2014, Cate Blanchett was wearing Armani Privé as well as endorsing an Armani perfume in advertisements at the time of the Oscars, and Matthew McConaughey was wearing a tuxedo from Dolce & Gabbana (while also endorsing their products). However, the star image is a complex combination of most popular films, presence in advertisements for luxury brands, and successful performance on the Oscars red carpet. This complexity of the star image and its different dimensions has become an integral part of the live Oscars red carpet as genre.

Evaluating dress and body language – three online examples of repurposing

Photographs from the Oscars red carpet are available online on news sites such as The New York Times, CNN, blogs like The Huffington Post, fashion sites like Vogue.com as well as celebrity gossip sites as Wonderwall.msn.com. In other words, the live broadcast event has a long afterlife online – it is disseminated, commented on, and embedded on official platforms as well as shared on Twitter and Facebook. These photos from the red carpet are dispersed almost immediately and “repurposed” in Jenkins' (2013) terms. Firstly, as an annual film-cultural event in Hollywood for a global audience, it qualifies as news, and secondly it is an important night for the fashion industry because all eyes are on the dresses – “who are you wearing?” Thirdly, it is an important event in celebrity culture, because the audience has the chance to see movie stars in the flesh, live and in broad daylight. These three different agendas – mainstream news, fashion journalism and celebrity gossip – are reflected in the way the red carpet at the Oscars is covered on three major websites of different genres.

In order to demonstrate the differences between the ways the red carpet photos are used on different platforms, I will analyse the coverage on The New York Times website, Vogue.com and Wonderwall.msn.com. On Nytimes.com, the red carpet photographs are organised into colour-co-ordinated sections, accompanied by details on the designers as well as the jewellery worn by the stars[11]. The coverage of the red carpet is set out as a standard report of an event in the film industry, documenting the participants – not only the young stars but also directors and producers. On the fashion site Vogue.com, a selection of red carpet photos are reviewed by the contributing editor André Leon Talley, who thinks that “[t]he strapless zeitgeist created a ho-hum carpet vibe”. Thus Talley finds the red carpet fashion of 2013 rather boring (apart from Hugh Jackman and his wife in matching Gucci tuxedos) and ends up “wishing for Björk to turn up with her dead swan dress”.[12] On the celebrity gossip site Wonderwall.com, users are invited to evaluate the look of the female stars – and invited to express “your reaction” by choosing between emotional expression and popular online abbreviations of verbal expressions (“Awww”, “OMG”, “HOT”, “LOL”)[13]. In any case, the Oscars red carpet coverage seems to invite different experiences of the event depending on the genre of the website. However, the evaluation of dresses as well as bodies and body language is inherent in all three.

A media genre and a matrix for fame: Choreographed bodies and live intimacy at a distance

The live Oscars red carpet – as this analysis has shown – can productively be regarded as a media genre as well as an integral part of contemporary Hollywood film culture. The key elements include the live telecast and the fact that only celebrities of merit are present, emphasised by the cultural authority of the Academy Awards. In historical perspective, press coverage, photographs and footage from the event was present almost from the beginning and has only increased since then, benefitting from the rise of digital media.  The cross-media presence, both in terms of the official presentation of the event (telecast and streaming) as well as on news, fashion and gossip sites and social media, gives viewers the option of participating in different forums evaluating the event and the performance of the stars online.

The live Oscars red carpet as genre has a specific dramatic structure as both a “competition” and “coronation” type of event. The visual style emphasizes the spectacular and glamorous staging of the telecast and combines “to-be-looked-at-ness” tilts with traditional medium shots in interviews. The red carpet code of conduct in terms of body language in posing and in interviews is surprisingly uniform and becomes evident only when it is broken. When the stars appear in a designer dress or a tuxedo on the red carpet, they are in their physical capacity simultaneously a “star as brand” as well as a star as endorser of a particular fashion house. At the live Oscars red carpet the audience is offered a double perspective, with intimacy at a distance with movie stars, as well as an insight into how the performance and body language is staged (for the photographers). The live Oscar red carpet thus presents a matrix for fame based on merit but wrapped in a glamorous context – easily spreadable, open to assessment online by the participatory audience, and still a powerful institution in the global realm of Hollywood.


Notes

[1] The prehistory of the red carpet has two important connections, which will not be discussed in this context. Firstly, there are the affinities to royal processions which make the ruling class and their power and excellence visible for the commoners. Secondly, the red carpet is often compared to the fashion industry’s catwalk/runway. Gibson (2013) even sees the Oscar red carpet as the greatest catwalk of the 21st century. However, the very significant difference is that the live Oscar red carpet is not selling the latest fashion clothing – rather it globally exposes brands and even stars as endorser of brands in a live telecast. These perspectives will not be addressed here as they merit an article of their own. [Return]

[2] This genre analysis of Oscars red carpet broadcast is based on the broadcast from The Oscars Red Carpet Live! (ABC network) via the Danish channel TV2 in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. I refer primarily to the 2013 and 2014 broadcasts because they are currently available on YouTube: 2013: [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2doKq40CYlo]
2014:  [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RL7lX-U8yTk]. [Return]

[3] Link to photograph (1929): [http://www.oscars.org/awards/academyawards/legacy/ceremony/1st.html]. [Return]

[4] Link to 1940 Academy Awards footage (newsreel): [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2dh8j6SeYk]. [Return]

[5] Because many screen actors also starred in plays in New York, the red carpet was a bicoastal tradition until 1957. [Return]

[6] Photograph: [http://www.shrimptoncouture.com/blogs/curate/11562357-vintage-awards-season-reem-jazar]. [Return]

[7] On Oscar.com, segments from the original telecast can be viewed. Usually there is a brief montage (not live) of the arrivals from 1966 until 1999, when the Academy integrated the red carpet into the live broadcast. [Return]

[8] Online posing ‘instructions’: [http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/oscar-red-carpet-tips-looking-422693], [http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/awards/strike-a-pose-the-six-oscar-red-carpet-poses-you-can-expect-to-see-tomorrow/story-e6frfpli-1226842926763]. [Return]

[9] The Guardian’s red carpet montage from the Oscar’s 2014: [http://www.theguardian.com/film/video/2014/mar/03/oscars-2014-red-carpet-fashion-video]. [Return]

[10] The Huffington Post 2012: “Angelina Jolie Right Leg at 2012 Oscars Takes Over the Internet”: [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/27/angelina-jolie-right-leg-_n_1303865.html]. [Return]

[11] Red carpet photo-story available on Nytimes.com: [http://www.nytimes.com/projects/oscars/2013/red-carpet/mobile.html]. [Return]

[12]  “Red Carpet Report: André Leon Talley on Oscar Night Fashion”, Vogue, [http://www.vogue.com/vogue-daily/article/andr-leon-talley-on-the-2013-oscars-red-carpet/#1]. [Return]

[13] Oscars 2013 on wonderwall.com: [http://wonderwall.msn.com/movies/2013-academy-awards-23879.gallery]. [Return]

References

Cosgrave, Bronwyn. 2007. Made for Each Other. Fashion and the Academy Awards. New York: Bloomsbury.

Dayan, Daniel and Elihu Katz. 1992. Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Dyer, Richard. 1979. Stars. London: British Film Institute.

Dyer, Richard. 1986. Heavenly Bodies. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

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Kildeangivelse: Haastrup, Helle Kannik (2014): Movie Stars in the Flesh: The Live Red Carpet Oscars Event. Kosmorama #258 (www.kosmorama.org).

Helle Kannik Haastrup / Associate Professor
Department of Scandinavian Studies and Linguistics
University of Copenhagen
Kildeangivelse: Haastrup, Helle Kannik (2014): Movie Stars in the Flesh: The Live Red Carpet Oscars Event. Kosmorama #258 (www.kosmorama.org)

Kosmorama #245

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