What the Oscars metaphorically tell us about international relations

I can’t believe I watched the whole thing — the 2010 Academy Awards show made Avatar seem tightly paced.  Seriously, the show went downhill the moment Neil Patrick Harris left the stage. To be fair, there were no real surprises among the actual winners, draining any suspense from the proceedings. Of course, this is a ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images
GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images
GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

I can't believe I watched the whole thing -- the 2010 Academy Awards show made Avatar seem tightly paced.  Seriously, the show went downhill the moment Neil Patrick Harris left the stage. To be fair, there were no real surprises among the actual winners, draining any suspense from the proceedings.

Of course, this is a Foreign Policy blog -- so are there any lessons that can be drawn about world politics from such a pop culture phenomenon?  Actually, yes: 

1)  Clearly, security studies trumps international political economy when it comes to the Academy Awards.  I noted yesterday that Avatar, The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds were all about war and resistance.  Those films received ten academy awards.  The only nominated film that addressed IPE was Up in The Air, and it got shut out. 

I can’t believe I watched the whole thing — the 2010 Academy Awards show made Avatar seem tightly paced.  Seriously, the show went downhill the moment Neil Patrick Harris left the stage. To be fair, there were no real surprises among the actual winners, draining any suspense from the proceedings.

Of course, this is a Foreign Policy blog — so are there any lessons that can be drawn about world politics from such a pop culture phenomenon?  Actually, yes: 

1)  Clearly, security studies trumps international political economy when it comes to the Academy Awards.  I noted yesterday that Avatar, The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds were all about war and resistance.  Those films received ten academy awards.  The only nominated film that addressed IPE was Up in The Air, and it got shut out. 

2)  That said, the awards also suggest that in Hollywood, Thucydides’ dictum that "the strong do what they can, the weak do what they must" does not entirely hold.  Despite being the highest grossing picture in history, Avatar got clobbered by The Hurt Locker. So much for financial power translating into prestige. That said, I’m pretty sure Kathryn Bigelow could take James Cameron in a fight, so maybe there was a different kind of power at work here. 

3)  Hey, that was some hard-core bargaining going on between Disney and Cablevision as the awards show was beginning. 

4)  The person with the greatest amount of "soft power" in Hollywood?  Tina Fey. The woman could be paired with an eggplant and she’d get the eggplant some laughs.   

5)  Clearly, the Academy Awards has problems dealing with asymmetric threats. How else do you explain a three-minute homage to horror films in which the entire zombie genre gets less than a second of screen time??!!! Hello?!  Chucky from Child’s Play got a longer shot, for crying out loud! 

Fools — they clearly haven’t thought this through. I mean, based on the John Hughes tribute, Judd Nelson is already a member of the living dead. 

One final thought:  if there was any justice in the world, the Best Visual Effects Oscar would have been a tie between Demi Moore and Michelle Pfeiffer. In general, I found a rough but direct correlation between age and fashion sense. The older the actress, the more chic they looked. 

Post your own thoughts in the comments.

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he is the co-director of the Russia and Eurasia Program. Twitter: @dandrezner

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