The autumn of the Oscars

There are conservatives, including the president of the United States, who take a special kind of glee in the declining ratings for the Academy Awards, which hit an all-time low this weekend under the stewardship of Jimmy Kimmel and in the shadow of hideous revelations about the film industry’s tolerance for rape.

You’ll get no glee for me. The decline of the Oscars is overdetermined: It’s nobody’s fault and everybody’s, shaped by the same trends driving down Big Event ratings all over and the same diversification of tastes and values and ideas, plus all the technological and economic shifts undercutting the old studio business models, all the inevitably shortsighted choices made by philistines in SoCal corporate suites, and all of our collective decisions to watch or not to watch what Hollywood churns out.

But it is still a decline to be regretted, a loss not only of entertainment and spectacle but also of the cultural common ground that our last mass-market art form once supplied.