Oscar: Symbolic Ritual

The Oscar as Symbolic Ritual

The Oscar show has become an integral part of American culture, an annual symbolic ritual with a lengthy tradition of eight nine years.

Rain or shine, the Oscar show must, will and should go on.

Indeed, on a few occasions only, the Oscar ceremonies were postponed, though they had never been canceled.

The first disturbance in the Oscar show occurred in 1938, when heavy floods delayed the show by one week.

In 1967, a national network strike threatened the April 10 telecast, which, among other things, meant a substantial loss of money.  However, the Academy’s board of directors decided to keep the ceremonies on schedule, with or without television.  Fortunately, the strike was settled just three hours before the show was to begin.

The second delay, by two days, occurred in 1968, when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.  The Academy’s President, Oscar winning actor Gregory Peck, felt that “postponement was the only appropriate gesture of respect,” a feeling that was embraced by the entire industry.

Attempt at Reagan Assassination

In 1981, the ceremonies were suspended by twenty‑four hours after the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan the very day of the scheduled event, March 30.

Ironically, the Oscar show was going to begin with a pre‑taped greeting from the President. Emcee Johnny Carson commented: “Because of the incredible events of yesterday, that old adage, the show must go on, seemed relatively unimportant.”  But the show did go on–only a day later–signaling the eminence of the Oscar as a sacred ritual in American culture.