On Sunday, the 85th Oscar award ceremony takes place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. The annual Academy Award event is eagerly anticipated and watched around the world. This year you can download an app for a virtual backstage pass. Glitz and glamour are the order of the day and celebrities strut their stuff wearing expensive finery loaned to them by fashion-houses. As if that was not enough, valuable “swag bags” are also on offer.
Swag bags, or as people in the UK call them “goodie bags," are given to the losers. The "Everyone Wins at the Oscars Nominee Gift Bags" are a nice little bonus or consolation prize. Oscar nominees who fail to win an award, the famous little gold man, will receive one of these bags worth around $45,000.
According to Reuters, the swag bags contain “trips to Australia, Hawaii and Mexico, personal training sessions, condoms, a bottle of tequila, hand-illustrated tennis shoes, appointments to receive injectable fillers and 'portion-controlled' dinnerware for those watching their figure."
In 2007, the practice of handing out Oscar swag bags ended after scrutiny by the US tax authorities. Distinctive Assets, a Los Angeles based marketing firm creates and gives out the gift bags, but they are not endorsed by the Academy. The IRS expects recipients to declare the swag bags on tax returns.
Is this how the other half, or should that be the 1 percent, lives? As global economies flounder, many people struggle to survive financially. Every penny becomes important. Yet at the Oscars, highly paid individuals receive gift bags that are worth more than plenty of people earn in a year.
Although the bags do not include a cash payment they illustrate the inequalities of 21st century living. As a consolation price for not winning an award, a nominee will receive a type of bonus payment. It may be in goods, but the value of the gifts is ridiculous.
A trip to Australia, Mexico or Hawaii will feature in many people’s dreams. It might be achieved after scrimping and saving, but at the Oscars people who can afford to visit Australia, Hawaii or Mexico whenever they choose are given a free trip.
This may sound like sour grapes, but it is not. People need to wake up to the realities of the 21st century. The rich-poor divide is widening. The Oscar swag bags may seem insignificant, but they are not. They are part of a bigger problem.
Bankers in the UK receive bonus payments whether they are successful or not. The bank may not make a profit, but the bonus payment is still paid.
In the real world most of us have to fight hard for a pay raise or a deserved bonus at work, but a celebrity only needs to be a runner-up to reap rich rewards.