Masks Will Not Be Required At The Oscars But Will Be ‘Central To The Narrative,’ Whatever Exactly That Means

One of the most important things we as a society can do during a pandemic is safely give out awards to very wealthy actors for movies many people could not safely go see in theaters over the last year or so. But apparently, sometimes optics are more important than actually being safe and wearing masks while around people who may or may not be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

Variety detailed on Monday the decision from the Academy to not require masks for anyone attending the upcoming Oscars ceremony on April 25, at least not while cameras are rolling on the 170 people who will be allowed to attend the ceremony. It’s all a bit complicated, but what you should not expect is to see anyone wearing a mask during the telecast later this month.

The news was announced on Monday morning during a Zoom meeting with Academy reps and nominees, and studio and personal publicists. Because the ceremony — being held at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles — is being treated as a TV/film production, masks are not required for people on camera, an Academy rep explained.

However, when guests are not on camera, they are being asked to wear masks. For example, masks should be put on during commercial breaks.

Director Steven Soderbergh, who will co-produce the event, did not explain his stance on wearing masks when speaking to the media over the weekend. But he did say the usage of masks will be “central to the narrative” of the show’s festivities, though no one seems to be willing to explain what that means if no one will be wearing them on camera.

He said on Saturday that masks would play “a very important role in the story.” “If that’s cryptic, it’s meant to be,” he added. “That topic is very central to the narrative.”

The meeting included a detailed walk through of what attendees of what they should expect at Union Station. A temperature check will be mandatory. This is after attendees must take at least three COVID tests in the days leading up to the ceremony.

Other award shows put on during the still-ongoing coronavirus pandemic have adhered to different standards. The Grammys, for example, held the ceremony outside and had participants masked unless they were on stage giving out or accepting awards. People nominated for certain categories were essentially moved into and out of the venue space as the show continued, something that will reportedly happen here as well. But while the safety precautions for those attending will undoubtedly be measured, the optics here aren’t particularly great considering mask usage during a pandemic has unfortunately become a political issue, not one of basic human decency and consideration for others.

As vaccinations continue to be more accessible to all American adults as of Monday, continuing to wear a mask when around others in public has become as much about keeping yourself safe as it is about projecting good habits and also limiting the risk of spreading coronavirus to others who have yet to be vaccinated. It’s ultimately more about messaging than mitigation in many ways. Hopefully whatever the “central narrative” is reinforces that because, on paper, this does not seem like a great start.