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‘Would Stephen approve?’ Why the Baftas must rise above cheap award show gimmicks

At Sunday’s Baftas, Fifty Shades of Grey star Dakota Johnson announced she was wearing tweed underwear in honour of host Stephen Fry, the quintessential Englishman. And tweed underpants could be a metaphor for the Baftas itself – an event steeped in heritage but with the ability to make you itch with discomfort at times.

This year’s itch was the decision by the producers to include a ‘Kiss Cam’, the half-time stadium staple of US sports where lucky couples get to smooch on the big screen from the delight of the crowd.

The Bafta version was no different and it was weirdly reassuring to see many of the A-list audience present to succumb to peer pressure and pucker up.

The high point was Leonardo DiCaprio who was clearly so happy with his haul that he pounced on Dame Maggie Smith, the low point featured Michael Fassbender and his wife who simply point blank refused to get involved, an encounter so awkward it was edited from the TV broadcast.

Yes, it was a gimmick, but it was also indicative of the desire to score ‘social Brownie points’ at any event of reasonable magnitude these days. Ellen DeGeneres’ selfie at the Oscars in 2014 has left an indelible mark on award shows to increasingly care about shares, retweets and likes.

With the Golden Globes now seemingly a free-for-all slanderfest led by Ricky Gervais and the Oscars steeped in a sizeable racism row, surely the Baftas has a big opportunity? Perhaps it’s time for the British Oscars to exert a larger, more authentic influence on the global film industry.

Judging by the turn out of Hollywood’s elite, the Baftas are taken seriously so the shoehorning of a cheap American stunt felt hugely counterintuitive and off brand.

In judging these things I think Bafta should ask a simple question – ‘Would Stephen approve?’ In this case, I don’t think the fairy godmother of searing British wit and class would have.

Rick Hirst is chief executive officer at mcgarrybowen, you can follow him on Twitter at @rickhirst26

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