What made Riseborough’s “To Leslie” campaign so unlike any other campaign attempted before was not just how late in the game it was. It had to do with the sheer number of people suddenly singing the praises of the actress’s performance — among the famous proponents of Riseborough were Kate Winslet, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jane Fonda, Greg Kinnear, and Laura Dern.
However, this also exposes the critical nerve operating almost every awards ceremony. They are, at their core, a popularity contest — prospective nominees utilize their connections and Hollywood friend groups to the fullest extent, creating elaborate “For Your Consideration” campaigns that highlight just how popular their performance or movie was. This is precisely why every year, discussions of who or what was snubbed are more animated than what actually got nominated. As much as these bodies like to say that they are rewarding the recipients based on talent, it all comes down to which nominees are better at schmoozing and networking. If you are truly about rewarding talent, the actual nominee lists will likely look drastically different.
It’s hard not to root for Riseborough. By leaning fully into this institutional flaw, she was able to pull off something that nobody could have really seen coming. Unfortunately, we can’t pretend like this exposure was some sort of grand statement against the Academy. It was simply a more public and overt version of the usual campaigns held during awards season.