(Originally printed in OC WEEKLY, March 21, 2002)
I once heard Howard Stern refer to the annual Oscar telecast as “the Super Bowl for women and gay guys.” I haven’t been a gay guy or a woman recently, so perhaps that explains why I’m powerless to understand the appeal of the Oscars. (Then again, I can’t abide the Super Bowl either.)
I’m a movie geek. I watch films for a living. I plow through silly magazines about movies; I watch silly TV shows about movies; I have a bookcase threatening to implode from the weight of the DVDs packed onto its shelves. I hold strong opinions about movies I’ve never seen. So why would I rather eat a live skunk than sit through Sunday’s big telecast?
I’d like to ask you a question: Why do you want to watch? Do you really believe that if the Academy declares anything “best,” that makes it so? If so, I have five words for you: Titanic, best picture of 1997.
I suppose if you were actively employed in the film industry, if you were nominated for an Oscar yourself or one of your friends was, then it would make sense that this show would interest you. But otherwise, unless you have some personal stake in it, why would you willingly subject yourself to a show that plays like a three-hour-long, hugely expensive high school assembly? Few among us would have the patience to sit through the entire Nobel Prize ceremony, a genuine celebration of the best humanity has to offer, so what is the appeal of watching a bunch of millionaires presenting each other with little golden trophies to celebrate their ability to cry on cue? For Christ’s sake, people, what’s in it for you?
The more I think about it, the more Stern’s football comparison makes sense. There’s a commercial making the rounds just now where a guy opens up his morning paper, sees the sports page headline, and mutters to himself, “How are we going to win the game on Sunday?” I always get stuck on that word we. On a fundamental level, I can’t understand how this little schlub would think of some football team’s victory as his own, any more than I can understand why some checkout girl in Des Moines gives a damn if Jennifer Connelly wins an Oscar. Are we all so alienated, so desperate to belong to something that we’ll whip ourselves into a frenzy of identification over shows that could not be more boring if they were broadcast backwards and in slow motion?
If the Super Bowl is a celebration of the ghastliest aspects of conventional masculinity, a day when the people of the nation are expected to sit around in dark caves, drinking themselves into a collective stupor and bellowing like apes while they watch big men break each other’s bones, the Oscars could indeed be said to represent the worst aspects of conventional femininity run amok, a license for people to gather in little covens and make bitchy remarks about who has gotten fat and who is wearing what. Both of these extremes are simultaneously horrifying and tedious, and I just wish we could achieve some sort of middle ground. Wouldn’t the Super Bowl be infinitely more compelling if it were played by glamorous folk in fancy evening wear? What if when a starlet’s name was announced at the Oscars, she had to make a daring end run up to the podium, dodging other contenders as they tried to tackle her? Then we could all gather – women and men, gay and straight – and enjoy a spectacle that would be truly worth our heartiest bellowing and our bitchiest remarks.
But until then, you can count me the hell out.