March 1, 2011

Ageism and the Oscars: Why The Young People Just Annoyed Me

The Oscars this year represent a victory against ageism. To be sure, they started out as an endorsement of it. They chose two young people with no hosting experience to present despite their lack of credentials thinking that a young audience would inevitably tune in for young hosts because, like young people have an innate preference for other young people as Oscar hosts? Even when those young people show up stoned and can't open their eyes to see the teleprompter and just squint through the whole show?

Like, seriously, James Franco could NOT be bothered to open his eyes. AT ALL. Not even to look at Anne Hathaway, who was cooing and hanging off him like a syncophant. Now, I don't hate Miss Hathaway. I like her a lot, in fact, but her reaction to having a slacking co-worker was to indulge his ego! Why did she need to say he was doing a super awesome job hosting when he was letting her do all the work? Then, he wouldn't even look at her while thanking her for that compliment. How fucked up?

Despite Hathaway and Franco sucking as a duo where one was on coke and the other was on pot (you know which was which), there were some nice moments; however, these nice moments came from older people. When Billy Chrystal came out and told a few jokes, my viewing companions and I were enchanted (and we were all under 25). David's Seidler's speech, where he called himself a "late bloomer" for winning the Oscar at 73 also served to show that older people can be and are relevant. "The King's Speech" was a smashit with every generation, and it was the product of an old man's childhood memories. Here, his age was an asset and gave him an emotional connection to a story that provided the foundations for a movie masterpiece.

When Ms. Portman, who is about the same age as Franco and Hathaway, got up to accept her Oscar, her speech lacked the class and wisdom of Colin Firth's. She almost seemed bored with the award. When they called her name, she didn't look delighted or surprised - she looked entitled. The fact that Colin Firth, who has been a fine actor since Portman was a little girl, seemed more in awe of the award than a 29-year-old was bizarre (especially when a lot of people thought Annette Benning, who is REALLY DUE, might beat her). If anyone in Hollywood has paid his dues, it's Firth. He is an actor with impeccable training who has spent years doing a mix of art films and commercial blockbusters. He is a cult icon who got type-cast as "Mr. Darcy" and managed to overcome that Oscar simply by showing his talent and versatility. After all that work, after all those years, Mr. Firth was still honoured to be given Hollywood's greatest award. He didn't feel due for it, and even though he was OVERWHELMINGLY the odds-on favourite, he still seemed happy and surprised to have won.

By contrast, Portman's blase attitude of entitlement at only 29 was offensive. My favourite part was when she thanked her fiance for impregnating her and then referred to her upcoming motherhood as "the most important role of my life." As in, fuck you academy. I don't care about everything you represent. You will never be as cool as me or the fruit of my womb, which will definitely be super awesome. So suck it! So honey, you might have gone to Harvard, but apparently that doesn't make you smart.

Franco, Hathaway and Portman all showed that youthful exuberance isn't better than wisdom and the humility that goes along with it. Firth made me feel that grace comes with age and made me actually look forward to 50.

So Oscars, given that the older people were the best part of your show this year, next year can we please have some grown up hosts?

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