All human perception is governed by context; your tongue turned upside down would not recognise your own mouth. A lack of trust in your context can be very damaging and, potentially, a great cause of anxiety. To be governed by it is the natural order of things and to trust it is not only warming but really quite necessary. As such, we all live (mostly) balanced lives within the context that we have both been given and constructed. It is what keeps us in check. It is what keeps us going. And it is what makes the Oscars so fascinating.
Unlike the film industry, servile adulation has very little place among the general working populous. The average person is not sure how – and, more importantly, if – they should accept it from their peers. Flattery is fickle and society at large has developed an inherent distrust – maybe even a slight paranoia – towards a flatterer’s motives. In the average workplace, standard managerial dicta proffer systems of muted praise – offer just enough to keep the fingers moving swiftly but not too much as to encourage complacency. (Complacency! This is what we are fearful of when we are kind to one another). When an individual worker lavishes praise on another (be it a superior or otherwise) it is commonly perceived as insidious and often leads to alienation. Effusive praise in my daily context is not a positive thing.
It stands to reason that the Academy Awards are the truest antithesis to the ninetofiver. There is very little (if any) shared context so the general response towards the Oscars is understandably polarizing. Obsequiousness is SOP in the film industry and, as such, is routinely rewarded. This we know and accept and it should not be such a leap to assume that we would behave similarly should we assume their context. We are all human and we adapt to our realities. If you can accept this, then you can watch the Oscars as they are intended: a sycophantic (albeit immensely positive) orgy. (Note: I am only referring to the event itself and not the sideshow that precedes and follows).
To see grown men and women tremble and cry over something that is so intrinsically valueless can rub people the wrong way. It is hard to conjure up feelings of congratulation towards rich, beautiful onepercenters who continue to get richer and more beautiful. It feels unfair. But it shouldn’t. Why begrudge someone who has reached the pinnacle of their profession? So what if they weakly feigned humility when hungrily accepting a meaningless statue? Would we behave any differently if our context allowed for it?
People who succeed often do so through some combination of persistence, effort, talent and luck. We recognise it when we see it and it usually comes with a modicum of admiration. Do you not respect the Super Bowl champion who rises at 5am to train for an event in which he he may never even participate? It takes dedication and so much sacrifice to chase the dream, the moment, the glory – even the failure. How can we not respect or even be envious of that? And how can we not want to change our own realities to get it?
To appreciate the Oscars is to see beyond an incestuous industry publicly fellating itself. That is irrelevant. Last night, we saw a collection of people all singularly focused on achieving their dreams and discharging themselves of complacency. We saw a hall full of people chasing the one and only thing that we should all be chasing: happiness.
And if they need to manufacture a context in which to make it achievable, then who’s to blame them for it?