One of the most hilariously pretentious scenes in human history occurred when Sean Penn chastised host Chris Rock for making fun of Jude Law at the 2005 Oscars. Rock had been ribbing the British actor for not being particularly great and inexplicably appearing in literally every movie released over the previous few years. “You want Tom Cruise and all you get is Jude Law,” joked Rock. “Wait. It’s not the same thing. Who is Jude Law? Why’s he in every movie I have seen in the last four years? He’s in everything. Even the movies he’s not in, if you look at the credits he made cupcakes or something. He’s gay, he’s straight, he’s American, he’s British. Next year he’s playing Kareem Abdul Jabbar.”
Funny stuff. But then Penn came on stage to set Chris Rock straight about how important Jude Law was. “Forgive my comprised sense of humour,” said the stone faced actor. “I just want to answer our host’s question about who Jude Law is – he’s one of our finest actors.”
Joe Rogan put the whole sorry episode into perspective in a much viewed rant on his video podcast:
Did you really say that? Do you have any friends at all, do you have anyone that busts your balls. No. They take themselves so goddam seriously, and their goddam redonculous ‘award’ show where everyone wears a monkey suit…..
You’re talking about acting… you’re not saving the world, you’re not time traveling, you didn’t invent a nuclear weapons, you didn’t invent a faster internet. It isn’t like you came up with ‘5g’. You played a gangster in a movie, and you were good at it. Thank you. thank you for distracting me for an hour and a half, because that’s all the fuck you did, okay? You made me sit down, and I enjoed your performance, and it made me not think about my life and I got some thrills out of it. It was very exciting and enjoyable to follow along. That’s it. That’s all you did. You didn’t fucking change the world, you’re not awesome, you’re just good at pretending.
Sean Penn probably disagrees with Rogan’s assessment (after all, he alone rescued Haiti from disaster in case anyone forgot), but it has to be said. Actors do tend to take themselves a little too seriously.
This isn’t meant to bash the Oscars or actors in general. The award show is a fun night for people to watch well produced show where their favorite actors and movies win awards for achievements within the film industry. Sometimes it can be pretty funny (depending on who is hosting), and it’s always interesting who wins the major ones – ‘Best Actor and ‘Best Picture’.
But that’s about it really.
Clicking around the internet however, you’d think whoever won the award for the making the nicest looking movie had single handedly solved the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and announced the cure for AIDS. The headline articles on literally every major website (including the very serious BBC) have sparkly pictures of Ann Hathaway, Ben Affleck or Jennifer Lawrence in their absurdly expensive outfits waving a golden statue around. Good for the actors – the winners probably deserve the prizes and should be proud of themselves. But what they are doing taking up space on news portals when the economy is about to fall of a cliff (again) and social programs throughout the country face severe cuts that will leave millions in serious poverty defies logic, and really says something about how the media prioritizes the news.
I managed to get through about an hour of the Oscars before tuning out. I thought Seth Macfarlane was very funny and some of his jokes about celebrities absolutely hilarious (particularly the one about the horrifically violent Django Unchained being a ‘date movie’ for Chris Brown and Rihanna). But the pomp and ceremony surrounding awards got overbearing as actor after actor got up on stage and gushed over the industry and how ‘brave’ they all were for pushing artistic boundaries. I mean, Quentin Tarantino is a very good director, and Django was sort of interesting because it was a black revenge movie, but it doesn’t make Tarantino hero in any real sense of the word. He’s clearly a serious weirdo with hangups about race, and a massive douchebag (just watch literally any interview with him for proof).
Without belaboring the point, the Oscars is not exactly crucial to the survival of humanity.
Sadly, every media outlet in the nation sees it otherwise. They descend upon Hollywood every year to fawn over actors while they award themselves with big gold prizes and shower themselves with praise. It’s bad enough that actors take themselves so seriously, but for the rest of the media to perpetuate the gargantuan display of narcissism is depressing beyond belief. The incredible amount of attention the award show commands says something about our culture – the value we put on celebrity and the priority it takes. The glitz and glamor is escapism in its purest form; millionaires living fantasy lives by creating fantasies for everyone else to watch. The industry exists to distract us from reality, and the more fantastical it is, the more we want to be distracted by it. Because while Quentin Tarantino and Ann Hathaway climb further up the ladder of unreachable celebrity power, the rest of us have bills to pay, rising food and education costs to deal with, and radically diminishing job security.
Entertainment, arts and culture are important. But the economic security of the country might outweigh the celebration of someone pretending to be Abraham Lincoln.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.