In life, we can take in all that our senses pick up. We discern what we like, what we don’t like and categorize those things by varying degrees in our own personally defined rubrics of quality — or we can let other people tell us what we like.
I mean, we all have stuff to do, right? Why waste valuable productivity time when pre-packaged opinions are so readily available?
Personally, I love to plop myself down in front of the TV on a Sunday night early in the month of March, order pizza, drink beer and watch the Academy Awards.
But if I’m being honest with myself, I can’t think of anything more useless than awards shows — yet, somehow I end up watching them all. The Grammys, the Golden Globes, the Emmys, the Oscars. Can’t say that I’ve watched the Country Music Awards lately, but maybe I should start.
I listen to tons of different kinds of music, watch a lot of movies and get very involved with quality television shows. I have my own likes and dislikes for each form of entertainment.
Yet I eat up pre-packaged opinions like they were stuffed with cheese, deep-fried to crispy, golden perfection and wrapped in bacon. I’ll end up spending three to four hours in a night watching television programs devoted to telling me how wrong my opinions are, consuming more than my day’s worth of calories in that one sitting.
There’s a line from the Nicolas Cage film “The Weather Man” (an example of the rare times that Hollywood makes movies that tell the truth and that, like many, many other quality movies before it, got no recognition from the Academy) where Cage’s character David Spritz reflects on the meaning of his job as a television meteorologist, and why people are always throwing fast food items at him.
He hypothesizes that it’s because fast food is made to be disposable — something “people would rather throw out than finish,” and that he gets things tossed at him because his job is the equivalent.
“It’s easy. It tastes alright, but it doesn’t really provide you any nourishment,” he says. “I’m fast food.”
The opinions people receive from award shows are just that — fast food. Quick, reliable and easy to throw away. A popularity contest that determines what you are supposed to think about things without doing any of the mental work it takes to decide how you actually feel.
I’ll cop to it. I read a lot of reviews, I watch award shows — there’s no way that doesn’t influence my opinions in some measure.
And considering how many other millions of people will also be watching and the coverage of the subject here in this newspaper — I’m obviously not the only person who so readily consumes the pre-packaged opinions fed to us by the various voting bodies who hand out these awards.
But, I do try my best to remind myself that I need to take the time to cleanse my mind of the influences of other people once the show is over. I try to remember to be honest with myself about how I’m feeling.
When I watch the Oscars, I like to eat pizza and drink beer. But the next day I’ll probably eat an apple and a salad, to wash out the junk.
So, this Sunday night, when the Academy gives Meryl Streep yet another award for a good performance in a mediocre movie, try to remember that it’s all just a show, and not a terribly enlightening one either.