Culture

In Case You Missed It: We’ve made it!

billy crystal

We’re week nine into 2012. We’ve made it!

And by “we’ve made it,” I mean “we got bored during the Oscars and still watched because fuck it, ya know?”

(Note: a few weeks ago, I had written a little ditty about my disappointment in the Academy, and I since resolved to not write about the Oscar nominations again. However, refusing to write even briefly about the failure of the 84th annual Oscars would mean that the Academy has won.)

Commentators, critics, old actors and new alike comment on the whimsy of the Oscars or film in general. They remember seeing the Oscars on television and thinking “how magical!” or they go on and on in montages during the broadcast reaffirming how whimsical movies and the Academy are to the public.

You know what’s whimsical? Surprise blackface! For those who haven’t seen the Oscars, Billy Crystal busted out the face paint for the Oscars’ skit-montage opening, reprising his impersonation of Sammy Davis Jr. from his ‘80s stint on Saturday Night Live. There are thousands of different jokes to be made instead of Sammy Davis Jr. and Justin Bieber in a Midnight in Paris parody, but Billy Crystal and others agreed  “yes, blackface! A mediocre joke involving blackface is what the Oscar audience craves.” Using blackface in this context is like a grown man wearing a diaper because they can’t remember the last time they wore one.

Moreover, whimsical? It’s an old institution grasping at straws to be interesting. It’s a manufactured whimsy bogged down by process and tradition, practically pleading with the audience to see movies in theaters for the sticky floors and whimsy. It’s trying to emulate an emotion it can rarely imbue anymore. It’s like buying the non-hovering hoverboard made famous by Back to the Future (unless you got power). It exists only as a novelty of a fantastic dream, ultimately stating “Yep, things still aren’t whimsical.” As you can tell, I think whimsy is a great word. Any time someone says “whimsy,” a baby bunny is born into a gnome’s hands. “Whimsy” carries a connotation of childhood at its most optimistic, even if the kid logic of “I need more shopping bag parachutes” leads to “these crutches are magic!”

Whimsy and guidance cannot exist in the same world. Once someone is being directed or told to do something, the concentration breaks whimsy. Whether or not this is a good or bad thing is based on who a person decides to take guidance from. I was raised on a few of the Berenstain Bears books (Too Much Junk Food and Stage Fright got me through some rough times), but I’m not sure if I would call them true children’s books. After the passing of The Berenstain Bears writer and illustrator Jan Berenstain on Monday, I reread some of the ones I remember, and they are for grown-ups. Beyond the personified bears, there is a stark lack of whimsy in the universe she created with her husband Stan in 1962. Each book is a very straightforward lesson for kids without allegory, metaphor or myth. The bears wear the clothes that stereotypes of families wear, use money, and while they enjoy honey, love pizza.  From the tone, the books are adult jeremiads masquerading as children stories. If a child read every Berenstain Bears book, it guarantees that they will be the most perfect, proper person, and could never function in our world without a 15mg Xanax prescription numbing them from all the unlearned lessons.

If there is one bulwark of whimsy from childhood that exists today, it’s the idea of Bill Nye the Science Guy. I said before that guidance and whimsy cannot exist together, but Bill Nye gave no guidance. Instead, he handed down the awesome power of science like the Prometheus of science fair volcanoes, telling kids that baking soda didn’t have to be boring. This made kids revere him as a God. Parents worried, but were ultimately glad. His proven power and mastery every Saturday morning weds him to “The Science Guy” suffix, no matter where he speaks or to whom. Even TMZ covers The Science Guy’s woes over his stalker ex-wife, and he never even developed a well-known drug habit! You can’t fake whimsy like that. And you shouldn’t try. You might end up in blackface.