Virginia Postrel on How to Save the Oscars From Boredom & Annoyance


Writing in the Wall Street Journal, former Reason editor Virginia Postrel suggests a fix to one of the most-watched, most-frustrating annual spectacles in Hollywood:

Hollywood stars still represent what Margaret Thorp, in her 1939 study "America at the Movies," called the audience's "escape personalities." They invite projection.

On Oscar night, that projection means enjoying the fantasy of individual triumph. (The Oscars famously don't recognize ensemble casts.) This is the essential glamour of the Oscar ceremony, and it explains why people complain so much about the speeches.

The audience wants to revel in the fantasy of being recognized as special, but social convention dictates that winners act humble and thank everyone else involved. It's fine to thank your mother, your husband, your high-school drama teacher—to recognize the kinds of relationships everybody has—but thanking your agent, publicist and half the cast and crew breaks the spell. Outside Los Angeles, audiences don't sit through movie credits.

So the cure for boring Oscar speeches isn't to shorten them—Julia Roberts's overtime gushing makes great TV—but to alter their content. Tell winners to celebrate their moment and save the industry thank-yous for ads in Variety.

Read the full article here.

Postrel recently sat down with's Ted Balaker to talk about how glamour operates in showbiz and politics, intellectual property rights in fashion, and more. Check it out: