Monday, February 27, 2012

Two Choices

Like millions of others, I watched the 84th Academy Awards last night. For the first time since I can remember, I watched it by myself. Just the way circumstances played out this year. In a way, it was advantageous to be without the hoopla of any party or the confusion and bantering of the fashion police. Quite civilized, I might add. But even though I marked my ballot and kept score, I was really keeping score of something else besides the Oscar winners.
This year I began by counting some of the adjectives used to describe the experience. This wasn't a random game of some former English teacher. Not quite. What I was interested in was which of the three words most people use to describe something they deem out of the ordinary was used most. Thee was a clear winner: "amazing." I would have had money on that one if possible. "Incredible" was a distant second. Bringing up the rear was a smattering of "wonderfuls" and "unbelieveables." What was completely lacking was the use of the word awesome. Maybe that's the good news in all this. Maybe Awesome is on the way out. Or at least relegated to the younger crowd.

So what's my motivation? What does this mean, if anything? Quite simply, everything has become amazing. And when it's beyond amazing, then it's become surreal. Our use of language is deteriorating. If everything is amazing, then nothing is amazing, is it?
It's not like we weren't warned. I recall reading something 20 years ago about the amount of words lost to the average vocabulary since the advent of television. Something like 14,000 since the early 1950s. Coupled with the fact that half the population doesn't read a book a year...well, that's amazing.


Another quick observation from this year's Oscars concerns The Help. I read the book, I saw the movie, I get the controversy. Still, I can see both sides. However, Hattie McDaniel's memorable speech after winning the Oscar for Gone With The Wind echoed in another way. McDaniel said to critics back in 1939, "The Way I see it, I got two choices, I can work in Hollywood as a maid for $5.00 a week or I can work in Hollywood as a maid in the movies for $500.00 a week." Octavia Spencer's win for best supporting actress was most deserving. Still, Hattie McDaniel's words took on new relevance. One thing is for certain, though. It's gone from $500 to $500,000. a week. Not too shabby. But then that's not the point, is it?

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