Oscar on the Couch

Whatever you think of the Oscar-nominated films, or the Oscars themselves for that matter, this Global Grand Prize Game pulses with fear, desire, inclusion and exclusion on a mass scale.  Given that our dedicated focus as of late is the amelioration of fear, what better generally misunderstood figure to place on the analytic couch than Mr. Goldfinger himself (cue the James Bond theme here):  Oscar.

Oscar is our quintessential American Gigolo—a hooker with a heart of Oliver stone who wears his gold on his sleeve.  Oscar is a king who gives no speech, a Gatsby who doesn’t even float; not on the east coast, nor does he float in Gloria Swanson’s Sunset Boulevard pool either—but that’s still him at the bottom of our collective Theodore Dreiser/An American Tragedy lake that we’ll all be dragging like Rue Paul this Sunday when we’re Watching the Detectives who star in the big recurring dream/nightmare we all seem to Inceive each Oscar season.

So, what strange zeitgeist stirrings might be glimpsed in the collective tealeaves of this year’s best picture nominees?  Perhaps we might deconstruct the nominated pictures in terms of raw dread and universal human emotion:

I cannot trust mom, and so I am not sure if I am good or bad.  Love and success are not safe—I am not in a safe, sane or integrated place:  Black Swan.

Dad cannot be counted on, so I must figure it out alone.  I am not in a safe place (and I will lose an arm to get there):  True Grit.

Same as above, only add drug problems (but keep own arm and cut dead dad’s arm): Winter’s Bone.

Even Mother Nature is not a safe place, I must lose my arm to get free of the ultimate Mother: 127 Hours.  [And what is up in the zeitgeist with three severed arms out of ten top movies anyway?  Disintegration of self?]

My narcissism caused the death of my wife and estrangement from my kids, and now I’m not even safe when I’m sleeping (nor am I sure if I am sleeping):  Inception.

My low self-esteem and fear is so pervasive that “fight” has become my very identity (and so how can I possibly love and attach and be safe?):  The Fighter.

Even when we love and care, we face separation and loss due to the march of time and the growing up of children, but it is good to care, laugh and cry togetherToy Story 3 and The Kids are Alright.

I have no idea how to relate to others, I must crack the code of social relating in order to be good enough (and then I’m rich and famous, but still alone):  The Social Network.

I’m totally not safe because mom, dad, nanny and country have not been safe… but if I have one friend who loves and understands me for who I am, I can find my voice and my way, and even contribute to the group:  The King’s Speech.

In ancient times “acting” was about communing with the gods and then relaying the messages to the people.  So, whether we are awake or we are dreaming, we are all in this together; our social network needs to realize that no one is excluded from the true group—it is merely our consciousness that ebbs and flows with feelings of inclusion, exclusion, love and loss—our survivalist lizard brains (gotta love them) that keep us alive and yet, all too often, prevent us from truly having a life.

Films must be emotional in order to speak to us, but we must also realize (at least when parenting) that while we have feelings, they do not define us.  Thus we all, at times, feel unsafe, alone, angry, threatened and inadequate.  Yet perhaps the greater truth is that if we all feel these things, maybe we are all included, adequate, even loved.

If we can tame our collective fears by calming our individual fears (in part by becoming more conscious about these fears), our films may become a little less preoccupied with basic trust and move on to explore life and love with more depth… or even fade away into irrelevance, but either way our lives will grow all the richer and more connected.

Then we can heal our fears of being outside the social network, of being inadequate or unloved, and trust that our love is good enough, and that we have the power to give it no matter what anybody says, and no matter how many people seem indifferent.

Even though I admit that I am prone to cynicism and sarcasm in the face of things as false and facile as the Oscars, I hope to find some compassion for poor cold Oscar and for those who will hold him in a love embrace this Sunday.

So, let us savor the gratitude born of our own greatest Oscar fortune:  our ability to watch from the couch (not the therapist’s couch, but the living room couch), as we dish, admire, laugh, love or roll our eyes… safely from afar and in the context of “real” (including virtual) friends and family.

And the Namaste goes to:  You!

Namaste, BD


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14 Responses to “Oscar on the Couch”

  1. rebecca @ altared spaces Says:

    So, Bruce, if you were giving awards, what films, or stories would you find winning? What stories do you retell at your home, to your children? To your family, to yourself? What are the stories you want us collectively embracing? I’m cuddled on my couch and watching, ready for the story.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Hi Rebecca, When it comes to creativity, I am rather against prizes and winning (for more on why see: http://privilegeofparenting.com/2009/05/22/cultivating-creativity/).

      On the other hand, I love to hear stories, tell stories and believe there is much healing power in narrative (but there is much destructive potential in it as well, for example, if one tries to scare people in order to sell them something, be it deodorant or government).

      Perhaps the story I want us collectively embracing is: Once upon a time people realized that they were good enough and that their fear had run so deep that they didn’t even realize it was stopping them from loving, connecting and truly living. Then they trusted that they were not alone in their fear and shame, that their fear did make sense in terms of what they, individually and collectively, had been through. Once calm, people began to live happily, and stopped worrying so much about (and forever working toward) the ever-after instead of the right now.

      That said, stories about happy people are boring—and I am, at least in part, a writer at heart. Thus I am heartened by your comment about interest in stories, as I do have a story that I am, very slowly, cooking up—and look forward to sharing when it is ready—nothing “great” I assure you, just something to further connections, written in the spirit of collaborating and connecting for the fun of connecting, something to break mental bread over in the flux of the ongoing story of what already just is.

      Not to be too enigmatic, but it is said that stories you tell you never write—and this blog, somewhere between telling and writing, is a place I adore connecting in just this liminal way. All Good Wishes & Namaste

  2. Lindsey Says:

    So fascinating …I haven’t seen all (or even most) of the Best Picture nominations, but your summary makes it clear that feeling unsafe and threatened is a major theme in the zeitgeist right now. I wonder why. Then again I don’t entirely wonder why, either.

  3. mojgan Says:

    We just left an award ceremony for our middle schoolers and the same holds true at the age of 12..excluding and including and grabbing to the same cold statue. It is heartbreaking to watch my daughter who may feel not good enough and excluded just because she didn’t receive a trophy eventhouh her teacher had mentioned she was going to get one!
    I couldn’t care either way .I love her and she is enough.
    Hope to install this to her innocent soul today.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Hi Mojgan, How heartbreaking to think of your child, any child, sitting with raised hopes only to have them dashed and to be made to feel like they are less than someone else. Here’s to finding big enough arms to embrace all the kids, and the confused parents and teachers who mean well, but themselves may need a hug more than a trophy. All Good Wishes

  4. Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities Says:

    I am amazed and intrigued by how you boiled all of these movies down into similar themes. And I have seen many of them and I couldn’t agree more. Fear underlies so much of who we are and the lives we come to lead, doesn’t it? I am (very slowly) drafting my next novel and it is all about a young woman who is having a hard time settling into her adult life because of the darkness of her mother and her fear of what might just be in her genes and in her future… I might have to bounce some questions off you one of these days. (Only if you are up for that of course.)

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Hi Aidan, I’m excited to read your next book—and would be more than honored to bounce any ideas or questions around. I can relate all too well to the themes you are taking up. So, here’s to getting to a safe place so we can write about our dark places without falling into them again… maybe even making some connections with others who can also relate—all too well. Namaste

  5. BigLittleWolf Says:

    Another delicious post, and filled with bites to savor. Among the examples of lost trust and seeking safety, I am heartened that Toy Story 3 and The King’s Speech offer a dollop of playfulness and the importance of friendship.

    In thinking about the Oscars, American film-making, and your mention of a desire for explorations that go beyond our contemporary state of angst, I think (collectively) of the foreign films I’ve seen and enjoyed over the years. The sort that are often too slow, too meticulous, too nuanced (and with insufficient blood, guts, special effects or “beautiful people”) to hook the American audience.

    To me, these are films that do indeed plumb other depths of emotion and experience – unexpected love later in life (an Italian film I’m thinking of), the complexities of ethnicity in a low-income high school (a French film from 2 years ago), and so on.

    Riveting, mirthful, provocative, profound. The sort of thing some of us love, and rarely see enough of.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Hi BLW, I’m with you on the sorts of films I also really appreciate—and while I might dream of a day that America can’t wait to see a Tavernier film, I suspect the crepes will have long gone cold… so we might as well enjoy them ourselves. Meanwhile, at least we need not be terrified just because the zeitgeist is—that’s what consciousness can offer in the way of nourishment (and for film, now there’s many a way to see what used to demand a trip to the art house, poor dead art house). Here’s to popcorn with our Namaste

  6. rudrip Says:


    I love your analysis of each of the Oscar nominated films. I am not surprised that a general common theme overlaps among these films. I am also a Bollywood “fan” and although almost 800 films are made a year, the theme is usually the same.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Hi Rudri, Perhaps the global take-away is that we have collective needs to process our fear, but also to escape, to laugh, to dance… Whatever it is we are up to, here’s to doing it with as much joy and loving kindness we can muster. Hurray for Bollywood (although I’m so old school I’ll take Satajit Ray), Namaste

  7. Cathy Says:

    I won’t be watching the Oscars – never do, but now I have no cable TV. One thing I’m sad to observe – I’ve only seen one of these films, and that’s because I was trapped on a plane.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Hi Cathy, Maybe you’re wise to stay away, given how much fear is saturated through both the films and the process of prizing them. I’ve seen some pretty bad movies on planes myself, but have learned to appreciate the dark screen of my own closed eyelids in such situations. Thanks for taking the time to share a comment in any event. All Good Wishes

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