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More Lasting Than Bronze


So it's Oscar time again.

I used to love the Oscars. I used to look forward to seeing the stars' red carpet appearances, examining the details of their dresses, their hairstyles and their sparkling jewels, as bright as their dazzling careers. The handsome, tuxedo-clad screen heroes. The excitement - the palpable nervousness - the sequined glitz, the flashing cameras.

Not any more.

I gather that, this year, Anne Hathaway is hotly tipped to win Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Les Misérables. Her time on screen totals fifteen minutes - the ultimate affirmation of Andy Warhol's prediction in 1968: 'in the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes'. In the harsh light of the Hollywood camera flash, 1968 is so long ago that anyone old enough to remember Warhol saying this is almost certainly far too old to win an Oscar, unless they're the token 'senior actor' who'll make everyone smile indulgently and say 'Awww...', but surely Hathaway's nomination and likely win is the ultimate proof that he was right. World-famous for a fifteen minute role. About as lasting as a tin of Campbell's soup...

I'm clearing my throat, as I write these words, in a discourse marker of intended speech. If I have tears, perhaps I'll shed them now. I'm gripping the keyboard podium with hands trembling from another mug of coffee, and I'm looking straight at you over my gilded statuette, recognizing me as the winner of the Oscar for Most Disenchanted Female. And I'd like to thank...

I'd like to thank the Hollywood Film Machine, for showing me that women's talents are judged by appearances. That a woman is noticed if she gains or loses weight to play a part, or cuts her hair, or makes herself look ugly when she's beautiful, like something from a bad pop song. That if a beautiful woman does 'ugly crying' she's still beautiful, and if she can look as if she's suffering from some psychological malaise along the way, then better still. Depression? Joyous! Mania? Fantastic! Schizophrenia? No two minds about it - simply fabulous, dahling, just watch the awards flood in!

I'd like to thank the Fashion Magazines, for showing me that woman are judged on beauty. On the Hollywood weighbridge, the maximum permitted weight is lower than good health allows. Your hair must be always perfect, your tan and make-up permanent, your teeth as white and straight as a geometrical model, and your feet reshaped for shoes which any self-respecting Cinderella would kick aside as she fled at midnight. Too rich; too thin - if you're both, you'll be given the dress you can afford, for free, which will make you look even more slender than the 'too thin' you already are. And if you're different, and don't fit the mould, then you're alternative. A hipster. Give. Me. Strength.

I'd like to thank the Paparazzi, for flashing out this paper-thin perfection, to screens and pages everywhere. I'd like to thank them for what they've done for girls and women and their would-be partners, replicated outside nightclubs every week and at school formals every year. I'd like to thank them for how I felt too inadequate to attend my own school formal, years ago, and for the knowledge that my everyday goings-out and stayings-in are nothing close to cool enough for Instagram.

I'd like to thank the Hollywood screen-writers, for teaching me that writing the same story over and over again, not challenging anyone to look up from their popcorn bucket, will get you gongs. That making people cry a bit is better than making anybody think. That numbing the bums you've put on seats with three-hour films will prove that you're intelligent, and that plenty of blood and shouting is intense. I'd like to thank their soundtrack counterparts for recycling a few mediocre tunes, on repeat, and calling it retro.

I'd like to thank most UK cinemas for making the food they sell as noisy, smelly and unhealthy as they can, completing the cinema experience with endless crunching, slurping, and stale smells. I'd like to thank them for turning up the air-conditioning and the heating both at once, so that you feel as if you're part of a medical experiment, to see whether it's possible to be simultaneously too hot and much too cold. I'd like to thank the child who always comes and sits behind me and kicks my chair throughout each film I watch, and the tall person who will always sit in front of me. Even if there's nobody else there.

I'd like to thank my good fortune that on Oscar night, I'll be curled up on my sofa, away from cameras, unglamorous, with a good book, some real music or an episode of Borgen. That there are things more lasting than bronze - for longer than fifteen minutes...

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