Posted on March 5, 2019
by Steve Janowick
One of the coolest parts of being a kid was the untamed imagination that ran fast and free in our young minds. Uninhibited and void of jaded thoughts, we dreamt of flying into space. Of hitting the last inning home run. Of rocking out in front of a stadium-sized crowd. And after each of these glorious accomplishments we always found ourselves in front of an adoring audience to accept our congratulatory praise or our much-deserved award.
Yes, we’ve all dreamt of our own acceptance speeches.
It has certainly evolved (most would say devolved) throughout the years. The benchmark, the standard-bearer, for me anyway, was Lou Gehrig’s touching address in 1939 to his teammates and fans during his last appearance at Yankee Stadium. What a demonstration of class, courage and humility to stand at that microphone, knowing you’re dying, and deliver such a heartfelt, personal message, all the while maintaining complete composure and grace. It was truly a timeless speech.
Then, there’s Matthew McConaughey’s. What a masterpiece. In a theater full of some of the most pretentious phonies on the planet, he recited an acceptance speech at the Oscars that was on par with the actual rendition he won the award itself for. He played to the room, but he also played to Middle America (he is from Texas, after all), and that’s what made it so memorable. He got choked up at one point while talking about his family, but he exercised restraint, he kept the tears in check. His anecdotes were funny and relatable. And the peroration about chasing his future self was as much charming as it was clever. This was a practiced, well-rehearsed speech. It was highly entertaining. It was a performance.
I’ve dedicated a post, and what little brain cells I have left, to this subject because I was taken aback by the lack of performance in the speeches I’ve seen at recent Academy Award shows. Someone please tell me exactly when the acceptance speech morphed into the two-minute rant, outburst or my favorite…the cry fest? And I’m not talking about a couple sniffles or a few lumps in some throats. I’m not talking about cracking voices or even misty eyes. I’m talking about full-on blubbering! Hard-core sobbing. Out of control purging of emotions. The kind of show my kids used to put on-when they were six!
Seems there’s free license these days to let it all hang out. All the emotions. Self-control and reticence and discretion and dignity? That’s so pre-2016. Today, certain factions (especially our entertainers) aren’t real, aren’t woke, unless they’re self-expression volume buttons aren’t turned up to 11! Screaming and ranting and crying are not only acceptable, they’re expected. You’re vilified If you don’t blast your enemy while the cameras are on. It’s just a natural response to the hate and evil that consumes us now, man! It’s the new coping mechanism-post election. And what better place to put it all on display than in front of a microphone on a globally televised award show?
But I’m hopeful.
Hopeful there’s a young man or woman out there somewhere right now standing in front of the mirror. Stoic. Displaying grandeur with restraint. Shoulders back and chin up. Practicing over and over to look natural. Who will turn back time…
and re-introduce decorum back into the acceptance speech.
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