Shut Up, Sacha Baron Cohen: The Oscars Are Not About You
As an adult who spends a fair amount of my time following the movie industry, I know enough not to lionize the Oscars as "above" anything, much less publicity and selfish movie stars. If anything, the Oscars are all about publicity and movie stars, providing a box office boost to the movies that are nominated, an ego boost to the people who made them, and a profile boost to the celebrities who show up. It's a dog and pony show-- a particularly fancy and occasionally smart one, but a dog and pony show all the same. Knowing that is the first step toward loving the Oscars for what they are, and realizing it's silly has never taken away from the enjoyment.
At the same time, I can't help but cringe when reading about what Sacha Baron Cohen has up his sleeve-- namely, a trumped up "scandal" when he announced his plans to attend the awards in costume as General Aladeen, his character from the upcoming The Dictator Erroneous reports claimed his tickets were revoked, and Cohen only encouraged them by appearing on The Today Show in character. Now the news has finally emerged at THR that Cohen will indeed be walking the red carpet in costume as General Aladeen, presumably under the logic that he can wear what he wants as an invited guest, and the Academy can't stop him from using their big event to promote a movie that isn't even out yet.
Cohen's best moments of comedy usually involve challenging the status quo-- like Bruno interviewing Ron Paul, or Borat leading a singalong at a rodeo-- and it's hard to argue that the Academy isn't an aging institution to deserves to be taken down a peg. But it's also an event that, at some level, respects the movies that are nominated, and Cohen is attending because he's in one of them, Martin Scorsese's Hugo. Cohen isn't expected to promote Hugo forever, but it seems a little gross for him to step on the toes of one movie-- on what ought to be its biggest night-- for the sake of promoting another one. The Oscars will be in some small way about Cohen, since he's in Hugo, but it's certainly not about The Dictator-- and given how many headlines Cohen has already gathered, that's certainly what it's turning into.
After weeks and weeks of campaigning and millions of dollars spent on ads, the Oscars arrive on Sunday as kind of a reprieve, a chance for all those campaigners to put on nice clothes and smile at each other and be relieved knowing it's all over. But Cohen, with his stunt and his galling impulse to steal any spotlight, will just be using the night to launch another campaign, on behalf of a movie that will surely get plenty of its own attention upon its release. The Oscars aren't precious or infallible, but surely they deserve better than this.
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