Did you see that Oscar finale? I teared up, I admit it. To see all those charity kids from Staten Island up there singing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, in those inner city outfits. Just precious. They looked so poor in that that blue and green get-up. As poor as the projects they may never leave. Something about it just tugged at me.
Anne Hathaway introduces the segment. After 47 costume changes, America’s Sweetheart manages to introduce, without flinching, some children who didn’t even get one costume – they have to wear the same crap they wear at school. She says something about how dreams come true – with a straight face, mind – and then, with exceptional comic timing, at the pinnacle of the best-dressed ball in humanity, in the middle of a recession, with record unemployment and a growing wealth gap, they wheel out the choir, an all-singing poverty exhibit, into a packed arena of the overpaid. The applause is thunderous.
The poor kids segment worked particularly well because it was a punchline to a joke that began several hours earlier, way back before the show started, when the splendid people were getting out of limos and the hosts began wittering about outfits, frocks and suits, on and on – the Oscars are all about outfits. In the red carpet preamble, the only question Ryan Seacrest never fails to ask is, “who are you wearing?” Even if he only has a few seconds, he’ll squeeze it in, as though he’s obsessed, because this is a crucial piece of data – it gives Kelly Osborne something to chew over until the ad break. After which it all just happens again, and so it goes, back and forth, until time the jaw hangs, the eyes roll back and drool starts leaking from the side of your mouth.
I don’t think those disproportionately African-American kids were ever on the red carpet, but I can’t say for sure – I had to go to the bathroom and throw up a few times during the broadcast. If I had to bet, though, I’d say they hurried them in the back door. After all, there’s no mystery about who they’re wearing – it’s written all over their crappy little shirts.
But at least no one thought to say, ‘hey, if we must have the underclass attend, then let’s at least put them in a tux – get a corporation with an image problem to pay a designer with an image problem and make it happen.’ If someone did suggest such a thing, then it was knocked back. Perhaps they just couldn’t find a donor or a designer who was up for it. Or perhaps they just preferred to have the rich people look sparkly and the poor people look poor, like they didn’t really deserve to be there.
And let’s be honest – did they? Really? Have a listen.
I’m just saying – I’ve heard better versions of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. Yeah I said it. Those poor kids were kind of sloppy and out of practice, probably because they have no facilities and their moms are on crack and so forth. But at least we never mistake them for being part of the slick and glitzy Hollywood production that preceded them. We never think ‘those kids can sing, this is awesome.’ We just feel sorry for them. They pluck at our pity. They’re a segment on Oprah or Extreme Home Makeover that lost its way in the schedules and ended up as the Oscar finale. They’re the antidote.
Apparently the goodie bag is worth $75,000 this year – and that’s just for the losers. Winners get an extra bag worth twice that, taking it up to a quarter of a million worth. We’re talking holidays to the Maldives, the new Motorola tablet, fitness retreats, Swarovski nonsense and Italian silks. But thankfully the sponsors are drawing the line somewhere. They recognize the importance of fiscal discipline in these times, and that we all need to tighten our belts somewhat. So the kids’ goodie bags, I believe, consisted of an apple each and a tousle of the hair by a rich person. Perhaps Kim Kardashian. A lucky few might also realize, deep down, that this was actually as close as they would ever get to the Oscar crowd in their lives. And the awesome thing about that is, it’s probably true, which means that on top of everything else, the Oscars was educational…
I say expand the poor kids segment next year. And really go to town this time. Maybe go for a strictly orphan theme. Or use kids with noticeable malnutrition. Perhaps Kardashian could be persuaded to actually tousle their hair on stage. There’s so many ways it could go.