Dunbar: What the Oscars tell us about ourselves


Blair Dunbar, Columnist

The 86th annual Academy Awards aired Sunday night. The Oscars are often considered the pinnacle of achievement for stars in the film industry. The lives of those who win are never the same. Every subsequent movie trailer will read “Academy Award Winner.”

It’s interesting that even stars have a desire to be special since to most of us, they already are, at least in a superficial sense. They make lots of money, they have their pictures in magazines and the average household knows their names. Despite this, come Oscar night, every star nominated is hoping for that statuette, a tangible sign of their skill and achievement.

Who doesn’t want to be special? Who doesn’t want to be a Robert Redford or Cary Grant? Who wouldn’t want to have his name in a history textbook or his face engraved in marble?

Attending Northwestern, we are all told that we are special; we are the cream of the crop. But the competition to be the best has just begun when we enter college. We may be special because we were accepted into NU, but there are thousands of students here. As soon as we enter college, we have to join clubs, get internships and pad our resumes in every way possible. We need some way to stand out amongst the thousands of other applicants from NU and other top-notch universities. It’s exhausting.

I was home the other weekend, and my mother told me that I could do nothing and still be special. She said that everyone was special in some way. I told her that was the equivalent of giving out participation trophies at basketball games. But then I got to thinking. Either we’re all special, or we have to face the reality that only a select few are truly those “one in a million.” Sure, some stars win Oscars, but that doesn’t automatically make them one of Hollywood’s greats. I’m trying to remember the last halfway-decent role Reese Witherspoon has had since accepting her Oscar for best actress for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in “Walk the Line.” And while I love Matthew McConaughey, I doubt he will go down in history as another Jimmy Stewart or his career will ever reach the heights of Meryl Streep. I’m sure there are hundreds of past Oscar statuettes that were thrown out or are currently gathering dust in storage, the names etched on the plaques almost unrecognizable.

The harsh truth is that there is not enough marble to carve out the faces of every person in the world who is “special,” and even a name published in a history textbook isn’t always remembered. At the end of the day, you’re better off trying to be happy without looking for outside validation because that validation only lasts for a few moments. As soon as this year’s Oscars are over, Hollywood is looking ahead to next year’s biggest stars.

Of course, if you’re lucky, there will be at least one other person who never forgets your name, and that one other person is all you really need.

Blair Dunbar is a Weinberg junior. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].