Oscar, lying on a therapist’s couch, stiffly: God, I hate this time of year. All anyone talks about is how dreadful I am. I’m “cringe,” I’m “offensive,” the actors presenting the awards are “stiff.” I’m sorry, but why is that my fault? Aren’t they actors?
Therapist: May I share some feedback with you?
Oscar: Please don’t tell me I have main character syndrome. I’m not a narcissist — everyone really is talking about me.
Therapist: Let’s return to where we ended last session. What would happen if you gave yourself permission to change?
Oscar: I have changed: I’ve gotten rid of hosts, I’ve added hosts — last year I gave some awards off camera to speed up this whole mess, but then everyone was all over me for that. You can’t win.
Therapist: Are you open to a pitch — er, I mean, suggestion?
Oscar: Yes, unless you’re going to say I should go for the hate-watching crowd. I’m with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. I’m not Emily in Paris.
Therapist: When others succeed, it can feel destabilizing. You’ve grown accustomed to viewing other people, or in your case, other television events, as threats. But maybe we could learn from Emily in Paris, or even the Super Bo —
Oscar: You know the Super Bowl is one of my triggers. Half the time it’s as dull as I am — duller! And the half-time show? If I pulled that, people would be all over me for “dated” musical numbers.
Therapist: I promise I am not comparing you with the Super Bowl.
Oscar: I know, I know. “The only one I’m competing against is me.”
Therapist: Could we give people a way to make the Oscars fun, even when it’s — forgive me — not? Look at — forgive me again — what the Super Bowl does with bets. A few years back it was how many times Trump would tweet during the game. This year, whether Rihanna would show cleavage. Think of what you could do with this.
Oscar: Who are you — my therapist or my agent?
Therapist: Funny you should ask. My agent suggested I become more directive — that I move into the life coach space. Said I could blow up on TikTok. So back to the betting. Think of the possibilities: Vegas odds on which living legend will be snubbed, which deceased industry icon will be left out of the In Memoriam montage, who will slap someone, whether Austin Butler will finally give up that Elvis accent.
Oscar: You’re pushing me out of my comfort zone. I’m already naked in public for goodness’ sake.
Therapist: So are those blue guys in Avatar and it’s working out OK for them. Seriously, have you even seen Blonde?
Oscar: This is starting to feel inappropriate.
Therapist: What about more Will Smith? Put him back in the front row again and see what happens?
Oscar: We can’t do that, we already banned him for 10 years — I mean, first we gave him his Oscar, and then we spent a week debating what to do. But then we banned him for 10 years.
Therapist: Fine, if we can’t get him, let’s at least get what he tapped into: the frisson, the unpredictability, the rage! That’s what the American public wants.
Oscar: I don’t know . . . aren’t people fed up with rage? The Academy Awards are about glamor, class, dignity — always dignity. The whole point is to use our platform to draw attention to problems in the real world.
Therapist: You’ve got it all wrong, baby. Everyone at home is sick of being lectured by Hollywood’s liberal elite.
Oscar: Whoa, you’re really leaning into this horrible agent thing, aren’t you?
Therapist: The threat of low-grade violence — that’s where it’s at. Look at what Marjorie Taylor Greene’s heckling did for the State of the Union. You could have buzz like that.
Oscar: So if I’m hearing you, what you’re saying is —
Therapist: Let’s stop trying to “manage” your fear and work with it. At this year’s show, why not allow equal time for the losers? Get them up on stage and give them all the time they want to rant about why the winner is an undeserving nepo baby. You know who Jamie Lee Curtis’s parents are, right?
Oscar: I don’t know if this kind of edginess is what people expect from me.
Therapist: That was the old you. The new you is going to secretly mic every star in attendance, and when they let their guard down, they go big on screen, Jumbotron-style.
Oscar: Um, I can see that we’ve made a lot of progress today. At next week’s session, let’s —
Therapist: Just think of it! Steven Spielberg getting into a shoving match with Tom Hanks, Dame Judi Dench talking smack about Dame Helen Mirren. That’s three and a half hours of memes just waiting to happen. It’s gold, baby, just like you are.
Oscar: This is starting to sound like professional wrestling. I’ll never get invited to talk at The New Yorker Festival.
Therapist: I’m thinking you need to add a White Lotus element. Hear me out: The first red carpet shot we’ll see several bodies, well-dressed, but down for the count. Who are they? What happened? We’ll find out after the best picture is announced by the greatest actor of our time: George Santos.
Oscar: Well, it looks like our time is up.
Beth Teitell can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.