Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Oscar worthy, schmoscar worthy


While watching the Oscars, a friend of mine pointed something out to me: “Have you ever noticed how often movies are nominated that have horses in them?” This was in response to a clip from the Oscar nominated “War Horse” on the screen. Take a moment to think of all the movies you know centered around dogs or other animals as well – “Seabiscuit” is another prime example. It seems that the cinematic world often follows certain themes in order to produce popular films.

However, trends are inevitable in fashion, music, paintings, books, movies or any other art form. In high school, my AP English class read Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” and everyone (including our teacher), despised it. We wondered how a top-selling book could have lacked the intriguing storyline that all the other books we’d read provided. Nonetheless, I remember my teacher pointed out that the book was in Oprah’s Book Club and that it included themes like racism and rape, which are very marketable in literature today.

It astounds me how many people will buy into something just because it is stamped with somebody else’s approval.

Some writers seem to have figured out what other people want; they know the themes that sell. These writers want to win over the approval of the general public, and the general public wants to win over the approval of all their peers, and in the end it all concludes in a giant mess of people who are afraid to use their own trains of thought because they trust somebody else’s more than their own.

Why are we always so quickly convinced that someone else is smarter than we are? Why are we so quick to trust another’s ideas?

It is scary to trust ourselves, because it puts a lot out on the line; we are afraid of being left naked and alone should we be proven wrong. So as a result, we rest assured under the cozy security blanket of popular sentiment, because it is so much more comfortable to share an opinion rather than have our own: We want to believe that someone else has a higher opinion than we do, and so we convince ourselves it’s true. This, as humans, may be our biggest fault.

The best writers write well because they trust themselves. In order to create any art that is of substance people must be willing to listen to their own voices over everyone else’s. Woody Allen never appears at awards shows like The Oscars or The Golden Globes, because he doesn’t want to hear what others think about his work. He doesn’t read reviews, and he doesn’t let anyone read his writing, because he creates movies for his own personal benefit. The man has made countless films that many consider to be incredibly smart and sincere.

The best writers are constantly revising their own ideas until they meet their own standards, not those of other people. This is probably why many famous writers like Woody Allen, Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway are seen as egotistical and self-indulgent.

After all this thought, it is difficult for me to believe that anything award-winning or worthy of Oprah’s Book Club can really be better than something such as, I don’t know, the movie “Kangaroo Jack.”

Sometimes I do believe that what is popular is best; I absolutely adored “Hugo,” “Moneyball,” “Midnight in Paris,” “The Help” and “Bridesmaids.” But other times, I think that the merit of a work of art is contained within itself. I just don’t believe it’s necessarily smart to rely on others’ opinions all the time: It is important to take others’ ideas into consideration, but we must ultimately trust our own opinion above all else.

If art were not financially profitable, perhaps this would allow for more interpretation due to the lack of persuasion from advertising. I am starting to believe the old platitude that money is the root of all evil because of the great lengths some will go to in order to get it.

People should avoid writing or printing pieces for the sake of having them sell well and at the expense of a work’s personal voice. No matter how many people say, “Give the people what they want,” just say, “No, thank you.”

Katie McKenna is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].

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