There are some things that are best watched en masse: football games, royal weddings, any cheesy reality show (which is all of them) and the Oscars. Men don’t seem to dig the self-congratulatory, over-hyped, uber-styled, singing, crying, tribute-deluged event; that’s why my Oscar invite-list is female only.
Planning a party for women is easy, it goes something like this: invite them; accept their immediate offers to bring food; sit back and enjoy. I like to theme the food to the movies--a task made harder now that Best Picture nominations have gone from five to 10 movies--so I issue vague assignments to my guests: bring something black and white for “The Artist,” Hawaiian or with nuts to symbolize the kooks in “The Descendants,” and something with alcohol, preferably French, for “Midnight in Paris.” One friend makes delicious chocolate cookie sandwiches held together with vanilla frosting. Another brings a yummy macadamia and coconut-encrusted ice cream cake. When it comes to desserts, these girls aren’t fooling around.
I decide to make mini-chocolate tarts to invoke a seminal scene in “The Help” (though my ingredient list is different from that in the movie). I can’t find a single suitable recipe in my hardback cookbooks so I turn to the Internet to find delectable-looking bittersweet chocolate tartlets on a food blog called “Dessert First Girl.”
My daughter loves pressing the dough into the pan of little tart cups. For her it’s not about the end result. In fact, neither of my children will even eat chocolate desserts though they’ll practically take off your finger if you hand them a Hershey’s kiss or candy bar. For my daughter, baking is about the joy of doing it, not what it yields.
The tarts end up being dark and rich with a deep cooked chocolate flavor and a great buttery crumb in the crust. Dessert First Girl lists suggestions for toppings to increase the complexity of flavor. I leave some plain but dust some with cinnamon, others with chili powder, and the rest with sea salt. The problem with this plan is that I am obliged try each iteration. My favorite is the sea salt one since I always one to prefer salty to sweet--both together? Heaven.
Our spread of food omits anything found near the wide good-for-you bottom of the food pyramid and anything even appearing on the government’s new “choose my plate” program--we’re talking all fats and sugars here. My friends and I squeeze onto the couch, making room for everyone, and turn on the red carpet coverage. We split our attention between the big screen main event and the ipad on my coffee table displaying an E! app with a Twitter feed and a live video feed.
When “The Dictator” Sacha Baron Cohen spills “ashes” all over Ryan Seacrest--aside from being secretly happy that his shellacked demeanor has been dented--we are delighted to see it play out in real time in a ticker of twitter messages. Tweets are asking if Ryan has another tuxedo to change into and if the security that whisks Cohen away is real or part of his scheme. These are the same questions volleying around my living room. (I will note, however, that no one actually laughs at the supposedly-funny antics).
By the time J-Lo and her low-cut dress take the stage, half of the women have out their phones. It starts with one girl checking Billy Crystal’s age because it’s simply impossible to tell from his unnaturally air-brushed appearance (I am as uncomfortable looking at him as I am Barry Manilow or Meg Ryan). Another friend snaps a picture of our group and uploads it as her Facebook status. One uses her phone to look up what other movies Juan Dujardin has been in, while another searches online to make sure that the annoying beeping we hear is from the telecast and not my sound system.
Pretty soon a friend announces that we have “Twitter confirmation” that there has, in fact, been a nip slip while yet another reads a text from her husband aloud: “is that an areola I see?” After we all marvel at her husband’s grasp of anatomy, we tune back in for Angelina’s awkward right leg out pose. Again, phones are lighting up with mocks and snide comments being read to the group.
Before the show is over, the following Twitter accounts have been created and are actively participating in the national conversation: @JLosNipple, @AngiesRightLeg, and @AngiesLeftLeg. JLosNipple is by far the most prolific with 141 tweets since the broadcast, saying things like, “I was a quarter-inch from being famous, do you think I need a publicist?” AngiesRightLeg has more than 48,000 followers reading tweets like, “Check me out!” and “I’m right here.” Poor AngiesLeftLeg fares the worst with the least actual attention and the fewest followers with posts like, “Perhaps I’ll be nominated for Best Supporting Role.” Before the sun rises post-Oscars, photo-shopped pics of Angelina Jolie in all sorts of awkward positions involving her lower limbs have hit the web.
It strikes me that we have stopped creating our own snark--we have outsourced it. We are no longer lauded for a fast, witty aside but for the quickest search engine and the best choice of funny post to share with the group. Perhaps the idea is that comedic minds better than ours are already on the task.
Whereas, in years past, we might have collectively brainstormed Dujardin’s prior movies (if we had ever heard of him before to this year), now we don’t bother with the discussion. How many other things have we stopped thinking about in favor of quick thumbs tapping it out on mini-screens? No more sleepless nights trying to figure out that the freckled girl from Little House who dated Rob Lowe was--um, I think I have it now, it’s on the tip of my tongue, she wore that shockingly low-cut-yet-primly-netted dress a few years ago--Melissa Gilbert!
We want instant answers. We also want to share our own impressions, comments, photos, likes and dislikes and what we are doing--right now (but not necessarily with those in the same room). Our era is one where telling a joke is as easy as hitting “forward” and reacting to said joke is as easy as hitting “delete.” We are part of a collective, if impersonal, conversation. We are connecting more and less. Is it sentimental to wonder if our experience is being enriched or diluted by technology?
In years going forward, will my friends and I tune in to the Academy Awards from our own homes and share the experience virtually? Will we watch each other watching? If so, I’ll miss the face-to-face, un-pixelated camaraderie and the cookies (not the kind my computer rejects).
It’s difficult for me to be too critical of technology as I eat my second/fourth/seventh delicious bittersweet chocolate tartlet made from an online recipe and as I write my blog--a form that doesn’t exist without the Internet. Instead of fighting it, I’m going to try to harness some of its power for good--so if you enjoyed this piece, please tweet it, like it, pin it, digg it, favorite it, plus-one it, share it to tumblr or flickr or reddit, or simply forward it along with a joke or some warning you’ve already vetted on snopes. Thanks!