Talking About the Oscars With Your Kids

Andrea The four of us watched the Oscars last night. My youngest went to bed before it ended so the rest of us are feeling rather bleary this morning. I always wonder why they always do it on a Sunday. Don’t they know it’s a school night? Sigh.

We decided to level up our Oscar experience a little bit this year with a special dinner and snacks that included sparkly Perrier and chips. So fancy!

We recorded the red carpet event on our PVR so we could skip the commercials but it wasn’t long before we caught up with the live event and were watching them anyway.

Watching TV with kids is a great opportunity to talk about how advertisers present their products. I see commercials as a worm on a fishhook scenario. It’s hard to remain immune if you’re a hungry fish. Burgers are heavily styled so they look like models of fast food perfection; light is shone through a glass of freshly poured Coke so the bubbles seem to glow with effervescence; beauty products are modelled on beautiful people who don’t seem to have pores.

Oscar award

A simple question, such as, “Do you ever remember a burger looking that nice?” can effectively kickstart a conversation for young people who are figuring out how to navigate the world of advertising. The answer here, of course, is no, you will never see a burger look so perfect. Why? Advertisers make them look like this because (a) they want to show all of the toppings on a particular burger (b) they want us to crave their product (c) they want us to know about a certain deal or promotion. Basically, they want our money. Teens are smart enough to recognize the deception when they see it. My hope is that they’ll apply the burger lesson to other ads they see, whether it’s for Slimfast or wrinkle cream.

Commercials aside, I hope teens understand that celebrities have a team of people who help them look “perfect” for the big moment:


My husband doesn’t particularly enjoy watching the Oscars, but he watched with us. I like watching them, even if I haven’t seen all of the films. Even though the Oscars are often overshadowed by social issues (this year it was the absence of black actors, which was addressed at every possible turn) and internal politics (I often wonder why/how films are chosen - who knows what kind of lobbying goes on behind the scenes?), I enjoy watching the Oscars because I like to see what everyone is wearing and how the actors behave in a live situation. Some of them are remarkably elegant, smart, and funny, while others are just awkward. It’s the unpredictability of it all that keeps me watching. Is someone going to burst into tears at the podium? Use their speech to champion a cause? Trip on the stairs? You never know that’s going to happen.

And as much as I appreciate and admire the art of fashion, the never-ending cycle of fawning that happens on the red carpet event makes me laugh:

Reporter: “You look great!”
Movie star: “Really? You look so ammaaaaazing!”
Reporter: “You were fantastic in that movie!”
Movie star: “Well, I got to work with fantastic people and I am blessed to be here. It’s an honour to be nominated!”

There is little truth, only mutual admiration. Even though the interviewers have been instructed NOT to ask women about their dresses, that rule was broken a couple of times (“I’m going to break protocol because I HAVE to ASK YOU about your DRESS!”). Interviewers are told they should be asking deeper questions about careers and issues of the day. I don’t disagree, but at the same time, the red carpet is not really the place for in-depth interviews and soul searching.

Regardless of what the stars are doing on the red carpet, it is a good time to talk with kids about some of the bigger issues. The issue of the “white” Oscars is the most obvious one this year, given how much it has been discussed in the media. Of course, the topics of the films themselves make good conversation fodder as well, such as gender, same sex-relationships, kidnapping. The art of filmmaking is also a good topic for discussion: how is sound important to a film? Editing? Music? Historical accuracy in costumes for period pieces? Given the number of lengthy commercial breaks there is no shortage of time to have a few great conversations with our kids.

Did you watch the Oscars with your kids