What are the chances that someone who wins an Academy Award will say bashfully, "Oh, it wasn't anything special, I was just doing my job"?
Or that a spokesperson for the industry will say, "After all, let's remember that it's just entertainment"?
Approximately zero, Miss Manners figures. No doubt we would all be disappointed if they did. Hollywood hype is a sort of folklore with us, and to put it into perspective would ruin it.
Yet, speaking of zero, didn't we just see counter-examples of accolades being accepted with modesty, and popular pastimes being acknowledged by the people involved as not of major importance?
Police and firefighters at Ground Zero murmured that what was being publicly lauded as heroism was simply what they had signed up to do, and then excused themselves to get back to work. Professional athletes who had been in the habit of prancing about in frenzies of self-congratulation were saying that it was, after all, just a game.
Miss Manners noted that award ceremonies were also muted, postponed or canceled in the fresh throes of mourning. The entertainment industry did some immense soul-searching at the time, asking itself if there might be a possibility of its being in bad taste to use mayhem and violence for amusement.
And then it decided -- Nyah.
As one of the few citizens who does not hold the entertainment industry responsible for morally uplifting the nation, Miss Manners would not worry about its artless self-aggrandizement if audiences would take it in the same spirit. What bothers her is that the nation studies the Academy Awards as a course in public etiquette.
This is not all bad. Academy Award winners always remember to thank and compliment others, although they don't always remember to stop. They often tout causes that help the unfortunate as well as their reputations for compassion. They dress for the occasion, sometimes both above and below the waist.
These habits have been picked up by the citizenry for their own rituals, and Miss Manners is afraid that they do not realize that they must be modulated in speeches given by normal people.
Graduates should certainly thank their parents and teachers, but not everyone they have ever known, as if even people who are not present would want history to record that they contributed to creating a genius. Bridal couples are excused for saying charming things about each other, but they should not insert into the ceremony their lists of personal qualities ("You let me have my space") with which they fell in love. Birthday celebrants are encouraged to put to good use any largesse that is conferred on them, but they should not consider it a virtue to coerce others into supporting their charities. And it is a good idea for everybody, no matter how original and fashionable, to remember to get dressed beforehand.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I made the remark that I was going to have supper on Sunday night, my daughter and daughter-in-law laughed at me. I said that I know years ago, it used to be breakfast, dinner and supper, but I thought supper still held true for Sunday, because now you have brunch. I would like to be able to tell them they're wrong.
GENTLE READER: You didn't need to wait for Miss Manners for that. The young are always wrong to laugh at their elders.
As Miss Manners recalls, chic mid-Victorians were inordinately proud of themselves for discovering that one could overeat at night, instead of at mid-day. They then retitled their meals breakfast, lunch and dinner, and began the custom your young ladies are following, of laughing at people who still had daytime dinner and a light supper at night, the way they used to do.
But they also recognized that there were proper times for light evening meals, such as oysters and champagne at midnight. If you eat lightly Sunday evening to recover from brunch, that is properly called supper.