Every year, people seem to find a way to take issue with the Oscars. No matter the host nor the circumstances nor the lineup of movies that a handful of individuals have decided are Movies, the Academy Awards always seem to arrive with an asterisk, signifying some perennial need for a freshening-up. Expanding the breadth of the voter pool will have an enormous effect, of course, as will any given host’s recalibration of his or her bit-to-musical-number ratio, but there is still one solution to relevancy that the Oscars have not explored, and which I believe could change the game for this 90-year-old ceremony. It’s simple, really, but it’s become increasingly clear that it’s a crucial directive the Academy must heed: Let Paddington present at the Oscars.
Paddington is a critically acclaimed bear and an entertainment veteran with six decades of industry experience. Recently, he’s been made the star of his own record-breaking film franchise (the eponymous Paddington and Paddington 2, delightful and delightfuller) yet his lengthy list of accomplishments stretches back much further. Long before his entry into the glamorous world of British children’s film, Paddington made his debut in book form in 1958, quickly emerging as a breakout talent that year and, had it existed, he would have certainly been one of 1958’s “30 under 30” to watch. He would go on to enchant booksellers, toymakers, and television executives for decades thereafter, all clamoring to get in business with this well-intentioned, optimistic, body-positive bear.
Now, Paddington is nothing short of a cultural staple, a literary icon, and one of 2018’s biggest movie stars. And still, no invitation to present at the Oscars? How come, Academy?
To allow Paddington to present at this esteemed ceremony would be to allow sunshine into a dark foyer. The euphoric light which Paddington radiates from every furry little bear pore could be the missing salve needed to bring this country — even this world — together. If given even just a minute to share his message, Paddington could temporarily halt our entire international crisis by simply citing his Aunt Lucy’s famous mantra: If we are kind and polite, the world will be right.
Cynics have heard the sentiment before, but Paddington is not just another member of the so-called Hollywood elite preaching a message of love and equality to people who refuse to hear it. For one thing, he is actually not from California but rather, darkest Peru (a common mix-up). Second, he is a bear. These two things should suggest that he was never groomed to be in show business. Paddington boasts an upbringing with outsider appeal that some folks seem to desire in their icons today. He is an individual with everyman likability, the kind of bear you feel like you could really just grab a jar of marmalade with. His charisma demands an audience; his message, an open mind. (Furthermore, his unique shape would also help to dismantle Hollywood’s unrealistic beauty standards, however this is not germane to today’s argument.)
While it is important to understand the effects Paddington’s inclusion at the Oscars would have on us as moral students of the world, one must also consider what presenting could do for his career. The kind of regnant exposure afforded by the national platform of an awards show is significant for any struggling character actor like Paddington, who despite years in the business is only just tasting success at this late stage (consider: Ann Dowd?). It is a sad truth that Paddington has, up until recently, usually only registered to Americans as “that bear” from “that book” and is not considered a household name like other bears such as Corduroy or Winnie or other character actors such as Judy Greer and Dylan Baker. With the spotlight finally on Paddington, the Oscars would offer an opportunity for him to show his versatile side. Perhaps he can sing, or strike a mean red carpet pose, or excel at light banter with co-presenter Saoirse Ronan. There are elements of Paddington we do not know yet, to both his detriment and ours, which an awards show could happily draw out.
Reader, right now perhaps you are thinking, “Is this serious?” or “Could this actually happen?” or “I did not click on this” but it is folly to think that Paddington does not deserve to be seriously considered for the Oscars, or that he would not fit in. Sure, the awards themselves rarely take into account box-office success, but on his own merits Paddington would not be out of place in the present company of his film industry colleagues. Sally Hawkins, his onscreen sort-of-adoptive mother, is nominated this year for Best Actress for The Shape of Water; the cross-promotion alone is a worthy reason to justify his attendance! Two-time Blockbuster Entertainment Award winner Nicole Kidman, who played an evil taxidermist in the first Paddington film, will also probably be at the Oscars as well (the reason being that she is a very famous movie actress); given her limited past work with bears, she would very likely recognize and remember Paddington if given the opportunity. Hugh Grant, who is in Paddington 2, also seems like he would probably be invited to the Oscars for some reason, and Meryl Streep, another very famous actress, has almost certainly seen a Paddington 2 poster during her stagecoach travels and would likely not be disappointed by seeing a fun bear. (Recall how receptive she was to Ben Stiller dressing up as one of the Avatar things in Avatar.)
And lest we forget, while Paddington is sadly not nominated this time, other notable bears have even gone on to win Academy Awards in years past. Pixar’s Brave, a movie that’s literally about why humans don’t respect bears, won Best Animated Feature in 2012. Toy Story 3, a well-known film featuring a villainous bear who smelled of strawberries, won in 2010. The 2017 winner Zootopia also featured a bear somewhere, I think, maybe as a cop or a security guard or something? There was definitely a bear in it.
Finally… look, I didn’t want to have to play this card, but the Academy also let Ted present. Ted. Ted is filthy. He is a foul-mouthed, quasi-racist, semi-homophobic bigot of a bear and has done more bad for the ursine species than Yogi Bear’s picnic-basket crime spree in the early ’60s. His damage must be erased, and Paddington is, without any hyperbole, the very essence of purity and innocence without whom the world would lose all warmth. If Ted can be allowed to tread the hallowed footlights of Los Angeles’ most well-renowned location the Dolby Theatre™, Paddington should indisputably be allowed to follow suit, especially since he is compatible with any number of possible presenters and his appearance would not, like Ted, be predicated on bringing Mark Wahlberg. (However, even for all his faults, Ted still broke boundaries, and although he is not indicative of the kind of bear we would like to see at the Oscars, consider this indisputable fact: The correct Best Picture winner was announced at 100 percent of the Oscar ceremonies where a bear has presented. At ceremonies where a bear did not present, the chances of the right Best Picture winner being named drop to a staggeringly low 98.86 percent.)
What Paddington lacks in human anatomy, he makes up for in spirit, charm, and box-office bankability. His decency and tenderness are necessary hugs in a sea of cold shoulder blades. He would look so cute in a tux. It would frankly be nothing short of criminal to exclude Paddington Bear from a celebration of the wonder of film, when his film is perhaps the most wondrous we’ve seen so far this year. So if the Oscars truly want to modernize and evolve, the Academy should at the very least consider expanding its focus to include the breakout species that have made an impact on films that year. Except the fish-man from Shape of Water, who is disgusting and whom I do not want anywhere near the awards for any reason whatsoever.