The Oscars reflect how we wish we were rather than how we really are. So it's no surprise this year's top award went to our ego-ideal instead of our shadow. The Social Network and The King's Speech, pitted against each other, also pit the demons against the better angels of our nature. Both capture the essence of the current age, though the winner does so through nostalgia for what's missing from a bygone era. The Social Network diagnoses what ails us; The King's Speech provides the cure.

The films offer opposite depictions of the social compact, which is completely upended in The Social Network. Honor is viewed not just as quaint but as a poor business model. Sacrifice is what you do to people and principles when they get in the way. There is not only no common purpose, but not much purpose at all.

The King's Speech has what The Social Network lacks: a moral compass, class (and class transcendence), real friends, women. It has something else almost completely missing from The Social Network: adults. Bertie and Elizabeth have a mature marriage. He shoulders the duties his self-absorbed brother abdicates. The king's speech calls upon a nation to confront Hitler not with callow bravado, but with the solemnity of wise and clear-eyed sacrifice.

The generational divide was evident at the awards ceremony itself, with hot young hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco selected for their demographic appeal. But the duo bombed, outclassed by Bob Hope, more alive in celluloid footage than the flesh-and-blood amateurs. The evening left us begging to bring back the grown-ups.

Our wish was granted when The King's Speech bested The Social Network. Score one for the adults of a bygone era rescuing civilization, zero for the modern-day Lord of the Flies.

Meanwhile, outside Hollywood's Kodak Theater, the amorality tale spurned by the Academy reigns supreme. Corporate avarice and the politics of destruction are stronger than ever. Actual kids in hoodies aren't really the problem; it's the entitled elders masquerading as grown-ups. With challenges at home and abroad, we need shared sacrifice and maturity, but there are very few adults in the arena. Frankly, they seem overmatched in trying to turn chaos into common purpose.

Call it a contest between generations, though not in the chronological sense. The adults take home the Oscar, but in the real world, the cutthroat scions of privilege appear to be holding the island.

Lorrie Goldin, LCSW
Impulse Staff Writer