Oh, I’ve won some writing awards (it’s the reason why my books MY PROBLEM WITH DOORS and MEGAN were published- they were both honored in a writing competition), and was very grateful, but it still feels odd to me. I have no problem telling someone that a story they have is great, for example, or another writer that their story needs work, but to say one is better than the other… there is that queasy feeling again.
On a side note, I once took a class with a famed poetry professor–who I will call Darth Poet–who in the class would have the students read all of their poems, take a break, and then afterwards list them from best to worst. Darth Poet would also tell each poet why their work was not as good as another’s in gruesome details. Yes, there were tears each class, and even one student spat at her and stormed out. So I have seen the dark side of artistic comparison and it ain’t pretty, my friend.
Yet, each year, we excitedly wait for the Oscar nominations to be read and then the actual night of the Oscars. Celebrities arriving at the red carpet. Newscasters awkwardly asking the filmmakers (actors, directors, etc.) if they are excited to win; the celebrity replies “It is an honor just to be nominated alongside this great group of artists.” The same song over and over again, just a different singer.
I used to go to the trouble of seeing each of the Best Pictures that were nominated. I even would take part in competitions in local papers where you have to guess the winners (Strangely, I would always do quite well around this). But the more time passes, the more I feel there is something “off” about the entire enterprise.
Why do we continue to do this to one of our great American artforms?
Art as Sport
I wonder if this is an American thing. We love sports and competition, we like to declare someone the winner and someone the loser. It seeps its way into every aspect of our lives, from politics (us-versus-them and team feelings around parties, etc.) to education. But, in many ways, competition goes against the grain of the arts.
And yet, I’ve been guilty of cheering on one film over another. I still get angry when I think The Fellowship of the Ring lost to A Beautiful Mind (Seriously? SERIOUSLY!?). But is this right?
Creating a movie, like a book or a dance or any other artform, is an event in itself. You are, hopefully, making magic in a moment that will last. Can you imagine if they had competitions like this for Renaissance artists? Or romantic poets?
“Sorry, Coleridge, your poem wasn’t gloomy enough for us this year- the winner is Byron!”
Yet, we do this each year for the movies. The Oscars even have their own “playoffs” building up to the big night with Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Director’s Guild, etc. It’s an industry firmly in place right now and there is nothing we can do to change that. It’s really quite sad what we put these artists and their creations through.
The only plus side I see to award shows is the opportunity it has to introduce audiences to works that they might not have normally seen. If studios didn’t have to think about Oscars, chances are, we would get nothing but bad romantic-comedies and action films; in other words, the money films.
So to just say, “stop the madness” w0uld be the equivalent of stopping your clapping and allowing Tinkerbell to die in Peter Pan. We can’t let Tink die, can we???
Is competition even really possible? The only way, as I see it, to have a real competition around any artform is by doing something like this, I’ll use acting as an example.
Same script, same director, different actors playing the exact same part.
Yes, yes, you would be seeing the exact same movie with just a different actor reading the lines. OK, I agree that may be boring after a while but how else can you say one actor is better than another or a performance is better? It’s the only way to level the playing field. And right now, especially when it comes around the acting category, all they have to go on is the words given to them.
- So for scripts, each screenplay writer is given the same idea, then the created scripts are compared.
- Directors are given the same script to direct.
I agree that this really doesn’t sound like fun for anyone (and definitely would make the creation process dry); but even if this was attempted, it is like being a judge in an ice skating competition, and really unless someone falls down who can really say that a spin is better than another’s spin? Unless you are the Poland judge, they always seem the most tough to impress. It’s one of the reasons, I like track and field at the Olympics, you know who won- they crossed the finish line first, but I digress…
Could award shows still work if instead of comparing products, they were focused around acknowledging a body of work? It would be nicer definitely to have an evening where a creator was honored for a life’s work; there are shows like that, but their ratings never reach the level of the Oscars.
We love the competition and the show around the Oscars.
Maybe it is the fact I am a parent, or maybe it is because I am just damn older, but the idea of “what we are saying” to our next generation of artists comes up in my mind a lot. “Create something that inspires you… and if you are lucky you might win something too!”
Does it all come down to money?
Or maybe I am just more cynical the older I get.
Yet, I must admit if I was ever lucky enough to get one of my movies made and then have the script nominated; yeah I’ll go…
And on the day of the nomination,
I’ll probably delete this post in a heartbeat from my blog.
If you liked reading this post, why not check out one of my books? I’ve had three novels published in the last few years, A Jane Austen Daydream (coming in April), My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or as an eBook on Google eBooks here. Thanks for reading!…