The Trouble With Awards

There is a certain cognitive dissonance when it comes to awards. We know that, in all but the most obvious cases where prizes are given based on predetermined metrical standards, they are entirely subjective, often political and occasionally bestowed upon their recipients for past efforts rather than any kind of current worthiness. And yet we can’t help but take sides; there is something about our brains that is hardwired to rank, to root, to want our favorite to be the winner. We even enjoy the bad calls — I know people who still bemoan the injustice of Martin Scorsese losing the Academy Award for Best Director to Kevin Costner, even though it happened 700 years ago. It is the same reason we focus on the horse race aspect of politics rather than making it about the substantial issues at stake; we prefer embracing the thrill of the contest to doing the hard work of focusing on where the merit truly lies. One could even argue that awards expose the hollowness of our society, displaying a heartless atavism which contends that winning is the only thing that matters. I object to this philosophy: Works of art, or literature or any other creative effort upon which baubles are bestowed should not be compared to one another as if they were so many different kinds of cola in some commercial taste test; they are individual feats of humanity that express something noble and profound about who we are and how we attempt to understand our world. That said, if Pippa Middleton’s ass does not win the 2011 Rear of the Year Award — Britain’s most coveted prize — I am gonna be pissed.