Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Economy of Prestige: Prize Proliferation

Woody Allen on awards:
"The whole concept of awards is silly. I cannot abide by the judgment of other people, because if you accept it when they say you deserve an award, then you have to accept it when they say you don't."

''Thank you very much. That makes up for the strip search.'' -- Woody Allen, acknowledging a standing ovation at the 2002 Oscar ceremonies

"Awards! That's all they do is give out awards, I can't believe it. "Greatest Fascist Dictator: Adolph Hitler.""

Contests Really Take the Prize by J.Peder Zane
Gore Vidal once observed that there are more prizes than writers in the United States.

Ours does seem to be an age of unrivaled excellence. Never before have there been so many "award-winning" authors, actors, journalists, doctors, plumbers, car mechanics, librarians and quilters -- the Mary Diamond Butts Award, for example, honors fiber artists under 40 residing in the Canadian province of Ontario.

The standard reference work "Awards, Honors & Prizes" (Gale) runs more than 2,000 pages. And as James F. English observes in his provocative new book, "The Economy of Prestige" (Harvard University Press), it is adding "new prizes at the rate of about one every six hours."

If this "prize frenzy," as English calls it, seems straight out of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," that's because it is. Remember the Cacus race where "everybody has won, and all must have prizes."

Like all journalists, I have prizes on my mind. December is when we prepare contest entries for our own work and compile the infamous "Top 10" lists -- of the best records, DVDs, films, books, gag gifts -- that fill our pages during the holiday seasons. And when we aren't seeking or bestowing honors, we write columns decrying this awards mania. It is a busy time.

I write not to bury awards and top 10 lists but to praise them. I do not dismiss English's claim that the proliferation of prizes and top 10 lists casts a Darwinian pall over the culture, dividing artists into two groups: winners and losers. He has a point when he describes awards as "one of the glaring symptoms of a consumer society run rampant, a society that can conceive of artistic achievement only in terms of stardom and success, and that is fast replacing a rich and varied cultural world with a shallow and homogenous McCulture based on the model of network TV."

More here

"Clearing a path through the thicket of abundant culture", Casa del ionesco's 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Tracks Ever ~ coming soon!

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