"My work may be garbage but it's good garbage." Mickey Spillane
Guest post by Steven Beeho. Coming next week a deeper digging from another angle by another Steven, Steven Saus.)
Here’s to my wealth of Stevens. Mr. Beeho is the author of Big Bad Man and other tales.
Congratulations. For reading this article, I hereby declare you the winner of this decade’s Article Reader of the Internet. This award is newly created by me and without any merit whatsoever, but feel free to brag about something you didn’t get fairly or honestly. Because that works, right?
There’s no merit to it. Nothing to show you earned this. No indication that you have been judged by your peers and found worthy of notice. This is what people crave. Awards have meaning only due to the weight behind them placed there by those bestowing it or those who have won it before you. You hope that serious thought has gone into the giving of such a thing, and that those who thought about it knew what the hell they were doing.
But people still want that recognition, and others know it. So you can dangle that shiny trinket and lure them in. Hey, want an award? Want something to show off? Wait, you don’t care about what it means or who decided to give it to you? You just want something to make you feel worthy?
A good old pat on the back always feels welcome. A heartfelt thank you means a lot for your effort. But a badge or trophy to show off really appeals. We all know we love to show off praise. We want to be above such petty acts, but very often we find ourselves trying to bring it up in random conversation. Any excuse to say, “Oh, didn’t I tell you that I’m awesome now?”
People want this and so they can be lured in. In all honesty, however, it doesn’t reflect well on you. To brag about something that you don’t deserve or didn’t earn only highlights your lack of achievement. People might well nod and say well done at first, but either they will ask questions and challenge your worthiness or merely talk shit about you behind your back.
So an award of empty, deceitful praise, given without thought or integrity, is a bad thing.
Check. Think we all knew that really.
But they ruin the concept of the award itself. Someone can hold one up to show the badge of honour that they have achieved, only for others to scoff, worn down with cynicism by the plethora of empty awards floating about. People who genuinely know their craft could create an award and hand it out with due care, only for their trophy to be ridiculed, their actions creating suspicion.
Are awards important? Perhaps not, at least not all important. Many artists never received the praise they were due. Still more were rewarded less than they should have been. The quality of your work will stand alone or it will fall. Awards can even attract attention, bringing a more critical eye to pull apart your beloved creation.
However they can matter. Not only to an individual’s own sense of self worth, but they can affect the market overall. A book wins an award and suddenly that is the new popular genre publishers are looking for. A movie wins acclaim and the director can move on to that dream project he or she had always wanted to do. A game can impress to such a degree it wins awards across the board and a new level of gameplay, story telling and interaction with players opens up to us.
Awards matter because they draw attention to creator and creation. We need awards of honest merit to guide us to what needs recognition. We want awards so we can applaud an artist for the work they have done that inspires us all.
Seeing awards handed out without honesty or thought only demeans the entire process. In so many walks of life, a little pollution soon turns us into suspecting everything is contaminated. We become suspicious, cynical and snide too quickly. Perhaps that is our fault, but when you see awards given out and know they are false idols, you are right to start questioning. We should be aspiring to achieve similar goals as those we respect, not seek to drag us all down, denying every accolade bestowed on anyone.
Awards given out for the wrong reasons can deprive us of writers, directors, performers and others of talent standing on pedestals to encourage us in hoping to join them. Awards given to the undeserved only stains the achievements of those who went before, of those who earned them truly.
When everyone stands up and shouts “I’m Spartacus!” and actually believes it, then you lose the actual hero in the midst.
Awards are not the all defining feature of any of us. But for us to judge a craft fairly, and those within it working hard and showing their skills off to have the same, we need to know that they are handed out correctly. The process needs qualifications, even restrictions, so any award can have meaning when it is given, so we can respect the fair judges who gave it – even if we disagree with their choices – and we can applaud the winner knowing they have been handed their due.
Ultimately, in any industry, those who stand above the rest, being praised by the rest, should represent the highest quality of that industry.
An award given wrongly, especially to dupe the recipient, not only reflects badly on both parties, but can tarnish other winners.
Put simply, it is the same as athletes who cheat via drug taking. Soon we suspect any winner and walk away from the competition completely, uninterested in the outcome of future events.