Awards make me uncomfortable.
The Oscars take place this Sunday, and I can’t think of a more brazen example of self-glorification in contemporary America. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching the Academy Awards, and maybe if I ever won something like an Oscar or a Pulitzer Prize or a Nobel I’d feel differently about this whole honoring system. Yet I sometimes wonder if our current, awards-obsessed society isn’t uncomfortably similar to the culture that built the Tower of Babel – the people who believed their achievements matched those of God. At what point does professional praise cross over into blasphemous hubris?
There is something inherently unseemly about awards, especially when they are sought out by the honorees. I’ve worked for newspapers for 16 years, and the annual rite of scouring through a year’s worth of stories and photos and designs, trying to decide which to enter into various journalism contests, has always struck me as an icky task. Likewise, the campaigning that goes on by the studios and stars during the Oscar season reeks of neediness and desperation. Can’t the work speak for itself?
Of course, awards serve crucial functions beyond the flattering of egos. A paper that claims a newsroom full of trophies and plaques will be seen as a more accomplished and trustworthy outlet to potential subscribers and advertisers. An Oscar winner suddenly has new found power in Hollywood, enabling him or her to take on risky creative projects that would otherwise never see the light of day.
Awards have their practical functions, then, but I still see them as necessary evils. And as I watch the starlets parade down the red carpet, reveling in the bright applause of countless flashbulbs, or see the producers and directors standing triumphantly on the stage, hoisting their golden statues high in the air, part of me wonders if we aren’t all getting a little too big for our britches, as grandmas are fond to say. Those giant Oscar statues that stand guard outside the Kodak Theatre during the Academy Awards ceremony seem to be getting taller ever year. How long until they reach as high as the Tower of Babel?