Awards Overload

A new book posits that there are about 9,000 movie awards given out in a given year. Thats more than the number of actual movies that come out, according to The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards and the Circulation of Cultural Value, by James English. The exponential growth in kudo-fests began in the 1970s and continues unabated, he writes, and theres an intriguing paradox to it all. New Yorker critic Louis Menaud says in a review of the book that scandals over who gets awarded what, and brouhaha over whether the awards mean anything in the first place actually underscore the importance of such institutions:

His theory is that when people make these objections they are helping to sustain a collective belief that true art has nothing to do with things like politics, money, in-group tastes, and beating out the other guy. As long as we want to believe that creative achievement is special, that a work of art is not just one more commodity seeking to aggrandize itself in the marketplace at the expense of other works of art, we need prizes so that we can complain about how stupid they are.

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The entertainment industry is certainly satisfying that need.

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