The ways in which we qualify things are getting worse. I read around just about every day and I gather opinions about the ways in which we qualify things. There was a quote from a writer of some sort (forgive me, I don’t remember the name of the writer) I read on tumblr saying that everyone nowadays is afraid of the big idea, or anything grand. He went on about the ways people speak—saying ‘like’ a million times, ‘I feel’, ‘in my opinion’, and there were so many. He said no one states anything clearly anymore. There are no more real proclamations. I agree. I saw Kanye West on Jimmy Kimmel’s show recently. I hate to reference this, but what he said while on the show was important. He said everyone is so concerned with limiting you and fitting you into a box, and he called himself a ‘creative genius’ (whether we believe him to be one is irrelevant). Then he said if he were to say he were not a creative genius, he would be lying to himself and to people when he talked to them. The crowd laughed. I laughed when I watched the video. The rest of the interview isn’t important for what I’m talking about, but what I’m getting at is the uncertainty in all of us. It spreads. It’s popular. I realize we can’t all be the same. We can’t all have the same type of confidence, or any confidence at all.
I talked to a friend out on the west coast the other day. She’s an aspiring actress, and she models. After seeing 12 Years A Slave I text messaged her telling her to go see the film. She saw it maybe a week later and told me she thought it was incredible and the woman that played Patsy will get an Oscar. I said I hope she gets something (if anything). The next thing she said was ‘this is her breakthrough role. She went to Yale.’ I didn’t say anything after that. I knew it meant nothing, but still after my friend said that I thought—what does any of her acting have to do with her going to Yale? Or, how does her potential to win awards (whichever ones) depend on where the hell she went to school? My friend’s logic poses that the academy puts nominees into a perspective based on not only their performances, but also their ‘story’, when they’re considering who should win. Everyone’s talked about people and celebrities about their careers, or their lives, and adding where he or she went to school, and it’s sad. I don’t do it anymore. We throw these things into conversation casually, and unknowingly, as if to say that we are nothing without Yale, or Columbia, or Harvard, or some other qualifier. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of where someone went to school. But, look at how many people are successful in careers without formal education, or if they had formal education, look at their success without accolades. People are using accolades alone to determine whether something is great, or worthy of attention—their attention. We do it with athletes. What is a quarterback without a superbowl if he is to be considered for the hall of fame?
There was a WordPress post I read sometime earlier this year. It was an excerpt from another writer about there being no other greater mark of mediocrity than an author winning the Nobel Prize for literature. I don’t think that every laureate is mediocre. But I don’t think I should choose what books I read based on the list of past laureates. I don’t think it should be among the criteria schools use to develop curricula for their literature courses. I don’t think it means a writer is ‘bad’ or ‘not as good’ because they did not win the Nobel Prize, or Pulitzer Prize, or Book of The Year, or any other award. You may compare the concept to recording artists winning awards too—artist wins award for making something that appeals to an ideal or the greatest number of people. In the words of Alfred Nobel: “in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”.
Awards are a guide if you want to use them that way, but I don’t use them as incontrovertible criteria—like I’m diseased with linear thinking. We do artists a disservice by mentioning the awards the ways we mention them. We use them as attachments that for the artist, without them the artist is nothing and has done nothing worthy.