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January 31, 2016

Several Notes About The Fake Awards At Angouleme

* in case you haven't heard -- and I'm not sure everyone has yet -- the festival prizes at Angouleme used a comedian named Richard Gaitet to do something they thought would be humorous with their weekend program. What they came up with was a short, fake awards show preceding the real one. This involved riffing on some of the design elements of the full program thematically, but basically constituted calling certain actual cartoonists and nominees up to stage as if they had won one of the festival's prizes, giving them a fake award, and then declaring that first part of the awards program fake before moving onto the real prizes.

* here's Derf with a plain-language description of the events as he learned about them at the festival.

* you can get some of what they were thinking in the apology Gaitet wrote for Le Monde. You might not understand what's being suggested -- I'm not sure I do -- but it sounds like there was some humor theory at work there, that old saw of introducing a second idea (fake awards winner) to "question" the first (the real awards winners). I'm guessing there was also a secondary level of "stupid host... this isn't how awards work!" Why either dissonance or self-reflection would be the subject of humor at an awards program, I couldn't tell you. Why joking incompetence might be part of a show whose competence was hammered for two weeks preceding, again: couldn't tell you. If we're going to talk theory, a structural piss-take on an awards show that barely has historical structure is very New 52, too. They haven't done these awards in this way long enough for there to be effective satire on how they're done.

* theory aside, just on a practical level, it's hard to fathom how no one thought this was a terrible idea. The joke depended on putting people into an embarrassing situation. Working artists who might find an award meaningful aren't exactly the best choice for this kind of satirical point: these aren't millionaires looking for another excuse to be lauded. Awards don't just exist in the room they're given, so the failure to realize that publishing reps and friends would be tweeting out and texting congratulations they'd later have to rescind -- a huge fucking embarrassing bummer for all involved -- seems criminally stupid. A stunt that would in any way stand between the winners and the traditional, practical good of being singled out and lauded in front of a market that's so hard to penetrate, that seems slightly insane. And after two full weeks of being hammered for the lack of female nominees on the original long list for grand prix, why would you move forward with anything that was the least bit potentially controversial without a huge projected upside?

* an idea floated that this stunt was a good idea because comics exist in a context that emphasizes wacky satire and taking the piss out, that just isn't true. That's one context of like 50 different contexts for comics, and everything about the Festival stands to counter that kind of rigid thinking. What a lame response. Seriously, that's an argument abusive dorks used to use on message boards in 1998.

* since there were reports that the "fake" winners were confused about their status vis-a-vis the real winners right there at the show, that suggests this wasn't even executed well -- unless, again, the point was dissonance and inquiry and humiliating people.

* here's Matt Madden with the official jury statement. Translated from the French for "What the fuck?"

* one thing that honked me off about the grand prix nominees long-list fiasco was the cynical deployment of the historical argument as a defense. Part of the genius of introducing that argument was that our eagerness to beat the shit out of it took us further away from getting at how and why the committee screwed up going 0 for 30 with grand prix nominees -- a very specific task with very specific parameters that isn't exactly strict historical inquiry in several ways that matter. The equivalent argument with the fake awards may have already presented itself: a "tyranny of social media" position that suggests social media mechanisms like twitter distort things that happen in a way that makes the organizers victims rather than malcontents. Arguments like that are the beginnings of arguments, not arguments themselves, and there's no footing to make it stick here. In fact, specifically in this case, what happened at the awards was so baffling and unthinkably dumb that it resisted becoming viral.

* one thing that I think people should remember about awards programs of all kinds is that some people are into them way deep, but most people aren't. Ignoring them is easier than you'd think, and an awards program that people are behind just in terms of it being a practical, overall good represents more fragility than one might be comfortable admitting.

* does anyone remember that a convention in the 2000s in Spain attended by Peter Bagge and Eric Reynolds had a fake terrorist takeover? The reason you don't is because that wasn't particularly hilarious, either.
posted 9:55 pm PST | Permalink

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