In the entertainment industry, there’s a reason why awards are important. Awards shows like the Oscars or the Emmys signify that a movie or TV show is worthy of attention. More importantly, it forces producers in these mediums to actually make content that would get attention at these award shows. For example, a show like Mr. Robot may not have an impressive number of viewers, but its continuation garners significant prestige for USA Network due to its numerous Emmy nods.
In other words, you might be getting a Marvel and Star Wars movie every year until you die (if not more), but at least because of award shows, you also get prestige flicks like Moonlight and Spotlight. While next year, the Oscar winner may not have ‘light’ in the title, it will also likely be a very good movie. That isn’t the case for the vast majority of movies and TV shows, but awards shows like the Oscars and the Emmys help to separate the wheat from the chafe when it comes to popular entertainment.
Where this doesn’t really happen is with the Grammys and music, and you may notice the difference between mainstream music and mainstream movies. Every form of popular entertainment needs its blockbuster hits to sustain its industry, but the Grammys makes no distinction between popularity and prestige. That’s why Macklemore can win a Grammy, and Adele regularly sweeps the show. That’s not to say that Adele isn’t a talented singer, but there are many other singers who are more talented than Adele who are not getting proper recognition. This is because of how the Grammys are operated. Membership to the Recording Academy, which votes on the Grammy nominations, is much easier to obtain than membership to other awards bodies. This makes voting less political, and the high number of members are more easily swayed toward artists they’ve already heard of.
If you want to know why the music industry doesn’t produce the same level of quality as the film or TV industries do, then here’s your answer. Just looking at how the Grammys decide on their membership goes a long way in showing why awards are important. This is also true in the less popular publishing industry, both for books and comics. Short of getting selected for Oprah’s book club like literary author Jonathan Franzen, there isn’t a whole lot of ways to popularize a work of literature. That’s why literary prizes are so important, and is a key reason why Britain’s prestigious Man Booker prize has been opened up to American authors.
While those in the literary community are not generally happy about this (but when are they?), it does help give increased exposure to books that may not have otherwise gotten it. Last year, when I got back into reading, I read two books that received the Man Booker prize. For those who don’t have an exhaustive interest in a given media, they need to be told what is critically good, and this is another reason why awards are important. Awards may not be a vital part of entertainment, but they do serve a pivotal role in getting people into content they may not have experienced otherwise.
In comics, the Eisner Awards are the most prestigious, but even those are obscure. Most people, if they even read comics at all, opt for Marvel or DC titles, although that is quickly changing with the rise of graphic novels. Given the serial nature of most comics, it’s especially difficult to figure out what is good and what is not, and I think that’s a key reason as to why the comics business struggles in the way that it does. This shows exactly why awards are important, as a more mainstream awards ceremony would give quality graphic novels the attention they deserve.
For all forms of media, awards serve an important role, both in discovery for watchers, listeners, and readers, and to push creators and companies to create and finance more prestige content. This helps to promote a better quality of media, and ultimately make our world a much more interesting one to live in. Because without good and accessible stories — what do we really have?