Created By: fierystage on December 27, 2011 Last Edited By: LogicMeister on April 3, 2017

Everyone Gets A Trophy

Giving everyone awards—hurts nobody\'s feelings, but devalues achievement.

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Trope
In the good old days, winners were winners and losers were losers. Now there aren't any winners OR losers—just "participants!" Everyone gets a trophy now, even though my son Jimmy was CLEARLY the best batter in his T-ball league!

The polar opposite of Tall Poppy Syndrome—instead of scorning the winners in a competition, the feelings of the losers...er, runners-up are assuaged by giving everyone an equal award, usually a small trophy or a participation ribbon. This attitude came around in the 90s out of a desire to boost kids' self-esteem and make them feel as if their achievements were admirable. While teaching kids to hold value in their achievements no matter what their rank is a good goal, it has since reached Political Correctness Gone Mad-type levels and has since experienced a severe backlash from parents who want their high-achieving kids to be separated from lower-achieving ones. Mister Rogers and his "everyone is special" mantra has often been cited as a catalyst of the Everyone Gets A Trophy attitude coming into existence.

Very, VERY frequently Truth in Television.


Film

  • Discussed in 'The Incredibles' with Bob stating that giving everybody medals renders actual achievement pointless.
    Helen: I can't believe you don't want to go to your own son's graduation.
    Bob: It's not a graduation. He is moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade.
    Helen: It's a ceremony!
    Bob: It's psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional...

Live-Action TV

  • Showcased in 'The Middle' with Sue getting an MVP award for her cross-country team, later revealed that in was for punctuation and that everybody on her team got an MVP award. The episode also shows the massive flaw in this system, as when Sue has something stolen right off her she's confident she can catch up with the thief because of her MVP, turns out she is extremely slow and soon runs out of breath. Later in the episode Axel gets a giant trophy for his basketball game even though he lost.

Western Animation

  • On King Of The Hill, Bobby joins a soccer team whose coach is more interested in keeping the players happy than in actually scoring. Hank, of course, finds it assinine.
  • Lampshaded in The Simpsons episode "Dead Putting Society", where Bart enters a mini-golf tournament. Bart lacks self-confidence since he never won anything before, as indicated in one scene where the camera pans down the awards shelf in his bedroom; they read: "Second Place", "Third Place", "Honorable Mention", and "Everybody-gets-a-trophy day".
    • Another Simpsons reveals a Union rule at the Power Plant: Every employee, no matter how incompetent, must be given the "Employee of the Week" award at least once. Homer thinks he's a shoo-in this week (because everyone else has already won it) but he's beaten out by an Inanimate Carbon Rod.
  • Subverted in the Sonic Boom episode, "Mombot"; after Beth the Shrew wins the children's science fair for her diorama of the solar system, Lady Walrus' Son, the Monkey Boy and the Reindeer Girl all get participation trophies. Dr. Eggman doesn't even get one, because he was disqualified for exceeding the height at a children's competition.
Community Feedback Replies: 19
  • December 27, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    • An argument between Lily and Marshall in How I Met Your Mother was about whether or not the boys on a basketball team should be driven to win or valued for their participation. Lily, who'd always run the games, always gave everyone a "participation trophy".
  • December 27, 2011
    ChunkyDaddy
    The trope as it's written sounds too ranty to me. Remember Tropes Are Not Bad. Really not Truth In Television anymore because most educational systems in the US do reward high achievers while at the same time rewarding participation. Popular media tends to exaggerate this as "A for effort" because for the most part authors who do use this trope tend to be biased
  • December 27, 2011
    DaibhidC
  • December 27, 2011
    Premonition45
    Discussed in The Incredibles:
    Helen: I can't believe you don't want to go to your own son's graduation.
    Bob: It's not a graduation. He is moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade.
    Helen: It's a ceremony!
    Bob: It's psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional...
  • December 27, 2011
    fierystage
    Chunky Daddy, I usually see this more often in sports than in school—I don't think I've really ever seen it in school. (And that first part of the draft wasn't meant to be serious at all.)
  • December 27, 2011
    randomsurfer
    On The Drew Carey Show Drew goes to his young nephew's soccer game, only to learn that they don't keep score so everyone feels like a winner.
    Drew: Sounds like a load of crap to me.
  • June 6, 2012
    fierystage
    Can anyone think of any more examples? I think this is really tropeable, even I am biased by this being my own submission.
  • June 6, 2012
    TonyG
    • On King Of The Hill, Bobby joins a soccer team whose coach is more interested in keeping the players happy than in actually scoring. Hank, of course, finds it assinine.
  • June 6, 2012
    Lightblade
    Adding to The Incredibles example, this is a theme present throughout the movie. In fact, Syndrome's plot is an attempt to invoke this trope to get revenge against the heroes who spurned him as a would-be sidekick.

    Syndrome: And when I'm old and I've had my fun, I'll sell my inventions so that *everyone* can have powers. *Everyone* can be super! And when everyone's super...
    [chuckles evilly]
    Syndrome: - no one will be.
  • June 6, 2012
    LobsterMagnus
    • Was a feature of the Mini Playback Show, a German show from The Nineties, wherein kids did playback performances dressed up as pop stars. Even the song performed by show host Marijke Amado at the end of every show stated:
      Alle waren Sieger, auch wenn einer nur gewinnen kann!
      (Everyone was a victor, even though only one can win!)
  • June 6, 2012
    jatay3
    Hitler promoted a disproportionate number of his officers to Field Marshal for this reason.
  • June 6, 2012
    lexicon
    This is a Running Gag in the Christopher Titus stand up special "Neverloution"
  • July 2, 2012
    fierystage
    This is a little different, but the "giving away trophies for little/no achievement" idea makes me think of The Cheat's videos in the Homestar Runner universe, where he often animates Strong Bad giving him trophies for no apparent reason, even when Strong Bad himself doesn't agree.
  • July 2, 2012
    animeg3282
    it's a common youth bashing complaint. 5 year olds got a trophy for participating in soccer, so that's why kids today don't want to work 16 hour days for $5 per hour. This trope could move from the common youth bashing to a trope by removing the complaining and just being about kids all getting trophies.
  • July 3, 2012
    SquirrelGuy
    Lampshaded in The Simpsons episode "Dead Putting Society", where Bart enters a mini-golf tournament. Bart lacks self-confidence since he never won anything before, as indicated in one scene where the camera pans down the awards shelf in his bedroom; they read: "Second Place", "Third Place", "Honorable Mention", and "Everybody-gets-a-trophy day".
  • July 3, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Another Simpsons reveals a Union rule at the Power Plant: Every employee, no matter how incompetent, must be given the "Employee of the Week" award at least once. Homer thinks he's a shoo-in this week (because everyone else has already won it) but he's beaten out by an Inanimate Carbon Rod.
  • April 2, 2017
    FlyingDuckManGenesis
    Western Animation
    • Subverted in the Sonic Boom episode, "Mombot"; after Beth the Shrew wins the children's science fair for her diorama of the solar system, Lady Walrus' Son, the Monkey Boy and the Reindeer Girl all get participation trophies. Dr. Eggman doesn't even get one, because he was disqualified for exceeding the height at a children's competition.
  • April 2, 2017
    zarpaulus
    I'm bombing this one too, it just sounds like the latest incarnation of "young people are so spoiled" rant that's been going on since Plato.
  • April 2, 2017
    Getta
    ^ At least if the description doesn't change.
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