Artistic License - Awards
December 10, 2017: Sir Peter Weyland is honored with the Nobel Peace prize in Science for his extraordinary atmospheric work over the polar ice cap.
People just love
handing out awards to each other. Whether it's a merit badge
, an honorary degree
, or a knighthood
, giving someone an award simultaneously tells them, and everyone else, that they've done well
. Many of the most famous and prestigious awards have become bywords for the highest achievement in the relevant field, or even in any
field. If a fictional character gets an Oscar, Pulitzer or Nobel Prize, you know they must have done something awesome
Unfortunately, sometimes authors use such awards for name value
, without worrying about using them correctly. At the mildest end of the scale, a work will make changes that seem plausible for a parallel universe or future time line, like adding a fictional category to a real award. More severe cases of factual inaccuracy will give an award to someone who would be ineligible, or mess up the award's name. The most obvious examples will give out horrible mismatches of real awards, for all the wrong reasons, in a supposedly realistic or historical setting.
Such an award could be the only proof that a character is good at something
. Has nothing to do with
giving people awards for taking the biggest artistic liberties
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Nobel Prize - Common Misconceptions
- First of all: The Economics prize is not a Nobel Prize at all, and was not mentioned in Nobel's will. The prize is rightly "The Swedish National Bank's Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel".
- Second: Nobel Prizes are awarded in five categories: Chemistry, Medicine, Physics, Literature, and Work for Peace. Anything which falls outside these categories and cannot be fitted into one, no matter how exceptional or world-changing, is not eligible for a Nobel Prize. The Prize judging committees have a great deal of leeway in what they consider "fitting into" one of these categories, though.
- Most notably, there isn't a Nobel Prize for Mathematics, although the urban legend of Nobel being cuckolded by a mathematician is false. The top prize in Math are the Abel Prize (also presented by the King of Norway) and the Fields Medal (presented by the International Mathematical Union).
- Third: The Nobel Prize is never awarded posthumously. The only exception is if a recipient dies between when the announcement is made and the awards ceremony. This annoys the Swedes to no end, since it means that Sweden's most popular author, Astrid Lindgren, is forever barred from becoming a Nobel Prize winner. The Peace prize was not awarded in 1948 because Mahatma Gandhi had died that year, and he would have been the shoo-in choice, so the committee decided to award it to nobody rather than nominate someone else. note Prior to 1974 the rule was that no dead persons could be nominated and that nominees that had died too soon after nomination would be removed from consideration (this is how there are four posthumous recipients).
- Fourth: To receive a Nobel Prize, you have to attend the awards ceremony, personally or by proxy, and receive the award from the hand of the Swedish monarch. If you couldn't be bothered to get on the plane, or have someone do it for you, you haven't received the prize.
- Fifth: There is no "the Nobel Prize committee". The five Nobel Prizes (and the Economics prize) are awarded by four different bodies. In particular, the Peace Prize is awarded by a Norwegian committee, while all the others are granted by Swedish institutions.
- Sixth: While members of the Swedish government are on some of the Nobel committees, they aren't government prizes and the Swedish government can't prevent the committees from giving a Nobel Prize to anyone. There's been complaints from, uh, authoritarian governments about the Swedish government awarding Nobel Prizes to people they don't like.
- The Norwegian Nobel Committee is actually formed of ex-politicians, appointed from the Norwegian parliament. Thus, the peace prize tend to be a tad more political than the others, if people in the committee try to flag their actual political colours. The 2008 award and the 2012 award are cases in point. Debates ensued on the committee role both in Norway and Sweden as a result.
Nobel Prize - Examples
- The page quote comes from the tie-in website for Prometheus, which establishes the Back Story of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. It's not a one-off accident either; the fictitious Sir Peter Weyland is later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for Medicine as well.
- The Transformers-esque anime series The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird has an episode in which the evil Mad Scientist takes the Nobel Prize committee hostage and attempts to extort them into giving him awards in multiple categories, including Peace ("If you don't, then my evil transforming robot allies will destroy the Earth.") The good mad scientist is slow to order the committee's rescue, because he's suffered Award Snub from them multiple times.
- The non-fiction portion of The Science of Discworld III cites a Real Life radio evangelist who'd questioned why, if evolution is for real, Charles Darwin never won the Nobel Prize. The fact that Darwin died years before the Nobel Prize (which cannot be granted posthumously) was introduced had somehow escaped his notice.
- A sketch on Saturday Night Live in 1994 presented the Nobel Peace Prize as if it were an Oscar, with a big awards show hosted by (Dana Carvey as) Garry Shandling. The clip was then used in The Larry Sanders Show, where (In-Universe) it was Larry that Dana was doing an impression of.
- On The Looney Tunes Show, Bugs Bunny has a Nobel Prize just for existing.
- Ethan Stark from Eureka has received a Nobel Prize in Mathematics, when no such award exists.
- In the Evangelion fanfic Nobody Dies, Kyoko Zeppelin Sohryu has a Nobel Prize in Psychology.
- The Medal of Honor is the paramount military decoration in the United States services. It's often called the Congressional Medal of Honor, which is not its name; it's simply got "in the name of Congress" in its citation. A common "artistic license" in both fiction and Real Life. The misnomer might also come from the civilian equivalent, the Congressional Gold Medal. Confusing the two is a common mistake.
- In Mars Attacks!, Richie and his grandmother are given the Congressional Medal of Honor by The President's Daughter, in honor of their role in stopping the Martians. The President's daughter is referred to as the only surviving member of the Government (she's not — she didn't hold any office, and being a member of the family of an officeholder doesn't make you part of the government), but it's overlooked that the medal is only awarded to military personnel, not to civilians.
- In an episode of NCIS the team is investigating a Medal of Honor recipient and Kate refers to "winning" the CMOH. Gibbs corrects her that the Medal is "awarded" and not "won".
- In Courage Under Fire:
- Lieutenant Colonel Serling is assigned to determine if Captain Walden should be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. A White House aide erroneously refers to it as the Congressional Medal of Honor and Serling corrects him. The aide sarcastically responds with "Tell that to Congress" but is thankful to Serling for the correction.
- In the same movie, Captain Walden is continually referred to as potentially being "the first woman to be awarded the Medal of Honor." The problem being that Captain Mary Edwards Walker, a Union Army surgeon, was the first (and so far only) woman ever awarded the medal, which she earned through her courageous actions during the Battle of Bull Run, July 21,1861. The scriptwriter later confessed that he had simply assumed that the Medal of Honor recipients were a males-only club without actually looking into whether any woman had already been awarded the medal.
- A borderline example: in Frank Merriwell's School Days, Frank, a civilian at a military prep school, is awarded a "medal of honor" by Congress, but it's not specified as the Medal of Honor, so it may actually be the civilian Congressional Gold Medal.
- When a Pulitzer Prize in the Letters, Drama or Music categories is awarded to a non-American-citizen, note or called simply "the Pulitzer Prize", as if there were only one (and context doesn't make it clear which category is meant).
- When Beth Ditto of The Gossip topped the NME magazine cool list, she expressed her shock that no other great female artists like Yoko Ono or Patti Smith had ever topped the list. The whole "cool" list concept was actually younger than either Ditto or the interviewer had realised.
- Cited when Serenity won the Hugo Award: the acceptance speech (written by Joss Whedon and read by Morena Baccarin) cited several science fiction authors as Hugo winners, then added, "Gee, I hope all those people won Hugos, or Morena's gonna look like an idiot out there."