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.
open/close all folders
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 (Nobel wanted his prizes to reward concrete scientific and political advances that produces a clear benefit for mankind, and he considered mathematics to be too theoretical for that requirement—Nobel probably would not have approved of awarding of so many Physics prizes to theoretical physicists). 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 prizenote .
- 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.
- Seventh: Nobel nominations for a given year are kept secret for 50 years. Saying somebody was "nominated for a Nobel Prize" is generally meaningless, because it's impossible to know if it's correct or not.
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.
- 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.
- M*A*S*H has several examples, some worse than others.
- Frank demands Henry approve a Purple Heart application for him twice: once when he had a back spasm while dancing with Margret - which he claimed was slipping while running to the shower - and again for getting an eggshell fragment in his eye during an artillery barrage. In the first case he would have been denied as it was not cause through direct or indirect enemy action (and likely discharged for throwing out his back), while the second case he might be eligible if it injured him and required medical attention. Both times Hawkeye steals Frank's Purple Heart and gives it to someone else, in the former to an underage Marine, Walter, that used his brother's identification (he had appendicitis and reacted badly to a blood transfusion; ineligible because it was not caused by the enemy), to impress a girl back home; while this would give him possession of the medal to impress the girl, it would do little else (and probably cause further trouble for having an unauthorised Purple Heart on top of identity theft and lying about his age). In the latter, it was to a Korean baby whose mother had a harrowing time getting to the hospital.
- In "Change of Command", Colonel Potter reveals he received the Good Conduct Medal as an enlisted man during the First World War. The Good Conduct Medal, only available to non-commissioned personnel, was established in 1941, with retroactive dates to 27 August 1940, well after his service as an enlisted soldier.
- In "Bombshells", BJ is awarded the Bronze Star for aiding a medivac chopper's escape while under fire. He hands it off to a soldier for "getting out in one piece". This is the same problem as Walter: he would have possession of the physical decoration, be BJ would still have the certificate and his service record reflecting the award. Further, the recipient's name is engraved on the back of every Bronze Star, which would undoubtedly cause trouble for the soldier if he was found with someone else's decoration.
- The Iron Cross, being the most iconic Prussian and German military decoration, is frequently used in films and other works of fiction to make the chest of an German officer appear less empty. What many creators of such works are not aware of is that the Iron Cross was only instituted for the duration of four major wars, to wit the Wars of Liberation (1813-1815), the Franco-German War (1870-1871), World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945), and could not be awarded for service in any of the intervening wars and armed conflicts.note When for instance in the British TV series Edward VII Otto von Bismarck is shown wearing an Iron Cross in the 1860s, this is incorrect as Bismarck was too young to have served in the Wars of Liberation and the episodes were set before 1870. Similarly, as Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines is set in 1913, Captain Rumpelstoss (Karl Michael Vogler) is obviously too young to have served and been awarded an Iron Cross in the Franco-German War. Another occasional mistake is showing junior and field officers wearing Iron Crosses around their neck pre-1939; up until then the only grade of the Iron Cross to be worn around the neck was the Grand Cross, which was reserved to commanding generalsnote for winning a battle or capturing or defending an important fortress.
- 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."
- At the end of A View to a Kill, as thanks for saving the Silicon Valley, and by extension the Soviet microchip industry, General Gogol presents James Bond with the Order of Lenin, saying that he's the first non-Soviet recipient of the USSR's highest civil decoration. In truth, the first foreign recipient was the Italian communist Luigi Longo.
- Relating to the Academy Awards:
- Tropic Thunder ends with Kirk Lazarus presenting the Academy Award for Best Actor, even though that particular award is presented by the previous year's Best Actress.
- In Wag The Dog, Hollywood producer Stanley Motss repeatedly laments how there is no Academy Award for producing. However, the producer is the one who receives the award for Best Film.
- In Die Another Day, Miranda Frost is described as having won gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games by default, after Graves organized the real gold medalist's death by drug overdose. While said substances fit a medal revoking transgression, the fact it involves death screws any veracity: either the original gold drugged herself to death before the podium, or died in the 2 years before the film's events - when the IOC only strips medals based on the on-site drug tests, or the infractor's own admittance (such as Marion Jones).