Follow TV Tropes


Artistic License Awards

Go To
A proud recipient of the Nobel Prize For Science!, wearing the award's highly prized goldenrod jacket!
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.
Weyland Industries Timeline, the tie-in website for Prometheus

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 (a Nobel Prize in music or computing, for instance). 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. For characters in fiction receiving real-life awards, see Real Award, Fictional Character. See also the Awards Index.


    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". Its association with the actual Nobel Prizes has led to a fair bit of controversy, particularly from those who believe that Alfred Nobel would have never approved of it.
  • 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 prizes in Mathematics 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 (or a Norwegian committee in the case of the Peace Prize). If you couldn't be bothered to get on the plane, or have someone do it for you, you haven't received the prizenote .
    • On the other hand, you cannot actually refuse the prize. A prize winner may choose to not to attend the ceremony and turn down the prize money, but the Nobel Committees will not remove your name from the list of winners.
  • 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 (Martti Ahtisaari) and the 2012 award (the entire European Union) 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.
    • Even if it is correct the nomination may be pretty meaningless anyway; the Nobel Peace Prize accepts nominations from any member of any national government or any university professor in a related field.note 
  • Eighth: The Nobel Prize, once awarded, cannot be withdrawn, revoked, or rescinded, as Nobel's will provided no mechanism for this, and the Nobel committee doesn't seem to be in any hurry to institute one.

    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.
    • Years earlier, SCTV did the same thing with the Nobel Prize in Medicine in The Nobel, which was a parody of The Oscar.
  • On The Looney Tunes Show, Bugs Bunny has a Nobel Prize just for existing. It was also delivered to his house.
  • Nathan Stark from Eureka has received a Nobel Prize in Mathematics, when no such award exists.
  • In season one of Teen Wolf, Stiles (successfully) flirts with Lydia by saying he knows she's a lot smarter than her Alpha Bitch front, and will someday write some "insane mathematical theorem" that earns her a Nobel Prize. After a beat, she corrects him that she'll win a Fields Medal, since Nobel doesn't have a Prize in mathematics.
  • In the Evangelion fanfic Nobody Dies, Kyoko Zeppelin Sohryu has a Nobel Prize in Psychology.
  • In The Fly (1986), it's mentioned that Seth Brundle nearly won a Nobel Prize, something that no one should know because all nominations are kept secret, even from the nominees themselves.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Lisa's Sax", during a flashback in which Homer discovers Lisa has a gift, he has an Imagine Spot of her winning the Nobel Prize (for what, it's never stated). He then decides this is boring, and instead imagines her winning the Nobel Prize for kick boxing, which isn't a real thing. Most likely intentionally inaccurate, given that this is Homer we're talking about. He also imagines Lisa receiving the prize from an older man in a military uniform, when it's not a military award at all.
    • One of Bart's chalkboard gags is "I did not win the Nobel Prize for fart". Again, most likely intentional.
    • In "Bart Gets Famous", Lisa has an Imagine Spot of killing Bart by impaling him with an obelisk-like award and noting the irony of it being her Nobel Peace Prize. All Nobel Prizes are round flat medals.
  • In Zipman!!, Koshiro is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry a week after his death. The Nobel Prize cannot be awarded posthumously unless the recipient was nominated before his or her death. An announcement also says that he's the first to receive both, when that honor actually goes to Linus Pauling. It's also extremely odd that someone noted to be a mechanical prodigy would get a Nobel Prize in Chemistry rather than Physics.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): Professor Utonium has a Nobel Prize in Science. He discards it because he's prouder of the first place prize he won in a chili cook-off.
  • In Casey and Andy, the reason the King of Sweden is hogging their couch is because he came round to give Quantum Cop his latest Nobel Prize, but couldn't find him, so handed it to "some guy". Very little of this is how it works in real life.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon improvises his Nobel acceptance speech. This isn't allowed, as speeches have to be submitted 24 hours in advance to be translated into Swedish. Further, the rules of the Nobel Prize in Physics require the achievement has "stood the test of time", generally accepted to be a minimum of twenty years, so he shouldn't even be eligible for consideration.
  • Played for Laughs in the CollegeHumor sketch "You Deserve A Nobel Prize", where the prizes are all given out at the same place and time, and they also award "those who kinda did well and did something a little out of their way". These include leaving leftovers where a homeless person could find it, donating a dollar to the march of dimes, making their facebook profile do the rainbow thing, offering help with moving (knowing they wouldn't need it), and reposting petitions. The winner of the price in Medicine also gets it revoked for not making it to the women's march.

    Military decorations 
  • 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.
      • 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.
    • Played With in The Red Green Show when Hap claims that he invented Christmas lights during World War II as a tactic to confuse the Germans and was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor by General Montgomery. Red immediately summarizes why it's bullshit.
      "A Canadian soldier being awarded an American medal by a British general."
  • 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 caused 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. This confusion probably exists because other branches of the military, notably the Navy (1869) and the Marine Corps (1896) did award the Good Conduct medal during the period when Potter would have been an enlisted man.
      • Another weird aspect is that he explains the Good Conduct Medal to Radar, who, as an enlisted man, should be both aware of it and have already been awarded one, as after 1943 eligibility was changed from three years to one year in war or three years in peacetime, and the pilot is date-stamped as 1950 and this episode as 1952, giving Radar two years service in a war.
    • 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.
    • Potter is shown to have a Purple Heart, WWII Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal and the United Nations Korea Medal. The Nation Defense Service Medal was introduced in April 1953, so depending on when that episode takes place, it might not exist, and because he served in World War I and II, he should also have the World War I Victory Medal and Army of Occupation of Germany Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (he claimed to be at Guam and Belgium) and Army of Occupation Medal with either Japan or Germany clasp.
  • 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-Prussian 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 1910, 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.
    • Somehow Nyder, an official of the planet Skaro, was in possession of one, which seems unlikely. (More accurately, the actor, Peter Miles, was in possession of one, and kept sneaking it onto his costume until the producers stopped him.) Since Skaro is the homeworld of the Daleks, this was at least thematically appropriate.
    • Played for laughs in The Simpsons where the Iron Cross is rewarded to Abraham Simpson, a Sergeant in the US Army, for his incompetence in mine clearing. It's left ambiguous whether this was from the Nazis thanking him or from the US as a sarcastic Medal of Dishonor.
  • Archer: In "The Double Deuce", Woodhouse is revealed to have served in the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War as a Lance-Corporal, acting as a batman to his squadron's commanding officer Captain Thistileton (with whom he may or may not have had a Single-Target Sexuality). He is stated to have received the Victoria Cross for rushing into No Man's Land to rescue said CO when he gets shot down in Bloody April, then attacking a German position and killing 50 German soldiers in an Unstoppable Rage when Thistleton is killed by a sniper. His gravestone in a later episode states in addition to the VC, he also received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Military Cross and Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, plus a Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath. Before the review in 1993, the Military Cross could only be awarded to officers and the Military Medal was awarded to Other Ranks (Warrant Ranks could potentially receive either), while the Distinguished Service Cross was likewise only available to officers until 1993 and was only available to Royal Navy officers until 1940, when eligibility was extended to non-naval officers serving aboard Navy vessels. The Distinguished Service Order was and remains available to officers-only and has never been awarded to non-commissioned personnel, and is generally issued to a Major or higher unless a more junior officer just missed out on the Victoria Cross. It is unclear if this is a retcon of his military service, as he would not have been awarded four medals for the same act.
  • This happens in-universe on Preacher when a group of Nazis attack the bus transporting Hitler back to Hell. They all wearing World War 2 German uniforms and their leader claims to be an SS officer. Sydney, the Angel of Death, points out that while he has the correct uniform, all his medals are actually Luftwaffe decorations. The Nazis are clearly wannabes and their leader is wearing medals he has no right to wear and has no idea what they even represent.
  • The Death of Stalin: The real Red Army Marshal Georgy Zhukov actually received even more medals than the already impressive Chest of Medals he's depicted wearing in this film, but the costumers couldn't fit all of them on Jason Isaacs' chest: the real Zhukov was almost half-again as broad as the actor playing him.
  • In The Jungle Book (1967), Colonel Hathi claims to have earned the Victoria Cross while serving in the British Army. However, the Victoria Cross is only awarded to humans, and Hathi is an elephant. There is the Dickin Medal from the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, established in 1943 and often referred to as "the animals' Victoria Cross", which likely didn't exist when the film is set.
  • Blackadder Goes Forth depicts Captain Blackadder with the Queen's South Africa Medal and the King's South Africa Medal, both awarded for The Second Boer War with slightly different criteria, note  which goes against his claim of only fighting unarmed African natives, as the Boer War was infamous for the Boers' guerilla warfare. He claims to have also served in the Sudan War, but does not have the Queen's Sudan Medal or the Khedive's Sudan Medal (also issued together, never separately), and the fictional Battle of Mbutu Gorge is stated to have occurred in Upper Volta (modern Burkina Faso) in 1892, but does not have the East and West African Medal with 1892 bar. Additionally, there is the Africa General Service Medal for various operations after 1902.

    Other awards 
  • 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."note 
  • 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.
  • In the epilogue for K-19: The Widowmaker, Vostrikov says that he nominated the men for Hero of the Soviet Union, but it was denied by the Central Committee because it was not wartime and merely an accident. In reality, the award of Hero of the Soviet Union was not a wartime decoration. It was awarded to Soviet and foreign citizens for "heroic feats in service to the Soviet state and society." In fact, multiple individuals who were involved in the cleanup of Chernobyl were awarded it.
  • Relating to the Academy Awards:
    • Tropic Thunder ends with Kirk Lazarus presenting the Oscar for Best Actor, even though that particular award is usually presented by the previous year's Best Actress.note  Even when the winner is unavailable, the acting presenters are almost always of the opposite gender.
    • 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 Picture. The implication being that Motss hates the fact there is no specific "Best Producer of the year, everybody else can suck it" award because Best Picture is a "team effort" award, so to speak.
  • 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).
  • In Schindler's List:
    • Oskar Schindler is depicted wearing the Golden Party Badge, which was the Nazi Party's decoration for members 1 (Hitler himself) to 100,000. While less than 23,000 of these badges were awarded, Schindler would not have been eligible for the award as he joined the party in 1938, when party membership was well into the millions.
    • Amon Goeth is depicted wearing the Silesian Eagle, which was awarded to those who fought the Silesian uprisings in 1919. Goeth was only eleven when that occurred. He is also shown wearing the ribbon of the Iron Cross, 2nd Class, which he was never awarded because he never actually saw combat.
  • Played for Laughs in BoJack Horseman, when BoJack's memoir One Trick Pony manages to snag a Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy. While BoJack is ecstatic about his win, he does question in his speech how he could have possibly won given the circumstances.
    BoJack: I feel like I should mention that my book is not a comedy or a musical. Do you guys actually watch the movies you give awards to? 'Cuz I kind of get the sense that, uh... Also my book was not a movie! You do know that, right?
  • In the South Park episode "Christian Rock Hard", Cartman makes a bet with Kyle that he can start a band and earn a platinum album. He starts a Christian rock band and indeed makes an album that sells one million copies, only to instead be awarded a myrrh album since the awards for Christian music are not gold and platinum; but gold, frankincense, and myrrh. As the bet was for a platinum album and not a myrrh album, Kyle declares himself the winner of the bet. In real life, Christian music goes gold and platinum just like all other music.
  • The Good Place: It's mentioned that Tahani's sister Kamilah was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, despite normally there being a twenty-five year waiting period. Kamilah being a Parody Sue, they decided to waive that requirement because her album was just that good.
  • Ratatouille: French cuisine has traditionally been rated by the Michelin Guide. Although the film says Gusteau's was a five star restaurant and lost two stars, the Michelin rating system actually only goes to three. The stars are meant to highlight truly outstanding restaurants as most listed in the guide are fine, respectable establishments but don't have any stars. A restaurant receiving even a single star is considered to be a shining example of haute cuisine.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Artistic Licence Awards


Myrrh album

When Cartman's Christian rock album Faith + 1 sold one million copies, he received a myrrh album instead of a platinum album since the awards for Christian music are not gold and platinum; but gold, frankincense, and myrrh. As the bet was for a platinum album and not a myrrh album, Kyle declares himself the winner of the bet. In real life, Christian music goes gold and platinum just like all other music.
Also, the resin of myrrh would give off a yellow color, not a purple color like the disc shows.

Needless to say, Cartman is furious over having lost the bet over a technicality, and starts blurting obscenities, causing the entire audience to flee.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / ArtisticLicenseAwards

Media sources: