The 2018 Trainie Awards

As always, as “the year” turns its face toward “the end of the year,” and as “the sporadic summer awards season” becomes “the awards season”, I turn my face to the fact that this site, which has something to say about just about as many awards shows as I can manage to come up with things about 1, is also the occasional granter of its own awards.

Of course, the Trainies aren’t the usual awards ceremony, they’re more of an opportunistic and variable sort of ceremony 2, and as such, they are presented to a variety of categories for a variety of achievements. This year, in keeping with the general trend, I will also do my very best to keep them brief.

Outstanding Achievement in Continuing to be the Worst Possible Fanbase

Star Wars sure oughta inspire better than it does, right? I mean, lots of good/neutral people like or don’t like Star Wars for lots of good/neutral reasons, certainly. I, myself, don’t like plenty of Star Wars. I, however, have never been so overtaken by rage that I had to help chase someone off the internet, as has happened with Kelly Marie Tran 3. It’s also never driven me to do anything as goofy as create, disseminate and sign a petition to remove The Last Jedi from canon, which would be ordinary internet windmill-tilting-at (see last year’s business with Rotten Tomatoes and the DC movies) if it weren’t for the fact that it generally seems to be the same people who are motivated to yell at Kelly Marie Tran (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, John Boyega) that aren’t merely happy knowing that they’ve made the people that they blame (wrongly) for their displeasure with a movie miserable and afraid, but that the rest of the movies in that series need to not even make mention of this thing. The presumption, of course, being that if the movies that come after are not the product of a complete disavowal, that the people doing the harassing/petition signing will just keep on doing it.

Of course, if Solo taught us anything, it’s that they also can probably be taken at their word just not to see anymore Star Wars movies, which, ultimately, is fine, and brings to mind the one thing that remains true of every single generation of Star Wars fan: what Star Wars fans really hate is Star Wars.

Outstanding Achievement in Convincing People to Poison Themselves

The great Tide Pods-ening of late 2017/early 2018 came and went, and since every day of the news cycle is 6,000 years long, it’s easy to forget that it was just a few months ago that it all happened.

But it did. A joke about how Tide Pods look like candy became a meme, the meme got out of control, and people started posting videos of themselves eating or allegedly eating soap for YouTube 4. This became a media circus – where it was reported that 11 out of every 10 teenagers was eating Tide Pods three meals a day – and then a series of jokes about the media circus. At the end of the day, YouTube banned eating Tide Pods on YouTube, the joke floated off into the ether, and that one dude in Florida (who made candy that looked like Tide Pods, in a nicely recursive step) and that one pizzeria in Greenpoint probably had to find new gimmicks for their menus.

At almost exactly the same time, in an interview with one of the founders of Juicero, the community of people who drink the soup of minerals, animal excreta, dirt and algae that presents itself as “raw” water saw some of the harsh light of day. This is, to just about anyone who thinks about it for more than a few seconds, a terrible fucking idea. Like, a truly terrible idea. Among the first things we did at every step of the way as humans achieving civilization was figure out how to treat water so that we could drink it, reliably, and not die.

The idea, though, is that water that is filtered is filtered of the things that give it life 5, and this is bad for all of us, plus they pump it full of fluoride 6 and it has drugs in it. Whereas highly-marked-up completely untreated water has all that, y’know, stuff in it. To keep you alive or whatever 7.

The entity receiving this award, though, is neither the group of people that ate (or didn’t eat but were reported to have eaten) the Tide Pods, nor is it the Silicon Valley tech bros that are right now incubating healthy populations of glorious and thriving dysentery in their gut. It’s the American food industry, which has simultaneously told two populations contradictory things all through the magic of nothing more than their own marketing. You see, the reason that Tide Pods look like candy is because the marketing-driven decision that caused their appearance comes from the exact same research that decided how candy should look – the same appealing, bright, friendly qualities are wanted for both potentially-dangerous household chemicals and potentially-dangerous sugar garbage treats.

Similarly, the food marketing angle that leads people to believe that “less treated” is “more natural” and that “more natural” is “more healthy” has given the tech bros the idea that this is a concept that should be taken all the way to its most extreme position, that even the water that we drink should be untouched.

Kids aren’t going to admit to being swayed by advertising, and tech-bros aren’t going to blame the marketers that provide so much of their own lifeblood, so basically you have the two populations that are most likely to believe the marketing wing of the food industry’s nonsense uncritically, and they’re killing them. This seems like bad business.

Outstanding Achievement in Being the First to Do Something That Will, Eventually, Work

Beating out Amazon Go 8 and Bodega 9 is Air France, and their utterly preposterous Airline for Millenials, which features VR entertainment, fancy dress and….something called a “rooftop bar.” When I think of reasons why this is absurd, I think of many things, but none of them so much as the idea of a “rooftop bar” on a fucking plane. I suppose if there’s a bunch of deaths on a plane because people were enjoying coldbrew or oat milk smoothies or kombucha or whatever on the top of it, I’ll be proven wrong, but otherwise: there’s no reason to call it that. It’s just a bar. Go heck yourselves.

Anyway, there are many businesses I approve of less than this one, but this is here because it’s about to start happening more, and, eventually, it will work. Someone will start a business in this fashion, it will hang on, and no one will pour any out for poor ol’ Air France, whose only real business sin was not waiting until millennials had the money to spend on weird novelty flights. It’s going to work because one of the things that does mark the set of people who are in their mid twenties to mid thirties 10 is a weirdly-consumptive level of brand engagement (c.f. Wendy’s Twitter, allegiances to social networking sites that seems extra-absurd) and an ability to believe that they’re (we’re, I guess) impossible to market to. A company is going to crack this code, and it’s going to be stupid. But it ain’t Air France, and it ain’t this.

Outstanding Achievement in a Field I Didn’t Know it Was Still Possible to Have an Outstanding Achievement In

My love of newspaper comics is not news around these parts (and my saying so goes back to almost the very beginning of this blog). I love ‘em. I love ‘em in 2018. So it warmed my heart when long-running gentle humor comic Nancy got, for the first time in its 80-odd years of existing, a female comics artist.

She goes by Olivia Jaimes, and she’s currently anonymous 11, she’s said to have already been a successful webcomicist, and her run on Nancy is funny. Like, genuinely funny for a newspaper comic strip. She’s got a good, updated, line on who the characters are and how they interact, and she’s willing to drag the strip back in the twenty-first century, while bringing back to the strip a sense of playfulness that it hasn’t had for years.

The comic’s creator, Ernie Bushmiller, was a genius. A genius of minimalism, a genius of form, a genius of the sort of playfulness that should, quite frankly, inhabit the comics page. It’s only ever been drawn by a handful of people, including Jerry Scott (the Zits guy) 12, before Guy Gilchrist drew it as the leaden thump that it’s been for the last couple of decades. James’s arrival manages to start the comic back into the air, and, of course, by changing something on the comics page, it has also caused no small amount of cranky yelling about how much better things were in the halcyon days of Guy Gilchrist 13

HONORABLE MENTION: Occasioned by this piece in The Outline, as well as public remarks by Nick Wiger and (as always, and he’s been on this beat forever), the Comics Curmudgeon, people really seemed to get into present-day dadaist masterpiece Heathcliff, which warms my heart to no end, but isn’t quite as cool as Olivia Jaimes.

Outstanding Achievement in Terrible Ideas That Are Still Developing

The Oscar for Popular Film is a colossally bad idea. That’s not new – the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences comes up with four bad ideas before breakfast – but the fact that everyone agreed that it was a colossally bad idea was a nice time for internet dwellers. The idea that shunting off an entire uh….OK, so it was clear that something was being shunted off 14, but it was never entirely clear what they were doing. Popular films win Best Picture all the time. Several years ago, they tried their cockamamie thing where they made the field of Best Picture nominees super-big, and that didn’t really work for them either. So this time they played their hand super-close to the vest, and didn’t even tell people what this category was for, other than, y’know, popular films.

Never mind that there still isn’t an academy award for casting, never mind that they could have very easily – and to much fanfare 15– brought back the “Unique and Artistic Picture” Category, thus inverting the equation. They never would, of course, because it would start to wear away at their “acceptable genres” idea – they didn’t do this in the wake of the boomlet of musicals in the early aughts, or the period-drama onslaught of the nineties, they did it during the superhero years, making it entirely clear which side of their bread is buttered.

Anyway, there may be some more about this in February, when the whole thing will have shaken out, but the upshot is: they did a dumb, unpopular thing, then, after everyone got mad at them, said “well we definitely weren’t actually going to do that anyway,” which means that AMPAS is officially a recalcitrant eight year old. Way to go, guys.

Unless, of course, they totally do it anyway, or continue to make gestures at it, in which case this will in all likelihood be around next year to be the first repeat Trainies winner.

Outstanding Achievement in Public Speaking

We always like to go out here on a high note, so allow me to present to you, Ursula T. Vernon’s speech at last year’s Hugos 16, where she won for her incredible story “The Tomato Thief” 17. The Hugos had a rough few years, and have largely settled into being more fun than they were before the puppies arrived, at least for me 18, and Ursula Vernon (who has won Hugos before) decided that this time, she was going to do the thing that everyone wishes they could do: she was going to talk to a huge crowd of people about something cool: whalefall. It’s all in the link above, and it involves zombie worms, and, frankly, it’s more memorable and meaningful than a list of “thank you”s would have been, or a brief speech about where a story came from (although I understand the utility of the thank yous, and begrudge no one his or her need to thank people). But it’s nice, isn’t it? Whalefall.

HONORABLE MENTION: Patton Oswalt, who in this Vulture interview walked back what is easily the worst of his earlier jokes, and generally proves himself to be a pretty stand-up guy. That’s a funny joke that I gave you all for free because I love you. Also if Patton Oswalt turns out to have done sex crimes or whatever I’m burning this country to the ground. So.

  1.  and have time to genuinely consider. 
  2.  specifically, they are meant to “honor” things that I tried to write about in this space, but either didn’t have the time, couldn’t find the angle, or didn’t have enough to say about them to involve making an entire separate post about them. 
  3.  That’s Comedy Bang! Bang!’s own Kelly Marie Tran! 
  4.  this, coupled with the last few weeks’ reportage of the frequent mental terrorism undergone by YouTube creators, means that the Tide Pod thing was only the first time YouTube’s algorithim encouraged creators to literally attempt to kill themselves. 
  5.  the idea that if something is a healthful environment for one thing, it is necessarily healthful for all things has given us pseudoscientific dumbshit ideas from Avicenna all the way through to Jordan “We Are All Made of Lobsters” Peterson. 
  6.  this is already the longest award granted, and I’m trying to keep this brief, but if anyone reading this hasn’t ever encountered the fluoride conspiracy theorists, gird your loins and jump onto Google because it’s terrific material. 
  7.  interestingly (?), one of the things that the raw water folks are insistent upon is the preponderance of healthy probiotics in their water, and the touters of probiotics have also themselves come under some scrutiny for not being the panacea that they were sold as being. PS: there is no such thing as a panacea. There are no one-stop solutions. 
  8.  which wasn’t specifically targeted at “millenials”, and also which I’m embarrassed by how much it appeals to me. 
  9.  which held onto this spot for much longer than it would have in other years for also being one of the first things shouted down as cultural appropriation became something people were more vocal about not liking in 2018. 
  10.  NB I am at the early end of “millennial,” having been born in 1983.  
  11.  although she’s going to make a public appearance at CSC, a comics convention, so she probably won’t remain so for much longer. 
  12.  and, famously, not including Ivan Brunetti, who was justifiably not hired – his Nancy was, even by his own admission, not the best use of his talents, which are otherwise entirely worth seeking out. 
  13. GoComics is weird to navigate, but here you can see some of Gilchrist’s…uh….work, and here you can see not only Jaimes’s, but also the comments, where you can see some real yelling-at-clouds shit, even as late as July (where that second Jaimes link is from) 
  14.  that “something” was almost certainly set to include Black Panther 
  15.  because it would have been elevating something that was less-visible, and also because it would have been celebrating the kind of brainy smart people film that folks like the receive credit for liking. 
  16.  I’m fudging the dates on its inclusion, because the speech itself didn’t become public until November, which was within the eligibility period. 
  17.  as was declared rightfully so. 
  18.  I have never been anything but open and honest about the fact that I thought the pre-Puppies Hugos were dumb, the Puppies themselves were dumb, and that the post-Puppies Hugos are a step in the right direction, and that having that editorial position is way better for me as a reader. 

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