The Irony Awards

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The annual awards season is upon us. In a few weeks, the Grammys will be held in celebration of the music recording industry’s best from 2020. Soon after, we’ll see the Oscars, the Tonys, and the Emmys celebrate 2020’s best in cinema, theater, and television. It was certainly a challenging year for entertainment industries, as studios and companies struggled to finance projects, find home audiences, and keep set workers employed during the pandemic. These challenges were recently exemplified on the set of Mission Impossible 7, where actor-director Tom Cruise reminded his socially-undistanced crew how hard it’s been to keep moviemaking afloat. “!!#*&^@*%&%@&!” he explained.  

Other major awards face challenges as well—not because of industry downturns but because there are too many worthy candidates for top prizes. Perhaps the most challenged in this regard are the 2020 Irony Awards. The Irony Awards are presented to those happenings that are the most incongruous with reality—phenomena that are not only stunningly unexpected but are often completely opposite of what is. More than Alanis Morrisette’s “rain on your wedding day” (from her Grammy-nominated song, “Ironic,” by the way), winners of the Irony Awards represent startling and often unforeseen challenges to our collective human experience. And in a calendar year wholly incongruous with reality, the judges had their hands full. So, let’s look at their results and survey the top ironic phenomena of 2020.

In third place, we find a new, ironic usage of a simple, three-letter word. When people in PoV country hear the word “rig,” the usage that comes to mind most is in the form of a noun that refers to a drilling derrick. Such rigs represent a historical regional industry and one that gave our fishing and farming forebears in the early 20th century both job security and their first regular paycheck. Another common usage is that of a verb when referring to sports outcomes, like officiating calls against the Saints or LSU or our favorite high school football team. Unfortunately, this verbal usage of our little word has snuck its way into political rhetoric. Here, in the nation where elections are universal models of security and accuracy, we face our little word’s newly weaponized use in challenging outcomes. In 2020’s landmark case, a candidate has selectively used this term to criticize an election he won in 2016 and one he lost in 2020 and then selectively for only those electoral districts where he lost the popular vote. Those of us who’ve worked in oil and gas know well the miasma that can blow from a pressurized well, but this 2020 political sulfur reeks worse.

In second place, we find broadcasts of Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey across multiple networks in 2020. It’s odd to see such an odd movie play so frequently as it did, and it’s certainly interesting 19 years hence to see how far we’ve ironically not come—no moonbase, no interstellar travel, not even an AI-computer commensurate with Hal. The film’s iconic symbol—the alien monolith—was re-popularized in late 2020, as similar structures seem to have popped up across the globe—first in Utah’s Red Rock Country and then around the U.S. and Europe. The award-winning irony derives from the movie’s first scenes: When the alien monolith discovered on the moon causes a communication blackout between the moonbase and Earth, space officials react in an effort to hide discovery of alien intelligence. Their solution was to invent the idea of an epidemic as the reason why communication is lost. So, there in fictional 2001 officials faked the presence of an epidemic, and here in nonfictional 2020 some officials faked the absence of an epidemic. And, not too ironically, no one dies because of the fictional deception of 2001.

And the top Irony Award of 2020 goes to a little mammal named Centurio senex, otherwise known as the wrinkle-faced bat. Bats are more notorious than normal these days, as scientists have demonstrated that coronaviruses, like Covid-19 which has caused the current pandemic and which is the reason we urge people to wear masks, originate in bat species. In a November 2020 scientific report, certain behaviors of Centurio are described for the first time. Apparently, on special bat occasions, Centurio will use its tiny, webbed fingers to unfurl a layer of skin from its neck and lift it over its face and nostrils—like a miniature gaiter sock permanently attached. Yes, that’s right: A bat that masks! If the irony is too hard to believe, we got it on film. With all Shakespearean irony, however, we should come to praise Centurio and not bury him: At a time when we find ourselves donning masks just to survive, we should praise those infectious mammals on Earth that are actually masking-up. POV