Friday, April 14, 2006

Introducing: The Grups Award

...or as people will no doubt affectionately call it, the Gruppy.

Named in honor of this New York Magazine article which I hated more than I probably should have, the Gruppy will be an occasional award given out by the dedicated staff here at randominnyc for ideas, articles, sentences and so on that when first encountered may appear insightful and perhaps even a little provacative, but upon closer inspection reveal themselves to be lazy generalizations and/or wrongheaded conclusions. The graphic for the award is taken from this website and is used under CC permission from Anders Brownworth (Thanks, Anders!). Said graphic is a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge, and features the phrase "Everyone is jumping," which is a reference to the fact that if a Gruppy winner's friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge s/he would not only join them, but first would publish an article about how everyone is jumping off bridges. Because The Grups Award winning notion is potentially the fault of the writer, the editor, and/or the institution, it will be awarded to the publication in general.

So, without further ado, the inaugural Gruppy goes to...New York Magazine! For the following sentence in an otherwise excellent article about an upper-middle-class drug dealer:

"Dealing has always appealed to Lenny’s two most dominant personality traits: an obsession with money and chronic impatience, characteristics that don’t exactly set him apart from his peers, kids who came of age during the hip-hop and Internet booms, two movements united by the philosophy that money is something to be made quickly, dubiously, and only in large amounts."

It's an overgeneralization of the most annoying sort. Baseless, but backed up with what seems like sensible reasoning. But one could write the exact opposite idea and have it seem exactly as reasonable:

"Putting together his long term investment portfolio has always appealed to Leonard: after all, he's part of the generation that came of age during the dot-com bust, and that watched celebrities like Biggie and Tupac flame out when they overreached. This generation entered the job market when it was weaker than it had been in a decade. They watched 9/11 occur from their dorm room couches and may have friends fighting in Iraq, where the situation continues to deteriorate due to poor planning. Clearly, this is a generation that understands the idea of 'blowback,' and knows the value of being cautious."

What's most annoying is that the Gruppy winning sentence actually contradicts the tone of the entire piece, which stresses that Lenny is something of an outsider who feels pretty lonely. April pointed out that sometimes magazines want to "go macro instead of micro" and that seems like a possibility for what happened here. Maybe someone was afraid that unless Lenny seemed less an anomaly and more the extreme indicator of the zeitgeist, the article wouldn't connect with readers? Or maybe it was, itself, an anomaly, a bit of sloppy thinking that just slipped in there? Whatever the reason, it's a bad idea in the middle of a good article.

If you would like to nominate someone or something for a Grups Award, please feel free to send an e-mail to K e v i n H a y e s 9 [at] G m a i l [dot] com.

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