We’re only six-months into this so-called “new normal.” Yet, it almost seems as if we want to deny life before COVID existed. At least, that’s what the latest winners of a Vocal+ writing challenge tell me.
I entered the challenge to force myself to write outside a box. Writers were to choose the ultimate iconic duo, whether people or things. Examples given were Spongebob & Patrick, Sir Patrick Stewart & Sir Ian McKellen, and pineapple & pizza.
The internet is home to thousands of lists of iconic duos. Many arguments have been had on whether Batman & Robin outrank mac & cheese. Ranker hosts a massive list of duos where users can move entries up and down on the fly.
What’s most iconic is more of a personal choice, but by definition, icons define times, not moments.
Iconic [ ahy-kon-ik ]
of, relating to, or characteristic of an icon.
Icon [ ahy-kon ]
a person or thing that is revered or idolized:
Elvis Presley is a cultural icon of the 20th century.
You could argue the possibility a pop star can emerge as an icon, but iconic status is earned over time. Icons have a long term impact on our lives. And by long term, I mean more than six months.
When two of the top three winning pieces were about quarantine and face masks, I was taken aback. Especially since they were the only two submissions that had anything to do with current events.
I’m not judging the writing. There were plenty of excellent submissions. But I am questioning the idea Animal Crossing and Quarantine ranks as a top iconic duo amidst Tom & Jerry, peanut butter & jelly, and salt & pepper.
The third-place story, Wear Your Damn Mask, is more of a rant about white privilege and how requiring face coverings don’t violate freedom of expression. It does more lecturing to anti-maskers than establishing mask-wearing an iconic status.
The second-place story about Hip Hop follows the iconic formula well.
When it gets to the point where even writing challenges are seemingly judged based on trending headlines and social media debates, I have to wonder: Is it still about the craft?
Writing with passion is hard enough. The editing process can spark an emotional roller coaster. Writers struggle with the concept of dropping some of their most cherished lines to better ensure the reader understands.
Choosing a topic itself can be a daunting task. This process took me the longest, clocking in at over a week. Nothing jumped out at me, so I posted queries on my social media networks. I pored over hundreds of ideas before I was able to identify what was most iconic to me. It was as if I needed to over-digest a history of characters, celebrities, influencers, and food staples before a lightbulb finally went off. In the end, the writing was the easiest part.
I never expected to place. I hopped on board to challenge myself. I have some of my own top picks based on subject matter and delivery. I believe some truly talented folk were robbed.
We’ve become so committed to telling others they’re wrong about established facts that mundane disagreements over everything COVID triggers more headlines designed to sell rather than inform. And that, I believe, is what happened here.
I don’t blame the winning writers. I think they had something important they needed to say, and it happened to be about what we’re all currently enduring. I blame the judges who ignored a defined topic to choose entries that align with in-the-now headlines.
Will images of today become iconic? Eventually. But today they’re just life as we know it.
For those curious, my iconic duo is ink and paper. You can read the story here.