Was it the Vampire Breast Lift? Or maybe the Haze Dual Vaporizer? Or maybe the Nuelle Fiera vibrator? Whatever it was (it was probably the vibrator), 2016 has proved to be the year that a longstanding Oscar tradition—the absurdly expensive and also just absurd gift bags handed out to losing nominees—seems, officially, to have Gone Too Far: Last week, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sued Distinctive Assets, the marketing firm that has long provided the sassy swag, for trademark infringement.
The lawsuit contended, essentially, that the party favors to end all party favors—and, more specifically, their vampy/vapey/vibey contents, this year said to be worth $232,000 in all—were giving the awards show a bad name. The so-called “Everybody Wins” bags were dirty alloys, basically, to Oscar’s gold.
So it’s both ironic and fitting that the Academy’s complaint has had the effect of bringing even more attention than usual to the existence and the excesses of the gift bags. And also to the role the bags have played in the strange sub-economies of the ultimate American awards show. “The Oscar Gift Bags Are So Lavish That Even the Academy Is Embarrassed,” New York magazine declared. “Oscar sues over unauthorized (and unsavory) swag bags,” USA Today had it. Those came on top of the many, many articles that had simply catalogued the contents of the bags. Yahoo made a video “Dissecting the Outrageously Valuable, Not to Mention Ridiculous, Oscars Gift Bags.” GOOD offered its own look, “Inside the $200,000 ‘Unofficial’ 2016 Oscars Gift Bag”—under the ambiguous rubric of “poptimism.” Blasting News took things to their logically Marxist conclusion: “THE RICH AND OSCAR-FAMOUS ARE SPOILED WHILE THOUSANDS GO WITHOUT.”