Our On Her Nightstand Writer Wendy Stein has been hosting a Smackdown challenge every few years on Facebook since 2011. This year marks the 5th one.
While she doesn’t remember exactly how it started, she recalled that two of her friends have exemplary Photoshop skills and they often made funny pictures, putting her dog into absurd situations.
“I think I suggested we find out who had superior skills by having a competition,” Wendy said. “They were the only participants the first year, but every time I host it, more and more people want to play.”
So what is it exactly? She gives the competitors a series of themes or topics, and according to the official rules, they have to submit “original works of photoshopped art that will make us laugh and/or impress us with their creativity and abilities.” And then she posts them on Facebook, and her friends vote for their favorites. Every day she awards People’s Choice and Judge’s Choice.
She admits, “It is completely self-indulgent. I recruit my friends to amuse me and Facebookland for nothing more than likes and gratitude. And it’s very much about me and my world. My dog factors in heavily, which is always fun. They create hilarious pictures of me with celebrity crushes. It’s awesome! And the savvy competitors catch on quickly to pander to the judge and her interests. The amount of time and detail they put into these is impressive.”
Wendy says she always tries to include something topical when coming up with the themes. The first two Smackdown competitions were in December, so she had some holiday-oriented days. She included the Olympics once. In addition to Ruby (her dog), certain things have emerged as popular props. For example, for some reason Tyrannosaurus Rex has made frequent appearances, including this year, when one of the topics is “T-Rex and his life of crime.” Some from the past include Ruby in History, Wendy & friends on Broadway, and Art Masterpieces, and there’s always a freestyle round in case they have something really clever that doesn’t fit into any of the topics.
This year, the pandemic spurred Wendy to action. She had been thinking it was time for another Smackdown, and suddenly everyone was in need of entertainment and a distraction. She put out the call and a bunch of people immediately said they’d play. The pandemic made an appearance on the first day, when the topic was Social Distancing. Other than that, she asked them to steer clear for the most part of virus-related things, although a few references did sneak in, which is fine. She doesn’t want to deny the thoughts consuming everyone, but she wanted to offer some relief, as well.
“There are no prizes, just, you know, glory for the winners,” she said. “In the past, I’ve taken everyone out for drinks to celebrate and thank them; we obviously won’t be doing that this year.”