10 Pop Monstrosities That Almost Destroyed Our Culture in 2011
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Every year, things go down in pop culture that seem to signal the coming armageddon -- like offensive and popular reality shows, for instance -- and we wonder, could it possibly get worse? And every year, it does. We could list 2011 terrible things in American culture this year and not even come close to completing the list, so for brevity’s sake, here are the top 10 worst things that happened in pop culture this year. May 2012 have fewer of them.
1. Movie: Atlas Shrugged, Part 1
Even if this movie wasn’t predicated on dismal Rand-worship and probably the most tedious/annoying book of her career, it’s bad based on sheer artistry. Set in the dystopian near-future of 2016, it bumps up against every dramatic action film cliche imaginable, a Tea Party fingerpainting of corporate greed. That said, this movie is AMAZING in its hilarity, possibly the best unintentionally humorous American film since National Treasure, with all the requisite deep melodrama and overacting that is somehow also stiff. It’s terrible but a pleasure to watch, particularly when you consider that with all the rich libertarians in the world, no one could pool their money for better talent! Haha.
2. Documentary: The Undefeated
If Sarah Palin’s fawning, lionizing documentary weren’t crafted for the sole purpose of revising her career and casting her in a noble light, the tale of how it came to be might have been funny: gleaming fanboy Stephen K. Bannon piles compliments on his feckless heroine, his love blinding him to her mishaps. It almost deserves a Mel Brooks script—only it’s real, and the Palin faithful brought in around $75k the first week in only 10 theaters. The Palin hustle has quieted down a bit, but expect this to be trotted out as evidence of her wondrousness closer to the election (and as absurd GOP candidates mention her as a potential running mate). It’s just depressing that it requires actual political propaganda to get her there.
3. TV Miniseries: "The Kennedys"
What was up with propagandist revisionism this year? The intensely reviled recasting of the Camelot era was so full of historical inaccuracies that Brave New Films launched a successful effort to keep the History Channel from airing it. With Greg Kinnear as JFK and Katie Holmes as Jackie, the whole piece was criticized as wholesale character assassination, hand in hand with the strange conservative impulse to cast JFK as somehow evil. And they didn’t even use the incriminating Jackie tapes!
4. Reality Show: “Toddlers and Tiaras"
Hitfix called it “a clarion call for a Social Services intervention,” and was it ever. Eager and often deluded moms entering their mostly reluctant tiny, tiny daughters into beauty pageants and stage-momming them into internalizing the princess premium before they can really utter words with three syllables. If the ghost of JonBenet Ramsey doesn’t loom over this show for you in a disturbing way, perhaps some of the choice things moms say to their children will, such as one mom telling her eight-year-old to shake her butt around, but not too much “like a stripper.” Ugh.
5. Novel: Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
It’s unfortunate that an author with the imagination of Charlaine Harris can apparently only make her work more interesting by adding an endless stream of fantastical characters, rather than making said characters do more interesting things. The creator of Sookie Stackhouse, upon which HBO’s popular “True Blood” is based, Harris is up to book 11 in the series, and it might be time to pack it in (or at least create a spin-off). Add this to tossed-off and confusing plot elements that mess around with continunity and logic (many longtime fans have accused Harris of not actually reading the books in her own series), and you have a beach read that’s more frustrating and convoluted than light and fun.