Hello to 2012!
2011 was a funny old year. For me, it was a year of fantastic heights, risks which paid off, and some rather crushing lows.
But more of this navel gazing introspection later.
2011 was a year where I managed to take in a vast amount of popular culture. Here’s my list of the most overrated people of 2011.
Society hates novelty. The result of this is a world where people are rewarded for coming up with one idea and repeating it over and over again. It’s why they release the same iPhone year after year, the same movies year after year, and the same video game several times this year.
It’s also why we get people like Ricky Gervais whose schtick is to say ignorantly offensive things and then to claim people who don’t find him funny just don’t get the joke. His career ought to have been over years ago (‘Ghost Town’ and ‘The Invention of Lying’ should have put several stakes through its heart) but the first sentence of this section is dark magic. The saddest part is that Gervais doesn’t seem to get it either. When he was criticised in the press, his response was: ‘But look at all these awards!’
Gervais continues to confuse popularity with talent, and his stuff is getting lazier and lazier.
Speaking of lazy hacks, enter the Gaiman. I still don’t get why otherwise sensible people continue to give Gaiman a free pass when it comes to his misogynistic fairytales and ‘token homosexuality as substitute for plot’ formula. When it was announced that he’d be writing an episode of ‘Doctor Who’, the Internet nearly tripled itself (oh ‘Misfits’, you’re a wonderful show). I really did try to like it. I really tried. I just don’t find him clever or interesting, and I’m stumped why anybody would.
I’ve never listened to much Lady GaGa before this year. I’d listened to covers of her songs and thought them rather good but never really got around to listening to the originals.
Calling them ‘originals’ is a fundamental confusion of the word. ‘That which is good isn’t original, and that which is original isn’t good.’ That’s what I would quote, but it seems that her producers (and all of her work is seriously over-produced) decided that the unoriginal stuff should also be rubbish.
There’s an emerging trend whereby record labels discover an artist has an LGBT angle and they try to exploit it for all it’s worth. In ‘The Fame Monster’, there are very few queer elements (it’s mostly regurgitated synth). Later stuff discusses little else, with the ironic message of ‘Be Authentic’ broadcast from one of the least authentic people in one of the least authentic industries.
For fun, I shuffled ‘The Fame Monster’ with Katy Perry’s album. Katy Perry is hated by people outside the Top 40 crowd for being manufactured and for trivialising sexuality. When I didn’t know whose stuff was whose, I found Perry less manufactured and trivial than Lady GaGa. The difference is that one is marketed as sugarpuff and the other is marketed as edgy. But both are inauthentic rubbish.
When seen through the dirty lens of the present, the past looks idyllic. With Gillard struggling in the polls and making baffling decisions, people forget what a monster Rudd was (and why he hasn’t been booted from Foreign Affairs is anybody’s guess: the guy is toxic). But the champion of the PR war is Malcolm Turnbull. Here’s a guy who’s pro-Work Choices, who used tax payer funds to investigate unscientific cloud-seeding methods to end droughts, and who completely tanked over Godwin Grech, and yet people want him as PM. Turnbull has found a way to make his personal failings party failings, and keep his personal strengths. Wait… socialising loss and privatising gain…? I can see why he fits in with the current LNP.
We’re back to misogynists. Hitchens is loved most by those who never read his works and hailed as the modern Orwell by people who never read either. It’s hard to enjoy the thoughts of a man who thinks of nothing which isn’t spiteful, mean-spirited, or self-serving. His death prompted his apotheosis in the New Atheist quagmire, and journalists and other B-grade celebrities jumped over each other to tell us how many times they’d met him. The apologists wrote with pretzel-shaped pens trying to show why his blood-thirsty support for war was more just than that of Bush, Blair, Howard, and co. ‘Oh, Bush was doing it for religious reasons and oil, but Hitchens was doing it for Islamophobic reasons and liberty. Totally different.’
Hitchens will be remembered by me for his cracktastic ‘Women aren’t funny because of evolutionary psychology’. Alcoholism is a disease, guys.
Voldemort is a pretty shitty villain. When reading the books, it was difficult to be too worried about a guy who lived on the back of Quirrell’s head. And how did the army of psychics and Dumbledore miss that at Quirrell’s job interview? During the books, we never saw any great prowess with magic. Instead, we see him cock up the dark arts more than a few times. Back firing spells, Deus ex Machina wand lore, and not spotting that Snape was a traitor.
With the final film out this year, the haze of our forgiving imaginations should have lifted when we saw what a pants villain he is. Dude doesn’t even have a nose. And what was with that laugh?
More people comment on ‘Quarterly Essay’ than read it. It’s this trait that has kept Robert Manne in print. His writing is tortured and torturous, but it reached a whole new world of flying carpet nuttery in 2011. Manne worked out that a QE gets more time in the press if it can be described in knuckle dragging terms. Waleed Ali’s excellent ‘What’s Right’ received very little coverage because it was nuanced and subtle. David Marr’s excellent ‘Power Trip’ received lots of coverage because few people read it but lots of people (thought that they) understood the message. See also Lindsay Tanner’s ‘Sideshow’ which had very little intelligent criticism.
Manne discovered how to exploit this phenomenon: come up with something which accords with your audience’s prejudices, then repeat the assertion until you run out of pages. Thus, ‘News Ltd is bad’ was trundled out with a few caveats hand waved in just to make sure he can backpedal later. ‘I didn’t say News Ltd is bad on every page. In fact, in the footnotes written in invisible ink, I implied that it’s just the editor and the owner who are bad.’
Manne also avoided engaging in the substantial criticism of his work (such as his lack of objective measures) but went hammer and tongs against anybody who made flippant remarks about him.
Manne rounded out his year saying something unreadable about asylum seekers.
This one crushes me like a Star Wars prequel. Paul Dini is the Jonathan Swift of the modern age. His brilliant work is sublime and beautiful. His comped material is misunderstood. His awful stuff is so horrible that God uses it to punish the most vile in the underworld.
Paul Dini is a hero of mine and until 2011 I would have denied it was possible to overrate him. But 2011 was not his year. 2011 was the year Paul Dini failed to live up to the God-like brilliance of his past.
Batman: Arkham Asylum was a massive disappointment. It was a confusing mess of a game held together with a foul thread of misogyny. In my desperate attempt to defend Dini, I thought the problem must have been a result of executive meddling.
Alas, the tie-in comic to the game was equally craptastic. After two decades of magic, it’s not a bad thing to have a crappy year, but it was so very disappointing.
The worst part was that Dini refused to engage with criticism. When your gods are discovered to have feet of clay, the hope is that they’d descend from their ivory tower in order to say: ‘Look, I didn’t mean to create something which has offended and upset fans (and some non-fans). Here’s what I set out to create, but I understand the criticism and I’ll take it on board for future works.’
Instead, we got radio silence as Rocksteady, DC, and everybody involved rolled around in our cash.