Most novels are easy to misinterpret one way or another, but you can't do that with Atlas Shrugged, as hard as you'd try. In addition to its continual, explicit, preachy monologues, it devotes 60 pages to an uninterrupted three-hour speech that lays out every bit of author Ayn Rand's philosophy, called objectivism. This urges selfishness over altruism, volition over coercion, rationality over faith, and, above all, verbosity over conciseness.
Rand also argues for destroying her brother, Thor, and the other Avengers.
The Fans Who Missed the Point
If we had to list everyone who said they liked Atlas Shrugged but then did the opposite of what the book says, we'd be here all day. But we can certainly list the most ridiculous ones.
Plenty of CEOs love Atlas Shrugged, for instance, which isn't too surprising, since most of the book's heroes are CEOs. Yet these fans seem to forget that the book's villains are also CEOs. So when AIG's stock shot up after the government bailed them out with $85 billion and CEO Bob Benmosche thought he deserved a pat on the back, he wrote: "But as I learned in Atlas Shrugged, find your Thank Yous from within." The villains in Atlas Shrugged were CEOs who ruined the economy but profited from government bailouts.
"And as I also learned in Atlas Shrugged ..." *shrugs, walks away*
Meanwhile, the book also criticizes government torture and targeted killing, denounces the concept of religion, and roundly ridicules anyone who trusts feelings over scientific fact. So, of course, the book is hugely popular with the folks at ... Fox News. Glenn Beck recommends it, and Sean Hannity likes it so much that he lobbied his way into a cameo in the book's low-budget, lower-grossing film adaptation. The same Sean Hannity that supports waterboarding and the same Glenn Beck that thinks there's an atheist conspiracy.
The movie also featured cameos by every conservative movie star ever. They are in this photo.
But the award for absolute worst misunderstanding of Atlas Shrugged has to go to Idaho state senator John Goedde. Goedde said the book taught him personal responsibility and convinced his son to be a Republican. So when he found himself angry with some of the changes in his state's graduation requirements, he introduced (largely symbolic) legislation requiring all students to read Atlas Shrugged before they graduate.
That's right: Worried that your students are growing up believing the government has the right to coerce them into doing things? Why, better have the government coerce them into reading a book against government coercion! That'll do the trick!
Also, make it look as much like a made-for-TV movie as possible.
Finding Nemo tells of a fish caught and put in a tank until his father, Marlin, finds him and they escape back to the sea. Even a 5-year-old can tell that this movie doesn't exactly paint keeping fish as mascots in a good light: Fishing is portrayed as kidnapping, a fish tank is portrayed as a prison, and the closest thing to a villain the movie has is an ugly little girl who keeps accidentally killing her pet fish by shaking them in their baggies.
Pretty sure she grew up to become the lady from Misery.
The Fans Who Missed the Point
So, naturally, thousands of kids who loved the movie responded with "Let's kidnap a cute little fish and keep it in a cruel prison!" And the parents who were forced to sit through the thing 10 times did exactly that.
Demand for tropical fish exploded right after the film's release, especially for clown fish and blue tang, the main characters' species. And just like the evil little girl in the movie, many new pet buyers had no idea how to take care of their pets and ended up killing them. You see, saltwater tropical fish aren't fish that you can just throw into a goldfish bowl; they need a 30-gallon aquarium with carefully controlled salinity levels or they'll die, but most kids stopped listening to the instructions at the word "saltwater."
Sean Justice/Lifesize/Getty Images
If this kid treats his pets like we treated our G.I. Joes, that fish better be flame resistant.
The rise in demand took fish importers by surprise. They first walked out of Finding Nemo worried because the moral was clearly "Fish should not be separated from their friends in the ocean," but audiences bought so many fish that they threatened whole sections of the reef the film celebrated. Populations of clown fish dropped by 75 percent in some areas.
Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
You could say that it's harder now to Locate Marlin.
This isn't the first time something like this happened. These fads usually crop up when a movie portrays what delightful pets the animals make, like the Dalmatians in 101 Dalmatians (which are actually aggressive, untrainable beasts that get abandoned or put down) or Harry Potter's owls (most were dumped when it turned out they don't grant magic powers or British accents), but Finding Nemo is different, because this time the whole premise of the movie was freeing the animal from being a pet.
Then again, pet owners who took that premise to heart didn't respond much better. Some released their venomous fish into the ocean, ruining Florida's ecological balance. Others flushed fish down the toilet to free them; these fish died before even reaching the sewers. Hopefully when Pixar makes the inevitable sequel, the message will be "Kidnapping fish is awesome and you should murder them as much as possible."
Joe Oliveto has a pen name. His pen name has a Twitter and a dark comedy serial. Menezes too broke down and got himself a Twitter page. His current whereabouts are unknown. Miles DuBonnet also sometimes does stand-up comedy. Feel free to watch it. Translation: Please watch it.
For more things that people just don't get, check out 8 Historic Symbols That Mean The Opposite of What You Think and 6 Pieces of Music That Mean The Opposite of What You Think.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 4 Reasons 2015 Could Be the Movie Industry's Worst Year Ever.
And stop by LinkSTORM because it's the best way to hump the Internet.
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Extra Credit: The world of crazy fans is wider than this little ol' article -- here are four more groups of fans who lost their minds. Apparently, the Boston Marathon bomber is sexier than Justin Bieber. But not all fans go insane in a bad way: These super-fans used their love of Friends to find out exactly how much sex each cast member had. Alright, so MAYBE that is insane in a bad way. Close your study on fandom with a look at the archetypal fans who ruined sports for everyone else. Streaking had to start somewhere.