If you are a creative person, I'm sure you have half a novel or a piece of fan fiction or a painting lying around somewhere that you are terrified of showing people. I get it; it is like ripping out your heart and then asking robots to judge your effort. Here's the good news: Your creation is probably awesome. Here's the better news: Even if it sucks, you are in very good company. There are plenty of famous geniuses who have come up with absolute crap in between all of their good stuff.
#4. Shakespeare: Titus Andronicus
William Shakespeare wrote 38 plays, so it wouldn't be weird if you haven't memorized all of the titles. (If you have memorized them all, you are an exceptionally cool person and we should hang out some time.) There is a very good chance you have never even heard of Titus Andronicus or seen it performed. And I don't mean you are not cultured enough to have watched it at some "Shakespeare in the Park" event; I mean you have probably never seen it even though Hollywood made it into a movie in 1999 with Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange. Not a fan of those actors? Too bad, because that is the only film version of the play that exists.
Surprisingly, not the poster for the long-awaited Blue Man Group movie.
That is because Titus Andronicus is seriously, epically terrible.
The plot is convoluted, but here is a very basic summary. The Roman general Titus Andronicus does horrible things to the family of Tamora, Queen of the Goths. In return, she does terrible things to Titus' family. Their feud escalates to ridiculous levels, and everyone leaves the theater feeling sick.
Or, to borrow Shakespeare expert S. Clark Hulse's description:
There are 14 killings, 9 of them on stage, 6 severed members, 1 rape (or 2 or 3, depending on how you count), 1 live burial, 1 case of insanity, and 1 of cannibalism -- an average of 5.2 atrocities per act, or one for every 97 lines.
In other words, a lot of blood and gore, not so much character development or even good writing. The violence is so over-the-top that some Titus apologists wonder if the play wasn't meant to be a spoof on the violent plays of other authors at the time. And sure, we're talking about the guy who turned suicidal teenagers into the pinnacle of love stories, but a mother being forced to eat her children in a pie is probably going a bit far.
Who knew watching South Park was so cultural?
Reviewers have been weighing in for 400 years, and it has rarely been pretty. The poet T.S. Eliot called Titus "one of the stupidest and most uninspired plays ever written." English dramatist Edward Ravenscroft called it "a heap of rubbish." Even when the movie came out, reviewers who enjoyed the film, like Roger Ebert, felt the need to point out that they liked it in spite of the terrible source material.
Titus Andronicus is so bad that Shakespeare scholars have been trying to distance the Bard from it for centuries. We live in a world where even a few lines of a previously unknown sonnet would be the artistic discovery of the decade, yet people who dedicate their life to his work are desperate to make LESS Shakespeare exist by getting his name taken off this piece of poo.
They argue that Shakespeare probably didn't write it (even though it was included in the First Folio) and that if he did write any of it he at least had a co-writer who was responsible for the terrible bits (so, basically all of it).
#3. The Beatles/John Lennon: "Revolution 9"
The Beatles, or more specifically John Lennon and Paul McCartney, were some of the greatest musical talents of the 20th century. I'm not going to cite that, because it is common knowledge. I'm not saying they were the best ever, but together they managed to write some of the world's most perfect songs. If you disagree and want to go off in the comments, have fun, just know you are a crazy person.
Unlike the commenters who are lovely and discerning and have nothing but nice things to say about this article.
In 2012, when Rolling Stone ranked the 500 best albums of all time, The Beatles by The Beatles, better known as The White Album, ranked a very impressive No. 10. Granted, this meant it was behind three other Beatles albums on the list (see, geniuses) but it still contains amazing tunes like "Helter Skelter," "Happiness Is a Warm Gun," "Back in the U.S.S.R.," and "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da."
It also contains a track so bad that it makes you question John Lennon's sanity, may have contributed to the band's breakup, and influenced a mass murderer.
Say hello to "Revolution 9." Eight minutes and 22 seconds of ... something. For obvious reasons, I really hesitate to say "music."
My personal theory is that one day, if every record of and reference to the 1960s is destroyed except for that ... whatever that is, future generations will only need to listen to 10 seconds to know that people were doing a fuckload of drugs during that decade.
But it wasn't just drugs (although, yeah, it was a lot of drugs) that made John Lennon go off the deep end and insist that the track be included on the album. It was also every Beatles fan's favorite person: Yoko Ono. John later admitted that she was there the whole time he was recording "Revolution 9," that he was heavily influenced by her avant-garde artwork, and that she "made decisions" about what noises to include in the track.
Paul McCartney never wanted the song on the album, but Lennon got his way in the end. This may have resulted in McCartney exercising a tighter grip on the production of the Abbey Road album the next year, which really pissed John off. He eventually left the band because he didn't want to have to write to a "format," aka shit people actually wanted to listen to. In other words, Lennon came up with this horrible thing, he got his way and it was put on the album, and he still threw a fit about it a year later.
No one liked the song. There have been many vicious reviews over the years, but none as biting as this one by author and Beatles expert Jonathan Gould:
Shapeless, formless, gormless, "Revolution 9" is an embarrassment that stands like a black hole at the end of The White Album, sucking up whatever energy and interest remain after the preceding 90 minutes of music. It is a track that neither invites nor rewards close attention, and most listeners preferred to avoid it after one or two hearings.
OH! You are going to need a polar ice cap for that burn, John. If you weren't dead. And they weren't melting.
"Revolution 9" doesn't appear to have influenced any other artists, either. It seems the only person who found value in the song was a psychopath. Even though The Beatles song most closely associated with Charles Manson is "Helter Skelter," a witness at Manson's trial said that the cult leader "spoke mostly of 'Revolution 9'" and saw it as a call to rise up in a race war.
To be fair, pre-swastika he could have replaced George and no one would have noticed.
Perhaps nothing illustrates how ridiculous the track is more than the fact that even John Lennon was confused by it. He once explained, "I thought I was painting in sound a picture of a revolution -- but I made a mistake, you know. The mistake was that it was anti-revolution." If you can't tell if your self-indulgent proto-hipster "sound collage" is pro- or anti-popular uprisings, maybe it doesn't mean anything at all and should never have existed in the first place.