I've written a lot of columns and made a lot of videos about things I hate, but the truth is, I really like liking stuff. I'm a tremendous fanboy of so many artists. In fact, it's the knowledge that greatness in art is possible that makes me so impatient with mediocrity. But here's the thing: Sometimes even the great ones really screw up, and when that happens, I get really confused and uncomfortable. I stare at the screen or speakers in disbelief. (If it's a bad song, then I guess staring at the speakers is a little stupid, but I don't know how to stare with my ears.)
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This guy gets it.
In any event, even though it pains me, I think you're a better fanboy if you don't praise everything. You have to own up to your heroes' failures, and when you do, you can be that much happier for their second coming. Everyone on this list is a hero of mine. Everyone on this list has done great work before and after these four moments I'm about to share, but, hey, let's be honest: Here are four horrible moments from great artists.
#4. Doctor Who: A 900-Year-Old Time Lord Makes an Awful Joke That Only Would Have Worked in 1984 (And Not Even Then)
If you've followed my columns over the years, then you know I have very strong feelings about Doctor Who. It is my favorite show on television, it often reduces me to tears, there are moments of great comedy, and, quite simply, the show redefined my notions about the existence of a higher power in the universe.
Now, as fans know, the show's protagonist, The Doctor, has the ability to regenerate and has been played by several actors during its 50-year run. Although numerous talented thespians have handled the role admirably, my favorite Doctor will always be David Tennant.
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I'd tell you all the reasons that Tennant is my favorite, but I'm busy taking an online quiz to verify my heterosexuality right now.
So now we have one of my favorite actors in my favorite show. But wait, there's more. My favorite Doctor Who writer of all time is Russell T. Davies, who wrote a very good episode titled "Army of Ghosts." So what could go wrong? A good episode of a great show written by the best Doctor Who writer and starring the best Doctor Who actor. Seriously, how bad could this moment be? I mean just because The Doctor is about to confront some ghosts, what could he possibly do that's so unforgivable?
Then This Awful Thing Happened:
A Ghostbusters joke? In the 21st century? An alien 900 years old decides to make a hammy reference to a movie 30 years earlier than the time he's visiting. This scene reminds me of old sitcoms from the '80s where dads would put on a baseball hat backward and do an impromptu rap. In writing this article, I watched the clip about 10 times, and it physically hurt each time. Is that Ghostbusters-esque music going on in the background? What in the name of all that is holy is going on?
#3. David Bowie: Having Established His Pop Bankability and Heterosexuality, Destroys Both With One Song
It's no secret that David Bowie is my universe. I'm such a huge fan that, when Bowie released his first album in 12 years (and his best in 33 years) this year, my first thought was "Oh, my God, this is so good, what if I had died? What if I had died before this day? Then I'd never be able to hear this album. Thank God I'm alive." Yes, I'm aware that is in no way a sane thought, but there it is. Anyway, the point is, I'm a huge Bowie fan and have been since I was 10.
Here is me at 16 before a night of getting no sex at a Halloween party.
Bowie spent the '70s amassing a cult following, experimenting with new and exciting musical forms from glam rock, to soul, to early electronica -- all while challenging social mores about sexuality. But then came the '80s, and Bowie had his biggest success making big, bold pop music. Also, the new Bowie was pretty damn hetero. Even Rolling Stone said so.
It was the '80s. Straight guys had hair like that.
So anyway, the '70s were about making rock history by breaking artistic and social boundaries, and the '80s were seemingly all about proving that Bowie could also be a middle-of-the-road, honest-to-goodness pop star.
Then This Awful Thing Happened:
So many things wrong here. First of all, it's just a terrible cover. It's everything that's wrong with the '80s. It's just soulless and synthetic. Then there's another problem -- specifically the gayness. Now don't get me wrong. This is not homophobia. In the '70s, Bowie used to play his guitarist's guitar on his knees, simulating oral sex. That was great. It was bold and brave and risque.
The cool gay.
But unlike the Ziggy Stardust days, this video was gay in a distinctly uncool way. For the first time, Bowie and Jagger seemed like guys you wouldn't want to hang with -- not because they might start having sex while you're trying to watch the game, but because they'd probably bitch about what Leon said about Victor at the club. It's not the gayness; it's the boring, married, decidedly unhip gayness.
The uncool gay.
For Bowie, this was the start of a period of increasing lameness that lasted another two years, until Reeves Gabrels and Tin Machine saved his musical soul. Then Iman staked a claim that stuck on his heterosexuality.