Soren Bowie

Movie: No Strings Attached/Friends with Benefits

Let me preface this by saying that I've seen both of these movies and I still had to check IMDb to remember which was which. Studios have consistently proven that they aren't shy about remaking films over and over and over. But 2011 marks the first time I've ever seen two identical middling romantic comedies released at the exact same time.


Well, I say that, but I can't even be sure that these are the films I'm talking about.

This is a turning point. Until now, there's always been a tacit agreement between audiences and filmmakers that as long as Hollywood pumps out remakes of the stories we love, fans will quietly hand over money without complaining too loudly about the lack of originality. But reimaginings are not a renewable resource. At a certain point they have to start pulling stories that are increasingly more recent until the logical conclusion is reimagining a movie that hasn't even been released. I can only assume No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits were made within a few months of one another as a test on behalf of Hollywood as a whole to gauge exactly what percent of their audience is retarded enough not to notice. The answer, it turns out, is most of us. No Strings Attached was 17th in top-grossing comedies of the year, and Friends with Benefits was 21st. They insisted we were nostalgic for a mediocre story we hadn't even heard yet, and we collectively answered, "OK."

After this year, I fully anticipate seeing identical movies released simultaneously because studios know now that there is no accountability anymore. We will still see both. We may even see them twice if they have a limited IMAX 3-D showing.


Just burn our money, Hollywood. Burn it right up.

TV Show: The Oprah Winfrey Show

If I know our audience, and I think that I do, everyone reading this is a stay-at-home, middle-aged mother who loves the shit out of Internet comedy and Oprah Winfrey. Unfortunately, for everyone else it may not be immediately apparent how profoundly The Oprah Winfrey Show controls our everyday lives, so here's some context: Of the 70 books in Oprah's book club, 59 of them went on to become best-sellers after her endorsement. During an episode of her show discussing mad cow disease, she said, "It has just stopped me cold from eating another burger." Cattle ranchers then sued Oprah for single-handedly driving beef prices down to the lowest they had been in a decade. And in case you're a vegetarian who doesn't read, she was also credited with netting Barack Obama over a million votes in his run for president, and we all know how that turned out.

Her approval or critique of any person, business or product on The Oprah Winfrey Show can be the difference between its success and failure. And now, after 25 years of teaching the world what to like and hate, the cancellation of The Oprah Winfrey Show is leaving a bigger vacancy than just a network TV time slot -- it is creating a cultural void. She is forcing her audience out of the studio and into the streets to decide for themselves what books to read, what charities to sponsor and what skin-cleanse systems to buy.


Damn. Anyone know what brand of crazy Camping uses?

Song: Super Bass -- Nicki Minaj

With the advent of Pandora and personalized Internet radio, there's really no reason to listen to terrestrial radio anymore. My musical preferences are allowed to get so niche and esoteric that, if unchecked, it will result in me bobbing my head to the rhythm of sad, sustained flatulence in the hopes of uncovering what it means in the historical context of sound. So when a pop song fights its way into my consciousness and I don't immediately hate it, I'm willing to recognize that as a tremendous achievement.

"Super Bass" has become hugely successful because it managed to infiltrate demographics for which it was never intended. It has the rare power only a few songs share to obligate people at any function, from children's birthday parties to candle vigils, to stop in mid-conversation and lose themselves to three and a half minutes of pure ass-shaking. It also didn't hurt that Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez were both caught singing it on camera, indirectly letting their own fan bases know that listening to other genres is allowed. In addition, 8-year-old Sophie Grace and that other one blew up on the Internet for their rendition in princess costumes. It's easy to predict why kids love the song -- the video, after all, looks like a particularly sexy episode of LazyTown. But with all these young girls embracing Nicki Minaj at once, adults had to collectively decide it was too much trouble to point out how overtly sexual the lyrics were and agreed that just this once they could get behind a song about how good drug dealers with six packs are at making underwear fall off. The logic, it turned out, was sound.


Basically the same thing.

Video Game: Dead Island

I've included Dead Island on this list not for its game play, its beautiful locations or its staggeringly well-made trailer, but because I'm declaring it the last breath of zombie fanaticism. After this, we're allowed to retire zombies as a cultural meme. We've finally gone as far as we can with the undead, and all that's left for us to do is slide back down the pile of headless corpses and move on with our lives.


In a slightly slower, shambling way.

At the end of any pop culture frenzy, the object of obsession has to outwear its welcome. If zombies were a house guest, then Dead Island would be the day you catch it wearing a pair of your underwear because it ran out of clean clothes. Our relationship with the undead has gotten so stale that no one is sincerely excited about the prospect of a zombie apocalypse anymore.


I say "aargh," you say "urrgh," let's call the whole thing off.

We've found every conceivable way to kill zombies; we've put them in every conceivable scenario, and now their ubiquity is getting annoying. But Dead Island marks the first time I've seen a really great zombie story ruined because it's just retreading old ground. There's no new angle on zombies that wasn't already covered in Left 4 Dead or Dead Rising or countless other games and movies, so the whole thing seems pointless. I even partially suspect that the reason the game trailer bore no resemblance to the actual game was because it was frantically trying to find an untapped quadrant of the zombie craze just to keep people interested. We've crossed a line in 2011 -- it's time to move on to some other generalized terror we can all enjoy together, like nanobots or Eskimos or something.


It's probably symbolic of global warming.

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