6 Famous Works of Art You Didn't Know Were Vicious Insults
No matter how rich and famous you get, you never grow beyond the need for petty, passive-aggressive insults toward those who've wronged you. For evidence, you need look no further than all of the subtle mockery hidden in famous movies and books. And in some cases, we're being generous in calling them either "subtle" or "hidden" ...
Jeffrey Katzenberg Uses Shrek to Rip His Old Boss
Shrek is about as harmless as movies get -- it's 90 minutes of pop culture references that were already dated in 2001, with jokes just bawdy enough to make the 13-year-olds in the audience think they were being subversive. You wouldn't assume the whole thing was the culmination of a petty feud between rich Hollywood power brokers, but ...
Disney hits like Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid warm otherwise stone-cold hearts to this day. Disney chairmen Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg were behind these blockbuster titles, but while they enjoyed success together, they didn't enjoy being together. That sounds like the premise for a Disney sitcom, but sadly, the reality is uglier. When Disney's second-in-command died in a helicopter crash (rich people die differently than we do), Katzenberg seemed the obvious choice to take his place. Instead, Eisner fired him. Katzenberg left Disney in 1994, humiliated and litigious guns a-blazing. He brought a nasty suit against Eisner and Disney, claiming they owed him over $382 million in bonus payments (rich people also sue differently than we do).
But he looks so chill in this picture! Wait, never mind, he's on the right.
In court, Eisner had to admit that he once said of Katzenberg, "I hate the little midget," while his lawyers argued that Katzenberg was a terrible executive who didn't know his ass from his Mickey ears. Katzenberg's lawyers argued the money was withheld because Eisner hated their client, and Katzenberg openly called Eisner a psycho. All in all, it was less of the serious legal matter you'd expect from rich people, and more like a lost episode of Judge Judy.
The suit was settled privately, but Katz didn't twiddle his thumbs and wait for wheelbarrows of cash to show up on his doorstep. He was busy founding DreamWorks, and he poached Disney artists to do it. DreamWorks and Disney went head to head several times, but Katzenberg and his studio scored one huge hit over Eisner with Shrek, which doubled as a giant groin-grab from Katzenberg to Eisner.
It was also the last known sighting of Eddie Murphy's sense of humor.
First, there's the villain -- the evil Lord Farquaad is a ridiculous, tiny man (remember the "midget" comment from earlier) whom Shrek implies has a tiny penis, and whose name sound suspiciously like "fuckwad." Sure enough, his face resembles Eisner's:
Note the chin.
And then there's the plot itself. Shrek begins with the selling of beloved movie characters into slavery -- Snow White and the seven dwarves, Pinocchio, and Tinkerbell, all public domain characters that happened to be some of the first stars of Disney's movies. The city of Duloc is like Disney World on Adderall, from the castle, to the parking lots named after characters, to the creepy "It's a Small World"-esque info booth.
Shrek took countless shots at the decades-old Disney way of doing animated films. Ugly heroes are content with their ugliness, a musical number leads to a bird exploding, and Shrek literally wipes his ass with a story that ends happily ever after.
Katzenberg has never confirmed most of this, although that might have something to do with the fact that Eisner once sued a daycare center for painting Mickey Mouse on its walls. Those children are probably still sending him 90 percent of their allowances every week, and Katzenberg is wise to not want to join them.
Stephen King Gets Endless Revenge on the Driver Who Almost Killed Him
On June 19, 1999, Stephen King was strolling along, probably daydreaming about clowns that bite people to death, when a minivan driven by one Mr. Bryan Smith ripped around the corner and tried to turn King into its new hood ornament. Smith's Rottweiler, Bullet, had been rummaging through his cooler, and a distracted, speeding Smith took his eyes off the road long enough for him to accidentally attempt a low-budget remake of Maximum Overdrive.
King was so badly injured that he briefly stopped looking affably goofy.
Smith -- a drug user with 11 prior driving offenses -- was rushing to get some "Marzes bars" from the store. Yes, one of the most prolific authors in human history was almost killed because some mulleted gomer with a gun-inspired dog had a hankering for an endangered candy bar. Smith thought he'd hit a deer at first, but then he noticed a pair of bloodied glasses on his passenger seat and summoned up all his brainpower to realize that he'd never seen a deer at the optometrist's office.
King ended up with a fractured hip, a leg broken in nine places, eight chips in his spine, four broken ribs, and 30 head stitches. He spent months in rehab, while Smith kept his license, got a six-month suspended sentence, and somehow saw fit to describe the event as an "accident without a cause." King's first act of revenge was to buy the minivan that almost killed him for 1,500 dollars so he could beat the shit out of it with a sledgehammer, because that's the sort of therapy you can have when you're rich.
"Buying up every Mars Bar and melting them while a bound-and-gagged Smith watches helplessly is my backup plan."
Then things got creepier. Smith died 15 months after the accident, on Stephen King's birthday, from an accidental overdose of the same painkillers King had been on during his rehabilitation. Said King when he heard the news: "The death of a 43-year-old man can only be termed untimely."
Needless to say, King was not asked to perform the eulogy. Smashing his tormentor's van with a sledgehammer and seeing Smith's physical and mental departure from this plane of existence wasn't enough for King, who had to make sure Smith lived on in infamy. His Dark Tower series is like 11 Bibles long and difficult to explain, but in it you'll find a character who has a Rottweiler named Bullet, drives a blue minivan, and is generally an all-around mouth-breather. He's an irresponsible, mentally deficient drug addict, and his name is -- cue gasp of surprise -- Bryan Smith. Smith is looking to score some drugs when he hops in his van, and almost strikes a fictionalized King, who's saved by the sacrifice of hero Jake Chambers.
"Don't forget to mention that he has a small penis. Like, just the tiniest thing you ever did see."
King's passive-aggressive jab was written years after Smith's death and served as the ultimate cherry on top of his rage sundae. Thanks to King's ceaseless anger, Bryan Smith is immortalized as a drug-addled asshat who damn near kills a beloved character, because in horror, even death can't spare you from revenge.
Douglas Adams Belittles a Former Classmate in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams' beloved novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is filled with countless clever jokes that most people have forgotten because they're too busy making "42" references. It also contains some serious dumping on the excessively-named poet Paul Neil Milne Johnstone. Look at how far Adams goes to make the joke:
Vogon poetry is of course, the third worst in the Universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their poet master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem "Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning" four of his audience died of internal hemorrhaging and the president of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off. Grunthos was reported to have been "disappointed" by the poem's reception, and was about to embark on a reading of his 12-book epic entitled "My Favorite Bathtime Gurgles" when his own major intestine, in a desperate attempt to save humanity, leapt straight up through his neck and throttled his brain. The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator, Paul Neil Milne Johnstone of Redbridge, in the destruction of the planet Earth. Vogon poetry is mild by comparison.
Holy shit! Yes, Mr. Johnstone is a real person, and that's pretty harsh even before you consider those words have been read by 15 million people.
Many of whom immediately checked their own pits for green putty. Just in case.
It all began back when Adams and Johnstone were classmates. Johnstone fancied himself quite the poet, and Adams and his friends fancied themselves quite the assholes. A friend of Adams described Johnstone as "a ginger-headed, freckled, bespectacled little boy" who "became the butt of a lot of bullying." Although to be fair, as a redheaded poet, young Johnstone was practically begging to have his bangers mashed. Adams particularly hated Johnstone's poetry -- the more esoteric and obscure it was, the more Adams loathed and "saw right through" it.
"Roses are red, your ass is about to be blue."
When the Hitchhiker's Guide radio play (the series' original format) called the poetry of the alien Vogons "the third worst in the Universe," someone naturally asked Adams what the worst was. Adams didn't hesitate: "Well, it's Milne Johnstone, isn't it?" Adams loved his improvised answer so much that he included it in the novel. Poets not being the most humorous people, Johnstone immediately called Adams petty and mean-spirited and, depending on who you ask, either sent a polite request or started a long legal battle to have the name changed.
Adams called Johnstone humorless and unpopular, but he ended up changing the name ... to Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Redbridge, Essex (Johnstone's hometown is Greenbridge). He didn't alter the bit about Paul(a) being the worst poet in the entire Universe, so it's like asking your neighbor to turn down their loud death metal and instead they just switch it to ska.
Or, more likely, emo.
If being immortalized in one of the most popular books of all time as the worst poet in the Universe is bad, having your old classmates not get the reference, or even remember you, is arguably even worse. Another poet, Charles Thomson, assumed the joke was at his expense, although we have no idea how he got "Charles" out of "Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings." At any rate, Douglas Adams may have been one of the finest comedic minds ever, but he sure wasn't above holding a hilariously inconsequential grudge.
Ian Fleming Makes a Famous Architect a James Bond Villain
Cracked has covered Ian Fleming's real-life badassery, so it's strange to think that a passive-aggressive insult would come from such an aggressive-aggressive human. But the deadly author sent a thinly-veiled "suck my danger parts" to an unlikely figure with the creation of the villain in Goldfinger. If you're not familiar with it, have you seen that clip where a German bad guy is trying to burn Bond's dick off with a laser? That's Goldfinger.
In the film, Auric Goldfinger is an international businessman and power-hungry megalomaniac with an underground gold smuggling operation. He comes up with a world-conquering scheme that involves making all of the gold in Fort Knox radioactive, for reasons so obvious we don't need to discuss them here. But mostly we remember him as the dick laser guy.
The last time he used a urinal, 25 people died.
If "Goldfinger" sounds like a ridiculous made-up name for a villain obsessed with gold, at least that part of him is based on real life: Erno Goldfinger was a famous architect in pre-WWII England. He had an iconic style where his buildings looked like flat, blockish, colorless Soviet military barracks, because famous is not synonymous with good. His work and Fleming's life intersected at Willow Road in Hampstead, England. Fleming spent many years in the quaint town and had a soft spot in his heart for it, but then Erno came in with a proposal to wipe out rows of cottages in favor of his block apartments, replacing quaintness with concrete and bleak existential nothingness.
"He's the man with the concrete touch! But you mustn't touch!"
Fleming fought the change to no avail, probably because he didn't have access to any Bond gadgets at the time. Supposedly, Fleming hated that such a picturesque village was bludgeoned by the equivalent of uninspired tenement housing, but on the plus side, he had found a villain for his novel. Fleming changed Goldfinger's first name to Auric, made him five feet tall, and imbued him with a thorough sense of pompous douchebaggery. Auric is obsessed with transforming everything into gold, as Fleming thought Erno was with concrete. In essence, Fleming simply inflated Erno's actual characteristics and knocked off about 14 inches in height because ... short people are evil, we guess.
Hell, Erno looks more like a Bond villain.
Erno was outraged and threatened to sue the book's publisher. Fleming, being the aforementioned baddest of asses, doubled down and threatened with 100 percent sincerity to change the character's name to Goldprick. But Fleming's publisher lacked his granite testicles, and settled out of court with Erno, making sure to include plenty of "these characters are fictitious, for real, please trust us" disclaimers in the book and movie. Which is a shame in a way, because how great would it be to hear the classic Goldfinger theme sung as "Goldprick"?
"Golden, uh, something, he'll pour in your ear!"
A Competing Studio Unceremoniously Kills Off a Rival Bond Franchise Villain
Many actors have played James Bond, but almost all the movies have come from a single company: Eon Productions. Eon's produced every single James Bond movie, from Dr. No to Daniel Craig's Home Alone, save two. One was 1967's comedic take on Casino Royale. The other, 1983's controversial Never Say Never Again, was the center of a massive fight that led to Eon almost ruining their own movie by sneaking in a jab at their Bond rival.
Three Bond girls? Groundbreaking!
Long story short, the first Bond movie was supposed to be Thunderball, but a lawsuit between director Kevin McClory and author Ian Fleming, over Fleming allegedly stealing plot details from McClory, kept it from being made on schedule. When the suit was settled, McClory was awarded the screen rights to the Thunderball novel.
Almost 20 years later, McClory felt those rights burning a hole in his pantaloons and decided to make his own adaptation of Thunderball, titled Never Say Never Again and starring none other than the man, the myth, the misogynist, Sean Connery -- 10 years after his last stint as 007.
It's about James Bond living in the world's sexiest retirement home.
When Eon found out about this completely legal film production, they were pissed. Eon was busy shooting For Your Eyes Only, which contains one of the darkest Bond openings -- 007 lays flowers at the grave of his dead wife, murdered by iconic franchise villain Blofeld.
Coincidentally, Blofeld was the bad guy in the rival Bond film McClory was making, and in fact, the character was McClory's -- Eon couldn't use him, they didn't have the rights. So Eon decided to dick him over in the most absurd manner they could. Immediately following that emotional graveyard scene, For Your Eyes Only inexplicably cuts to the most ridiculous sequence imaginable. A faceless, unnamed character who happens to be bald, wheelchair-bound, and fond of his white cat attempts to kill Bond ... with a remote control helicopter.
Yes, the brilliant villain's strategy for killing a deadly secret agent came straight out of Dr. Claw's playbook. Bond turns the tables, uses the helicopter to pick up Not-Blofeld, and dumps him down a giant goddamn chimney. It's arguably the goofiest Bond scene ever, and yes, we're counting the racist hillbilly sheriff.
It's like if the Star Wars trilogy ended with the Emperor getting a piano dropped on his head.
Mind you, all this all happens in the first six minutes, after which For Your Eyes Only turns into a gritty Cold War thriller. The whole opening sequence is like a separate, horribly campy short film -- at one point Not-Blofeld screams, "Mr. Bond, we can do a deal! I'll buy you a delicatessen!" because we all remember that classic Bond scene where he expresses his desire to retire from spycraft and make a living selling cold cuts and potato salad. Basically, Eon was so committed to killing off McClory's key villain in the dopiest way possible that they were perfectly fine with nearly ruining their own film.
Only in November 2013 did Eon finally get all of the rights from McClory, who had been dead since 2006. So while Eon snuck in a petty, self-defeating insult, McClory made them legally fight a corpse. No one wins!
Alfred Hitchcock Turns His Old Producer Into a Murderous Creep
Between Auric Goldfinger and Lord Farquaad, you get the sense that "cast your nemesis as the movie's creepy villain" is the go-to move for those looking to get a certain type of petty revenge. It's a move Alfred Hitchcock knew well, having modeled the murderer in Rear Window after a hated studio exec.
In the late 1930s, Hitchcock hadn't yet hit it big. He was getting great press from the God Save the Queen crowd, but was having less luck in the land of corn dogs and freedom. But American mogul David O. Selznick had recently founded a production company and was hungry for a talented director. The portly British man was just the entree Selznick wanted, even though he had never seen a Hitchcock film when he started making offers.
He was always more of a music guy.
Hitchcock was pleased with Selznick's determination and production values, and Selznick liked that Hitchcock made dick jokes. Lured by the possibility of big budgets, American acclaim, and purple mountains' majesty, Hitchcock signed a four-picture deal. So began the nightmare for both men.
Something the naive young Al knew nothing about.
The first film, 1939's Rebecca, quickly fell behind schedule, in part thanks to some European war you might have heard of. Meanwhile, Selznick had notes on everything from star Laurence Olivier's intelligence to Hitchcock's directing, telling him to do, "a little more Yiddish Art Theatre," which we assume means having at least one fiddler per roof per scene. Selznick even rode Hitchcock on artistic choices, pushing for smoke to form an "R" in the sky at the end of the film. Seeing that this had all the subtlety of an art student's first year project, Hitchcock battled it out and got Selznick to agree to a monogrammed pillow instead.
Leading to that famous Hitchcock scene everyone knows.
Rebecca finished shooting after twice the length of time called for by the original schedule, and 40 percent over budget. The whole experience was such a constant dogfight that the two men couldn't even make it to four movies together -- their third and final film was The Paradine Case, which revolves around the harrowing dangers of misspelling. Hitchcock gave a half-assed effort, Selznick tinkered with it extensively, and the film barely made back half its budget.
Annoyed at having to put up with seven years of meddling, Hitchcock slipped in a little middle finger to his old collaborator in Rear Window. The villain is a wife-murdering creep, and when it came time for casting, Hitchcock knew just the man for the role.
A gossip columnist said Raymond Burr was chosen for his "beautiful voice," but he had few lines of dialogue and wasn't a very well-known actor. The real reason he was cast is that Burr looked remarkably like he could be Selznick's long-lost twin. To really drive the point home, Hitchcock found the same rimless glasses that Selznick always wore, and even dyed Burr's hair to cement the "I may abduct children" look.
They even look equally likely to commit murder.
Yep, what was perhaps Burr's most famous role came from the fact that he happened to look like a dude the director hated.
Bennett does comedy stuff in Los Angeles. His Twitter is @Bennettrea because he's creative at coming up with usernames.
For more backhanded jabs, check out 5 Famous Symbols that Were Created to Be Horrible Insults and 8 Medical Terms Your Doctor Uses to Insult You.
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