4 Celebrities Whose Reputations Have Reversed Completely

A reputation can change in a hurry, a fact that any man who had that ubiquitous and convenient Peaky Blinders haircut in November 2016 knows. Yes, tastes change, people evolve, history marches on ... or sometimes a bunch of stupid, weird crap happens that forever alters how you think of someone, to the point where the person they were 20 years ago feels like an alien imposter.

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4
People Actually Used To Like Rudy Giuliani

 

In a year that was horrible for everyone, Rudy Giuliani somehow managed to have his own personal annus horribilis. He entered 2020 under investigation for lobbying law violations. He held a press conference at a landscaping company. His hair melted. He accidentally uploaded a video of himself mocking Asian people. He got COVID after downplaying its risks. There were questions over his behavior in Borat 2, and regardless of his intentions it's humiliating enough to be tricked by Sacha Baron Cohen in an era of omnipresent internet. 

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He led the sleazy yet pathetic attempt to overthrow the election, at one point trying to link Trump's defeat to a secret Communist conspiracy. His own daughter wrote a Vanity Fair article endorsing Biden. And to top it all off, the guy who sells him the vials of bat blood that fuel his dark energy totally bailed on him. 

Giuliani closed 2020 trying to appease disappointed morons when Trump failed to show up to his own $1000 a ticket New Year's Eve party, leaving tasteless patrons to enjoy the crooning of Vanilla Ice without their leader telling them that he doesn't get enough credit for inventing ice. And then he hopped on Parler, which is Twitter for people who think freedom of speech means they get to threaten Ilhan Omar without repercussion, to call Republicans that didn't contest the election result Nazi collaborators. Every new act of dunderheaded malice (seriously, there's one every day) is a master class in the fact that real-world villainy tends to be more depressing than awesome. 

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But 20 Years Ago ...

Giuliani was Time's 2001 Person of the Year. "America's Mayor" was knighted by the Queen a year later. Two months after 9/11 he had an 80% approval rating, which is a level of support politicians can usually achieve only by ramping a motorcycle over hungry sharks or retaking Air Force One from terrorists.

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Now, whether Giuliani deserved that reputation is dubious; the America he was supposedly Mayor of didn't have much room for Americans of color. He was a staunch proponent of stop and frisk despite it accomplishing nothing beyond hassling minorities, he blamed an unarmed black man for having the audacity to be murdered by an undercover cop, and his endorsement of broken windows policing came with a big spike in police misconduct. A year before 9/11 thrust him into a leadership position, his approval rating was just 37%. 

But had Giuliani retired to crank out memoirs and wave at Yankees games, that would all be a footnote on the resume of a man beloved by the whole nation. Instead, he systematically dismantled his own legacy with the same efficiency he tried to bring to democracy. First, his 2008 run for the Presidency was mocked for its overemphasis on 9/11, and then he embraced Trump like he was a long lost lover. In 2018, even before his greatest humiliations, his approval rating had plummeted to 32%. So if there are any giant assholes reading this, remember to quit while you're on top. 

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3
For Decades, Dolly Parton Couldn't Be Mentioned Without A Boob Joke

 

If Giuliani's 2020 was a bozo's Shakespearian tragedy, Dolly Parton had about as good of a year as the circumstances allowed. Already a strong candidate for the pantheon of American saints, Parton was the only person to both donate a million dollars to COVID research and play an angel in a Christmas movie. 

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Parton has long been involved in impressive philanthropic efforts, from an extensive literacy campaign that's put over 100 million books in the hands of children, to wildlife preservation efforts, to a nine-million-dollar fundraising campaign for Americans displaced by a 2016 wildfire. But she's enjoyed a resurgence of cross-generational popularity; in 2019 the New York Times took a look at why millennials love her, and if you search her name on Twitter you'll find a rare parade of positivity on a site where people threaten to ruin each other's lives over their stance on linguini. She's like the country's smart, sassy grandma, one of the few people everyone loves. 

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But 30 Years Ago ...

Boobs jokes. No, seriously. Here's a 1992 Chicago Tribune article about Parton that opens with boob talk, and here's a hard-hitting news feature on the subject. 

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When John Cleese told a hoary "Haha, Dolly Parton has big breasts" gag in 2020, he was mocked for being stuck in the mid-'70s. Ancient gags about Parton's boobs have been told about 15,000 times on Reddit's misleadingly named Jokes community, and some bits have been adapted to star Stormy Daniels and other celebrities of the day. The punchlines aren't offensive, but they're not going to make you laugh unless you think talking about boobs is the lascivious alternative to your normal comedy diet of Bazooka Joe comics. 

Parton was undeniably a sex symbol -- she was on the cover of Playboy in 1978 -- and she didn't exactly shy away from talking about her body. But that Tribune piece contrasted Parton's talents and business endeavors with her reputation as "the ubiquitous tabloid presence, the queen of tacky hillbilly glamor, the synonym of big-breast jokes," and that was pretty much how Parton was talked about for a few decades. The woman couldn't be brought up without cracks about breasts and plastic surgery, and now society will have your head if you look at her the wrong way. It's like if 30 years from now an elderly Nicki Minaj led the struggle against the robot uprising, and we all felt a little awkward about all those articles called "15 Of Nicki Minaj's Most Flawless Butt Photos."

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2
Your Aunt Is Horny For Method Man

 

Sex symbols change with the passing of the seasons and the indescribable vagaries of the human boner. How many Game of Thrones fans knew that Olenna Tyrell actress Diana Rigg was a pinup poster staple in Britain who kicked up a fuss when she appeared nude in a 1971 play? But one of the stranger developments in the eternal cycle of celebrity desire is that everyone is horny for Method Man now. 

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His role as a lawyer on Power Book II: Ghost, instead of prompting questions about what-the-shit kind of title Power Book II: Ghost is, led to a level of thirst not seen since the Dust Bowl. The show about a haunted vintage Apple laptop, we guess, saw Method Man strip down for a sex scene and 500,000 women go into way too much detail about what they would have done in that situation. Throw in a surprisingly muscular 2019 BET Awards that prompted a gossip site to offer, ugh, "More Thirst-Trappy Pics Of Method Man" that, ugh, "Have Your Aunties' AARPanties In A Bunch" and we guess this is a thing now. The Wu-Tang Clan is something to fuck with. 

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But 20 Years Ago ... 

Method Man was both less bangable and had a much, much crappier filmography. 

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90 minutes of "high is both a word and a condition, LOL!" was the basis of countless early 2000s comedies, and How High was undeniably one of them. Throw in roles in Soul Plane, My Baby's Daddy, and Scary Movie 3, and Method Man was spending a lot of his time doing a double take and saying "That wack white boy did what?" Even more serious roles, like his gig on The Wire, weren't ginning up many uncomfortable conversations with moms across the land. He was never unattractive, but early in his career Method Man resisted attempts to be turned into a sex symbol, wanting his rap to stand on its own. 

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Method Man is hardly the first celebrity to hit the gym in middle age and suddenly find themselves with a whole new legion of fans who haven't been laid since the divorce, although actresses tend to get stuck trending in the opposite direction. For example, as the dialogue in Scream alluded to, Jamie Lee Curtis' nude scene in Trading Places was a boon to the VHS rental industry, and now she's a World of Warcraft cosplay nerd that an entire generation remembers for her ads about defecating better through yogurt consumption. Anyway, stop being so horny for Method Man, everyone. He's a happily married man, for Christ's sake, and if his supernatural encounter with a night hag didn't change that then your tweets certainly aren't going to. 

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1
Smash Mouth Used To Not Be An Insane COVID And Meme Machine

 

"All Star," aka "The Shrek Song," aka "Ah, fuck, not again," is a fixture of countless internet memes, because hell is real and we have built it for ourselves. KnowYourMeme will helpfully walk you through some examples, but let's not play games. You've heard this song in a million videos and seen its lyrics in a million images, often ones called "epic" by a 42-year-old man who runs a YouTube channel called "Fartmeister Pranks!"

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Smash Mouth initially resisted their song's meme status, but eventually embraced it (and its potential to revitalize their career). They embraced it so much, in fact, that they found themselves playing at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. In 2020. Where masks werent worn. Hey, guess what happened. 

103 COVID cases across eight states were linked to the rally/aural atrocity, and from there a study estimated that 267,000 cases (and 12.2 billion dollars in public health expenses) could be traced back to the "perfect storm" of a superspreader event. But Mr. Smash Mouth did yell "Fuck that COVID shit" at the show, so who knows which side to believe here? 

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But 10 Years Ago ... 

Before Smash Mouth burned through a good chunk of their impenetrable internet irony-drenched goodwill, they looked destined to become an obscure one-hit wonder akin to your Semisonics and Three Doors Downs. In 2011, they only had a handful of Twitter followers and were only attracting attention from writer Jon Hendren, who offered lead singer/guy Steve Harwell 20 bucks to eat two dozen eggs. 

This somehow evolved into people promising various charitable donations, and while Smash Mouth did their best to ignore this too, Harwell eventually promised to eat eggs if $10,000 was raised for St. Jude Hospital. The money promptly arrived, because nothing motivates internet charity like the stupidest prompts imaginable, and so Harwell found himself at a Guy Fieri restaurant opening, being made eggs by the Mayor of Flavor Town himself, in the presence of people driven to madness by Twitter and also, for some reason, the mascot of the San Jose Sharks. Harwell managed to get through about a third of the spicy concoction before calling on the audience for help, and that was the last food-related drama Harwell experienced until he threw a temper tantrum at a food festival gig a few years later. 

Anyway, this all sounds like a lesson about fame, although we honestly have no idea what that exact lesson is. If you're washed up, just keep clinging to the margins and maybe you'll be propelled back into the limelight for reasons that aren't clear to anyone? Sure, let's go with that. 

Mark is on Twitter and wrote a book.

Top Image: Netflix, Amazon Studios 

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