The 6 Most Spectacular Low Points of Modern Pop Culture
Brothers and sisters of the Internet, we are living in a Golden Age of the strange. On any given day, you may see Germans declare war against all ice and motherfuckers or watch the proud people of Norwegia have some time with traditional burga moving. Yet in the lifespan of every medium there is a sweet spot -- a place where the perfect timing meets the perfect failure or the perfect enthusiasm to create a moment of sublime insanity that will never be duplicated. Let's look back on the "best" moments from six different areas of America's rich and absurd pop culture.
Literature -- How to Be Famous, 2009
There have always been and will always be celebrities who are famous for nothing. The fact that they exist tends to baffle and infuriate industrious people, but that's a good thing -- uniting in our disgust of objectively terrible people is how we won World War II. About five years ago, we saw a huge spike of empty celebrities. The Writers Guild strike turned TV into a wasteland of reality programming, and hundreds of people were making a living by being stupid bitches with anger management problems.
Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt were probably the worst examples of this. Everyone hated them, so they got more media coverage, so everyone hated them. They were so successful at being douchebags that they wrote a book about it. It was only published in English because it translates into a declaration of war in every other language.
The dumbest and worst among you are probably saying, "Those two made money by doing nothing -- they just knew how to game the system!" They didn't. Heidi and Spencer are DNA swabs that somehow grew to adulthood and escaped the crime lab. Their book makes it clear that all they did was anything and everything to get attention with no foresight or regard to their dignity. Spencer Pratt would put his cock in his own father if he thought it would get his proctologist to ask him to move. And it's strange that I bring up fathers and asses, because Heidi Montag's penis was actually formed from her father's ass tissue. It was an unorthodox procedure, but when the Argentine plastic surgeon with a bag of her father's ass and a gun to his head asked her if she was sure, she replied, "Yay, someone's looking at me!"
Huh. You'd think a human toilet made out of plastic would have more insight into butt implants than "Babble, babble, get breast augmentation."
I don't want this to only be personal attacks. These cancerous fucks wrote a book, and I'll review it. First of all, How to Be Famous was written as bad advice for people who are currently reality TV stars. It won't help you get famous in any way, and in fact, it will get people to like you less if you already are. It is simply a list of things Heidi and Spencer have done to get noticed since they appeared on TV. If you asked a 4-year-old girl to list the fastest ways to get ice cream, it would be almost the same book.
"When you're the bestest at smarting, you attribute quotes to yourself in your [own] work." - Seanbaby
In How to Be Famous, Heidi wrote a chapter on how to make a face like you hate someone. Can you imagine being this moronic? This loosely fastened pile of silicone and pulp was staring at herself in a mirror, and instead of saying, "Who left all this pastrami on my skeleton?" she said, "I look mean! I should be a mean-face-making coach!" Heidi, you elastic cow, even assuming that this ability wasn't built into every face ever, who needs that skill? Cats? Women who want to have sex with angry men, only one time each? Not everyone is your mother.
The best part of the book is Heidi and Spencer's delusion. They truly think they are outsmarting everyone who looks at them. They talk about how they spin their own media coverage, but only give two examples. One, they never go out at night, since their paparazzi photos don't look as nice by flashbulb light. And two, they came clean about Heidi's record-breaking amounts of elective plastic surgery. Because of their honesty, the story was not "Speidi Rumors: Did This Insecure Slut Rebuild Her Entire Physical Structure Out of Hot Dog?" No, after Spencer Pratt cleverly pulled the media's strings, the headline was "Heidi Montag Confesses! 'Why I Look Like a Sex Doll That Crawled Out of the Ground After a Warlock Peed on Its Grave!'"
Does the book work? Well, Heidi's music album cost $2 million to produce and her fame helped sell slightly over 1,000 copies. And she and her husband were so "great" at being famous that in 2009, the E! network took a poll of its viewers, and they agreed that Heidi and Spencer should be banned from the network. To put that into perspective, E! has 11 shows about fashion critics judging the tampons they steal from the Kardashians' trash. When E! looks at you and says, "We're better than this," you've violated the warranty on your human soul.
Comics -- Billy Ray Cyrus, 1995
There have been a number of strange celebrity comic books and bizarre crossovers. For 18 years, Bob Hope had a comic about sexually assaulting women; Eminem the rapper beat the crap out of the Punisher; and Jay Leno once helped Spider-Man defeat ninjas. They all pale in comparison to the Billy Ray Cyrus comic from the Marvel Music line.
In 1992, you couldn't get rid of the song "Achy Breaky Heart." It was the Lyme disease of music. For the entire year, it was how most radio stations told listeners that another 180 seconds had passed. If you lived in the country, this song spent more time in your ear than ear mite eggs and cousin tongues combined. Marvel Comics knew it had to create a comic based on Billy Ray Cyrus while he was the most famous singer in the world. Unfortunately, this comic didn't come out until three years and zero hit songs later.
Billy Ray Cyrus was written by Paul S. Newman, who holds the Guinness Record for most comics published -- 4,100. Obviously, you only get numbers like that by selecting your projects carefully and giving each of them your best effort. Which is weird, because this comic seems like something you would only write if you were looking for a fun way to tell the other Scooby-Doo scriptwriters that you quit.
The story begins with a young boy telling Billy Ray Cyrus about a Cherokee ghost he saw in an old fort. Billy Ray Cyrus believes it and invites him and his girlfriend backstage, where Cyrus is mostly nude and adjusting his mullet with a horse brush. He shirtlessly insists that they put on cowboy costumes and go camping with him. Most stories would end here, but this is Kentucky, where children are taught only to be afraid of snakes and fitness because "molestation" is too difficult to spell. So they agree. To everything.
The singer gives his new children friends rifles and flashlights, and they spend the evening looking for ghosts. In a fun twist, a nearby Cherokee scout sees them and thinks they are ghosts. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to play the victim near Indians under any circumstance, but this is a very hurtful stereotype. Some of my best friends are white, and yes, we sometimes get together and chase Pac-Man, but that does not mean all Caucasians are ghosts.
After deciding that the two teens and the country music standout were definitely ghosts, the Native Americans start a war chant and open fire on the fort. I'm not sure what's stranger -- the fact that mid-'90s Indians had a protocol in place for defeating fort ghosts, or that it was just yelling and arrows. I wasn't expecting proton packs, but shouldn't they summon spirit coyotes or weave a dream catcher or something? They went from "Hey, I think someone's over there" to "Kill the ghosts!" in less than five minutes. How many tourists have these maniacs accidentally killed?
I should mention that Billy Ray Cyrus and the kids think that the Indians are also ghosts. I don't blame them, since at this point literally nothing else would make sense. Billy Ray forms a brilliant plan -- he fire blanks at the undead with his vintage gun! Scientists say it's the same way he conceived Miley Cyrus.
Due to a weird stroke of luck, the Indians were using toy rifles, too. Wait, what? How many fucking ghosts are there in Kentucky that none of the state's gun owners thought they'd ever need real bullets?
After hearing two gunshots come from the fort, the Cherokees are now sure they're dealing with ghosts that have rifles and run the other way. By this point, some of the Native Americans are probably figuring out that nobody here is a ghost, but that would have no effect on their reaction. Running the other way is how all non-white people react when Billy Ray Cyrus makes noise.
The story ends with the chief fleeing into a bear, fleeing back toward the fort, and shrieking for the ghosts to shoot it. It's like the esteemed writer Paul S. Newman mistook "plot twists" for "Indians changing directions." By the time all the confused characters realize that the ghosts are Native Americans, Billy Ray Cyrus, and a terrified teen couple with nothing in common with ghosts in any way, they are completely numb to insanity. Which is good, because in the next story, the Billy Ray Cyrus tour bus accidentally drives to A.D. 1295, where he stops a medieval army with a laser gun.
I'm kind of amazed that you thought I might be kidding.
There are limits to fantasy. Even the author of this Billy Ray Cyrus comic, who felt that it was OK to send him back in time to fight knights and dragons, was unable to picture a world where anyone could tolerate his music.
Video Games -- Link: Faces of Evil, Zelda's Adventure and Wand of Gamelon, 1993-94
Most bad video games happen for obvious reasons. For example, your producer decided to make Queen Latifah the star of a basketball game, or you did badly enough in college that you had to take a job adapting the Mike Myers Cat in the Hat movie for the Game Boy Advance. The Legend of Zelda CD-i had a more complicated origin. In the early '90s, Philips was in negotiations to create a CD drive for the Super Nintendo. Their competitor had one, and the Sega CD games were so bad that the company was nearly arrested for smuggling sewage out of the country. Maybe because of this, Nintendo decided that their system could get by without a CD drive.
In order to maintain their relationship, Nintendo gave Philips the right to make games based on Nintendo's most beloved franchises like The Legend of Zelda. Philips was launching a new CD-based system, and they took this opportunity to make the three sloppiest, ugliest, clunkiest games ever sold in retail stores. To this day, "Wand of Gamelon" is how Xboxes and PlayStations call each other the C-word.
These games still wouldn't be that notable except, like all developers using these new compact disc things, Philips figured that if they have all this storage space, they'd better use it, and outsourced cartoons that were as inept as they were fruity. The cartoons on the CD-i Zelda games were apparently produced in a prison arts program by asking serial killers to close their eyes and draw fear and Easter. Look at this shit:
Pro Wrestling -- The Shockmaster, 1993
The Shockmaster's debut on WCW Wrestling was a miracle of unintentional hilarity. Let's take a look at everything that happened to get us there.
The Circumstances A participant in an eight-man tag match had to pull out and WCW needed a replacement. Most everyone who would qualify for such a main event was either involved in their own matches or being hunted for their tusks, so they decided to create something new. Something ... amazing.
The Concept I honestly have no idea how anyone will know when a pro wrestling gimmick is going to work. The Undertaker has been a zombie controlled by a fat man and a magical urn for two decades. They've had sorcerers, chicken men, every version of the mentally handicapped and RoboCop.
So when you're a pro wrestling writer coming up with a last-minute replacement, an overweight space barbarian who can control electricity (maybe?) is an absolutely reasonable thing to suggest.
The Costume The Shockmaster looks like something you'd see on the floor of a college comedy to illustrate how outrageously everyone partied last night. His costume was jeans, cowboy boots, most of a sleeping bag, no shirt and a stormtrooper helmet. And the helmet wasn't kind of like a stormtrooper's. It was exactly a Star Wars hat covered in glitter that in no way helped disguise one of the most recognizable pop culture objects a person can put his or her head into. If you saw him at a Halloween party, you'd say, "Ugh, I hate these joke costumes. What are you, a dildo store-trooper? Darth Vader's blowjob coach? Powerbottom Bear Kenobi? Jedi Master Tellin Dadai M'Gay? Oh, wait. Oh no. What kind of sexual war crimes did those clone soldiers commit on Endor to cause a monstrosity like you to be born?"
The Entrance The Shockmaster was supposed to enter through a wall, like the Kool-Aid Man, but it didn't quite work out.
His helmet fell off to reveal that this was just the wrestler Tugboat on laundry day. Now, falling onto his head and humiliating himself in front of everyone could have been a simple, honest disaster. In fact, it's probably happened to every poor kid who has ever put on a Star Wars costume. However, Dusty Rhodes, the man who conceived the Shockmaster, suspects that David Crockett had a 2-by-4 nailed to the set to specifically sabotage what he felt to be a stupid idea. We may never know if it's true, but if it is, add it to the sequence of unlikely occurrences that had to take place in order to create this legendary moment.
The Reaction It's a pretty hard rule that pro wrestlers never break character during a show, but this was so ridiculous that everyone forgot where the hell they were. Two of them started uncontrollably giggling, and Booker T audibly asked, "Who is this motherfucker?" To add to it all, the Shockmaster had to be voiced by a man backstage, Ole Anderson, who was not prepared for any of this. Who could be? This was a situation where Batman would have looked down at his belt and shrugged. Ole growled absolute blithering nonsense into the microphone while trying not to laugh, and the Shockmaster gesticulated to each word two seconds after it was said. If the Shockmaster rode out on a spout of diarrhea screaming that everyone backstage were werewolves, it would have been easier to incorporate into the narrative. He shocked the world because he was none other than THE SHOCKMASTER:
Music -- Milli Vanilli
Writing about music is needlessly contentious because you and I both know that the other's favorite bands are for poseurs and assholes. Still, I think we can all agree that at any given moment, most of pop music is made up of talentless hacks being presented to us by cabals of media analysts. The late '80s and early '90s era when Milli Vanilli was formed was the sweet spot for that kind of style over substance. Bands were assembled and costumes were designed before the group's manager had even purchased their first hit from a third-party songwriter.
Style isn't necessarily worse than substance -- it's only different. For instance, "Ice, Ice Baby" is fantastic, but probably would have been a disaster as a Bob Dylan song. Milli Vanilli was literally all style and no substance, and it went over really well. There was something appealing about nice music being silently screamed by two German men in spandex and suit jackets. Milli Vanilli gave us all a glimpse of what elderly gay people dream about when they go to bed filled with too much dairy. Still, aside from everything about them, there was something ... strange ... about Milli Vanilli. For one, they sang in perfect English, but they spoke like two racist Chinese dishwashers doing impersonations of how white people order moo goo gai pan.
Milli Vanilli was also put together by Frank Farian, the man who produced Boney M, a completely different group of silent but stylish black people who danced in front of someone else's music. If Milli Vanilli happened today, they would be caught by the third comment on their first YouTube video. However, two decades ago, it was the kind of scheme that seemed doable. They got away with it long enough to win a Grammy and somehow even kept it going after the real singer, Charles Shaw, told reporters the truth. To solve that, Farian gave Shaw $150,000 in hush money, and suddenly he had no idea what those reporters were talking about. In 1990, that was totally an option. In this age of recorded everything, you'd have to be a conservative politician to try something that retarded.
When the scandal was finally revealed, Girl You Know It's True was taken out of print and refunds were given to any betrayed fan who wanted one by order of the United States government. Yet through the entire spectacle, there was never a more incredible moment than in 1989, when Milli Vanilli performed in Bristol, Connecticut. This was a band desperate to hide the fact that they were lip synching, and in front of 80,000 people, the track skipped during the titular line of their album's titular song. "Girl you know it's! Girl you know it's! Girl you know it's!" It was such a perfect moment that it could only have happened right after God said, "Jimi Hendrix and John Bonham -- stop nunchuck fighting! Get over here and check out what I'm about to do!"
Milli Vanilli's reaction was an instant classic. Fab started doing the running man to the skip, pretending it was intentional. He'd probably still be there to this day if they hadn't fixed it. Rob went a different way. He looked wide-eyed in every direction, then casually panicked into a full sprint off the stage. How could two men who had been anticipating this exact moment for the entirety of their careers react to it in such completely different, yet equally terrible ways? If they had simply shrugged, people would have assumed that the music was prerecorded because it's hard to sing and ram dick baskets together at the same time. We expect pop stars to lip synch a little bit at their concerts. Hell, one of the New Kids on the Block's heads fell off earlier the same night and a stagehand just threw a blanket over it until their set finished.
Film -- Traxx, 1989
You can probably name several movies that were either rushed out in order to capitalize on someone's flailing celebrity or flailing to turn someone into one. Traxx is the maniacal combination of both.
It was meant to propel deejay Shadoe Stevens, best known for announcing The Hollywood Squares in the '80s, into stardom. It absolutely didn't work. He played a zany mercenary who wasn't good at making cookies, but often tried to make cookies. I dare anyone to come up with something so wacky yet so devoid of comedy.
More notable than the lack of comedy, though, was the lack of regard for human life. It's as if space researchers thought that the appeal of Earth movies was watching humans say strange words after murder and Shadoe Stevens mistook their report for an action comedy. And on that subject, despite every single thing in the movie urgently trying to be funny, Traxx still has a comic relief character in the form of Deeter -- 200 pounds of racial stereotypes jammed into a 120-pound man. It's not clear at all why he hangs out with Traxx during his killing spree. Even stranger, he wears a giant amulet and a T-shirt of the actual film they are starring in, which leads me to believe that he may be some kind of time traveler sent from a dark future to stop Traxx. It honestly helps make sense out of this lunatic movie.
I'm not sure where the writer grew up, but every neighborhood in Traxx seems to be made entirely out of exploding rape. Traxx's solution to this crime problem is to go into seedy locations, kill everyone there and say something like "Better luck next time, rape!" As a viewer, the only clues we're given that he's not simply a mass murderer are the elderly couples cheering him on from the non-burning buildings. Nothing can get your mind prepared for Traxx -- unnamed characters are beaten to death during musical montages of cookie burning and line dancing. It's a clinically psychopathic film with fart jokes. I guess the rushed screenwriter didn't have time to create burned-cookie jokes and a context for all these slayings before the window on Shadoe Stevens' celebrity closed. But please, may that window never close on brave Chronomaster Jones.
Internet legend Seanbaby once told Traxx star Priscilla Barnes that she was great in Traxx and she truly seemed to have no idea what the hell that meant. Visit him at Gamegoon.com or follow him on Twitter.
For more of his explorations into pop culture's absurdity, see The 8 Strangest TV Show Ideas Ever Made or The 6 Craziest Villains Ever Defeated by Snack Cakes.