Pop Heroes and Betrayal

Hero worship doesn’t come easy to me.  Even for the celebrities that seem to rule our world now.  If you dig down deep inside the minds of my co-bloggers here, and keep digging, past the hip buzzwords and pseudo-intellectual pedantry, you’ll eventually hit the center of what they truly value, which is made up of a bedrock core of crusty old US Weekly’s and STAR Magazines.  But the Brads and the Paulas of the world just don’t speak to me like they do to my brothers.  I’m just different that way.  Different and better.


Alright, maybe just a little bit.

No, I’m looking for a different kind of hero to worship.  I can’t exactly explain it, (although it is summed up pretty well here), but the hero I’m drawn to is the guy that establishes a superhuman record of pop excellence over a consistent span of time.  If you could construct the team of pop heroes in your mind that come as close as possible to perfection in their chosen fields, with a minimum of embarrassing mis-steps, who would be in your pantheon?  I don’t share my list often, because people usually laugh in my face when I tell them, but I’ll defend it to the death.  By the same token, just as I am extremely selective with the heroes that make it into my pantheon, there is a very select loathing reserved for those who have entered there only to prove that they were not worthy.  I’m not going to expend a lot of hatred on a Michael Bay or a Miley Cyrus, because no one ever expected anything particularly excellent out of them anyway.  But when someone comes along and fools me into thinking they are worth real devotion and then turns out to be just like everyone else- well, it’s the lowest circle of hell for them.

There are two people, my own Brutus and Judas, in the lowest circle of pop hero hell for me:  Paul McCartney and M. Night Shyamalan.  Paul- the best Beatle, the good one, the sensitive one, the peacemaker, the guy who wrote all the best songs for the best band of all time, and the guy that worked hardest to keep them all together.  Fast forward a few years, and suddenly he’s the guy writing “Silly Love Songs” and “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” and featuring his stupid wife prominently in all his concerts playing a percussion instrument that any three year old could play, and recording stuff like this.  Probably the most amazing fall from grace of all time.  What later-life career could possibly wipe out the unfathomable perfection of those few years from Please Please Me to Let it Be?  Amazingly, Paul McCartney has achieved the impossible.  May he rot.  M. Night is admittedly a lesser fraud, but still a charlatan of the highest order.  The Sixth Sense was as strong a thriller as you can find in the last twenty years, and then Unbreakable, one of the best superhero movies of all time.  I saw that movie and carved the guy on my Mount Rushmore, sure of his promise.  Then a few cracks began to show in Signs, and the Village signaled a serious decline.  Then, as if Whitman had  devoted his career exclusively to bawdy limericks, Shyamalan issued the Lady in the Water.  Has anyone ever gone from really really good to consistently, despicably, laughably awful so fast?  Shyamalan’s latest, out last week, scored a mind-bending 8% on the Tomato-Meter.  I can hardly believe that I used to worship this guy.


Torture would be too good

Mount Rushmore is still well-anchored by its current tenants, though.  For me, it’s not only about excellent output, but also a stability in the temperament that just tells me I can always trust them to turn out great stuff.  Two of my picks will need to be replaced soon, as they’re basically retired.  So long Paul Simon and John Stockton, the greatest songwriter and greatest point guard (and so much more) ever.  It’s not just how good they were, but how bad they never were, and how much they both just “got it.”  There were better songs written by others, and better individual games or seasons, but no one just understood the right way to do it in music more than Paul Simon, nor the right way to play the game better than John Stockton.  The other two picks are still in their primes, and I defy you to find anybody that gets closer to pop perfection than Christopher Nolan and Pixar.  I told everyone I know months ago that my two favorite movies of the year are Toy Story 3 and Inception, and I’m one for two so far.  In fact, it turns out that Toy Story 3 may be the best kids’ move ever made (seriously, see it).  I’ll eat this post if Inception is anything less than fantastic, by the way.


Seriously– great kids’ movie, or GREATEST KIDS’ MOVIE EVER?

So there they are- my pantheon of pop heroes, and the two infidel betrayers.  I’m currently taking applications for a few more real pop heroes, but I’m not sure I see anything on the scene.  Who else deserves it?  Who are your pop heroes, and who betrayed you?  Maybe we call a fatwa once we have an authoritative list.  Just for fun.

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23 Responses to Pop Heroes and Betrayal

  1. Macy Bell says:

    The one I can think of off the top of my head is Aaron Sorkin. A Few Good Men and The American President were two of my very favorite movies, and then I was a HUGE fan of The West Wing, watched all the way through and cried and laughed thinking Sorkin could do no wrong. Well, that was until he came out with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, for which I remember waiting for and anticipating excitedly , and then tried and tried to like it, and just couldn’t. Sorkin just got too cocky for his own good. The show was horrible, and it really let me down. I guess he redeemed himself with Charlie Wilson’s War, but my standards for his work had already dropped.

  2. Davis says:

    I’m going to have to say you and Kook. I really enjoyed your writing for a long time, and then in the last few months or so, just straight downhill.

  3. Davis says:

    I’ve got another: Weezer, although I’d probably put them more in the “Initial Offering Made Them Seem Like They Had So Much Promise, But It Turns Out They Didn’t”

  4. Molly P says:

    I have to say Tiger really let me down this year (and some of last). The picture of perfection in everything he did…well, almost everything. I loved him…thought he was amazing and loved what he stood for, then it all came crashing down. Really sadly! Randy mentioned last night naming our new baby Elin…I about died…Tiger has even taken her name down for me.

    Toy story 3! Very, very good…but its hard to beat TS2…Jessie and Emily…love that scene!

  5. Davis says:

    Oh, and Jake and Vienna.

  6. Braden says:

    I’m with Brandon and Macy on the whole causes of this decline. I have no pop idols because I have lived long enough for them to all either be dead or betray me. In fact, I no longer have a pantheon.

  7. Wade says:

    John Elway
    German engineering
    Matt Damon
    Kevin Drew
    Penguin shirts

    George Lucas
    The Office

  8. Davis says:

    Ohhh, Wade, George Lucas is a great one. Probably the best one.

  9. Ryan says:

    Yeah, I don’t know how to top George Lucas. But I still think he’s in a tie with McCartney. McCartney’s embarrassing fall wasn’t quite as public as George’s, but George’s apex also wasn’t near as influential as McCartney’s.

    Macy, loved the Sorkin mention. And I definitely agree on Weezer. Think back to that first album, and then compare with their later stuff. Completely different levels. I agree with Macy and Brandon that the problem is usually hubris. I think that definitely explains McCartney, Lucas, and unquestinably Shyamalan. It’s most often the types who prefer to work alone, rather than collaborate, too.

    And Brade, come on- isn’t Ethel Merman still alive?

  10. Azucar says:

    I tried to decide if Toy Story 3 is the greatest kids’ movie ever, but I’m still a sobbing mess. Get back to me in about two months when I’ve run out of tears.

  11. Norm says:


    Disneyland (I liked it when California Adventures was a parking lot)
    Tom Cruise (I never saw his early stuff or his Eyes Wide Shut stuff)
    Cold Cereal
    J.K. Rowling (I still can’t believe she didn’t disappoint with Book 7)


    Harrison Ford

  12. Ryan says:

    You know, I think David Brooks is a decent pick. I might put him in my second tier. He doesn’t knock my socks off, but he does bring that workmanlike stability to everything he does. Solid choice.

    Seriously, Disneyland is a really, really solid choice for pantheon-ness. Such a solid performer every year. Rowling has to be in there, I agree, for her refusal to just wind things down quietly.

    And anyone who ever thought Keane was going to be huge . . . Uh, I don’t know what to say.

  13. Gina says:

    I actually was going to JK Rowling in my disappointment category (sorry to Norm above me). I thought the ending to #7 was a hot mess and created plot holes that hadn’t been there originally. I don’t want to post spoilers here but between “the trace” and “wand fidelity” the whole series now makes no sense.

    Another disappointment was Heroes. Such potential. Superheroes and supervillains amongst us, battling it out over and over and over for years to come. But then season two, or should I call it, the season of love, came along and destroyed everything. In an attempt to rebuild, we got Peter Petrelli- loses-his-powers-in-a-different-way-every-other-week. Blerg.

    My Pantheon:
    Pixar- totally agree. Greatest kids movies ever. I cannot wait for Cars 2.
    And, if we are being honest- Chipotle. It’s always good. And no matter how long I “tighten the budget” or “try to lose weight”, I always come back and it’s always perfect and waiting for me and not the slightest bit offended that I’ve been gone.

    Considering neither of my pop heroes are sentient beings, that says a lot about the state of things in our pop culture world…

  14. Christian says:


    Brad Pitt
    Brad Pitt’s Mom
    Brad Pitt’s Dad
    Brad Pitt’s teachers who inspired him to fulfill his potential
    The first director who took a chance on Brad Pitt
    Brad Pitt’s maternal grandparents
    Brad Pitt’s paternal grandparents

  15. Rachel says:

    Jake Pavelka…the guy who seemed so perfect but really turned out to be an automaton and a wife beater.

    But, I don’t want to undermine anyone here…I better go measure my furniture.

  16. Troy says:

    George Lucas wins as betrayer. But for me not as much for Star Wars as what he did to Indy. May his face melt and then explode like a Nazi staring at the Ark of the Covenant.

    Ry I have to give you credit for helping me realize my love for Christopher Nolan. It took you mentioning him a while back on a different page for me to put two and two together and realize I love him. That being said, I’m scared for Nolan and me. He had me at Memento, swept me off my feet with Batman Begins and The Prestige, and sealed the deal with Dark Knight. Now that I’m committed…I have this nervous foreboding feeling that Inception will be the discovery under the mattress in our relationship. I hope I’m wrong and that it’s just a stack of National Geographics under there. I don’t have any rational reason to be suspicious or nervous…I think Lucas gave me trust issues.

  17. Ryan says:

    Gina, I had high hopes for Heroes too, but I felt like it fell way before it got near my Pantheon. But from your description, I’m glad I cut it off way before we got to Season Two. I’ll go with your Chipotle vote too. Wouldn’t have thought of it, but solid choice.

    Rachel- who are you undermining?

    Troy, I’m really glad to know you’re one of the Nolan faithful. I promise you won’t regret it, at least not this year. Who knows what the future will bring, but I’m telling you, he’s still a strong buy. Here’s a tiny little bit of evidence: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/inception/

    By the way, you’re right. If you add the recent Indy debacle to the Star Wars catastrophe, that man is responsible for enormous amounts of trauma worldwide. He beats McCartney easy.

  18. Davis says:

    “I hope I’m wrong and that it’s just a stack of National Geographics under there.”


  19. jon says:

    Ryan, couldn’t agree with you more about Shamalamamam. On two occasions I tried to get through “The Happening” on a flight. Just could not bring myself to do it.

    Magic Johnson (beat AIDS)
    Robert Redford
    Lumberjack Slam

    Little Ceaser’s Pizza
    Marlon Brando (see Island of Dr. Monreau)
    Layton Hills Mall

  20. Rebecca Bell says:

    funny stuff. ryan- rachel’s not undermining anyone- did you not watch the showdown between jake and vienna on monday night? watch it, you’ll get it and you won’t regret it. i’d be wearing a “team vienna” shirt if they made ’em.

    TOM CRUISE???!!! is that some cruel joke?


    garth brooks (i know i’m really putting myself up for some major laughs on this one, but he really doesn’t have a BAD song)
    jack johnson
    adrian brody
    suzanne collins (her second was better than the first)

    jude law
    harrison ford
    john travolta
    U2 (i know, i know, but their more recent stuff doesn’t even compare to oldies)

  21. Amy M says:

    Awesomeness forever:
    Billy Joel’s music
    Julia Roberts
    Brothers & Sisters
    Friends all seasons

    Should be dunked in hot oil:
    Garth Brooks- the cheater not the music
    Survivor- the show not the band
    Rosie O’Donnel
    Aaron Sorkin ( totally agree)
    John Grisham

  22. Alli says:

    Ryan- I’m Susan & Keven Rowe’s daughter, and I believe my mom mentioned my husband and I are avid readers. Ironically, I was considering Paul McCartney in these same terms this morning, shaking my head in disappointment. Couldn’t agree with you more and I loathe no Christmas song more vehemently, mostly because I still can’t believe it’s really HIM.

    Also, I second the sentiments about U2; their current offerings are downright lousy compared to Joshua Tree.

    I’d also add John Edwards to the list.

    Keep up the good work, guys! 🙂

  23. Ryan says:

    Alli, great to see you speaking up. There are some people refined enough that they can’t let a scathing diatribe against Paul McCartney go by without an ‘amen.’

    And wow- John Edwards. What can you honestly say about him? I’ve never really considered what it must be like to be a person that really venerated him, but I guess there must be plenty of people out there that did, huh? I can’t imagine the gut-punch that must feel like. I do have a close friend who is/was a huge Tiger fan, though, and I’ve honestly tried to understand what he’s gone through. But seriously, there comes a point when human empathy just can’t stretch any farther. Veneration of a bland golfer is way past the limits of my understanding.

    I’m going to take a leap here and say that U2 hasn’t fallen from their pedestal in my mind. Yes, it’s been a clear decline, but more in line with the decline we have to expect from aging legends. Even the great Paul Simon disappointed in later years, though he never betrayed. Paul McCartney declined as much in two months as U2 has declined in the last 20 years. Forgivable, says I.

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