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.