2009 will be remembered for a lot of things. It was the year that Jon Gosselin proved being an incredible douchebag could be a fulltime career, Twilight: New Moon proved sh***y movies will never go out of style, and Glenn Beck proved that crazy, whacked-out, paranoid rants dressed up as rational thought are still the bread and butter of American discourse. But most of all, 2009 demonstrated that some trends are built to last.
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By Geoff Shakespeare
Since first going online in 2006, Twitter.com has become as ubiquitous on the Internet as lolcats and porn. Every day, millions of tweets are posted from hundreds of countries, ranging from the ridiculously banal to the slightly less ridiculously banal. The economy's in the toilet, the world is full of social, ethnic, and political conflicts that could erupt into war at any time, the environment is on the cusp of catastrophic collapse, and a general air of malaise and dread hangs over everything. Still, over four million people want to know every little thing that pops into Ashton Kutcher's head.
I like pie! Source: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images
Twitter isn't all bad. For starters, reformers in Iran recently used it to combat state censorship and it has made “twat” a word you can use in mixed company. Nevertheless, thanks to Twitter, for the first time in human history a service exists that allows you to instantly tell the world your thoughts and feelings in real time. That most people use it to share information even their closest friends would find mind-numbingly self-involved and boring is just a bonus.
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Who would have thought that a little part of a small religion on a tiny Caribbean island would have done so well? Yes, zombies have come a long way from their humble, non-brain-eating origins. A staple of the horror genre, zombies are the little monsters that could. Ghosts may be the classy choice for scares and vampires get all the girls, but zombies just shuffle along, biting and rotting their way into our hearts. Their popularity wanes now and then, but they never stay down for long. All it takes is a little fear and a little doubt in the zeitgeist and they're right back in.
2009 had its share of fear and doubt and the zombies took notice. With the release of the kickass zombie flick Zombieland (currently the largest grossing zombie flick of all time) and the kickassier zombie video game Left 4 Dead 2 (currently the best thing ever invented by anyone, anywhere), there's never been a better time to be rudely awakened from your eternal slumber with an insatiable hunger for living flesh. Or a better time to waste those who've been rudely awakened from their eternal slumber with an insatiable hunger for living flesh.
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Let's face it. Working sucks. Wouldn't it be awesome if there was an entire industry where you could rake in big bucks for getting drunk, saying stupid things, and just being your normal, a-hole self? The sad, sad, woe-for-the-future-of-humanity truth is that there is such an industry, thousands of douchebags make millions out of it, and it was just as lucrative in 2009 as it's ever been.
Case in point, Jon Gosselin. A man who by all rights should be toiling away in obscurity at some middle management job in Pitstain, Iowa is instead making a respectable living by f***ing up in public. Gosselin started the year as a devoted husband and loving father who achieved worldwide fame for reproducing eight times. He ended it as a dirty lowdown cheater who catted around with his wife's plastic surgeon and the family babysitter. After getting kicked off the show that made him, Jon spent the rest of 2009 in fine reality star fashion...by doing everything humanly possible to stay famous.
And why wouldn't he? Who would want to leave the company of such luminaries as The Kardashians, Lindsay Lohan's dad, or those jerky rich kids from The Hills? But this is one trend that may have reached its high mark in 2009. With such high profile fame-grabbing failures as the Balloon Boy family and those two goofs who snuck into the White House, maybe people will start to realize that fame should only be reserved for those talented individuals who really deserve it. You know, like Carlos Mencia, or Lady Gaga.
7. The Mockumentary
Source: Paramount Pictures
In 1984, Rob Reiner and company first discovered that a fake documentary was a great way to get real laughs in their classic This Is Spinal Tap. 25 years later, “mockumentaries” are still going strong. A great way to wring humor from the realities of life on TV, mockumentaries have revolutionized the sitcom. In the wake of the hugely successful American version of The Office, this year saw Modern Family join it and sophmore series Parks and Recreation to critical acclaim. All of them use a single camera, have "talking head" segments, and are great examples of just how funny individual delusion, humiliation, and failure can be. As long as it isn't you.
Being a jackass in public so you don’t have to. Source: ABC
But mockumentaries didn't just deliver the laughs in 2009. They served up some old school scares at the box office in the surprise hit horror flick Paranormal Activity. Even though its budget was what a normal Hollywood film spends on hair gel, Paranormal Activity spent the year piling up over $100 million by freaking people out. Paranormal Activity was shot on a couple of cameras and had special effects that wouldn't be out of place on YouTube, but it still delivered all the chills of a big budget horror movie. The secret? It's low budget and lo-fi production values made it seem all the more real. 2009 showed once again that there's nothing better than a fake documentary for making people pee their pants with laughter or poop them with terror. Okay, that’s a pretty gross analogy, but mockumentaries are still wicked.
6. Disaster Movies
Source: Centropolis Entertainment
The '70s was the decade for disaster movies. The theaters were full of bloated, washed-up movie stars at the twilight of their careers pretending to be menaced by sinking ships, towering infernos, and every conceivable natural disaster. Oh, how little has changed. 2009 saw today's hottest, bloated, washed-up movie stars at the twilight of their careers star in the granddaddy of disaster movies, 2012. There were some upgrades, sure. The special effects are a hell of a lot better, and the stakes have been raised. Just destroying one building or airplane doesn't cut it in 2009. These days, to pack 'em in the seats past opening weekend, you gotta destroy the whole effing planet.
Source: Centropolis Entertainment
Or one actor’s credibility. Either one is cool.
2012 was a CGI orgy of earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, and overacting that showed that the End of the World will be way more awesome than you ever thought possible. Cities crumbled, oceans swelled, and reasonable suspension of disbelief took the worst battering it's ever had. Despite mostly awful reviews (Peter Travers of Rolling Stone subtly referred to it as “sheer, cynical, mind-numbing, time-wasting, money-draining, soul-sucking stupidity”), 2012 has banked a healthy $711 million in worldwide box office, firmly proving that despite differences in culture, religion, and language, people all over the world love to see s*** get blown up.
5. Talent Shows
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Have shows like So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, and Dancing With The Stars reignited America's life-long love affair with amateur pop music and dance? Or, do they represent a democratization of the entertainment industry, wrestling it back from the hands of the elite and returning it to all of us? Nah. With their endless string of painfully funny auditions and snarky judges, they just remind us how much we love watching deluded no-talent bums fail and be mocked for it. For the first half of the season anyway. Why anyone would watch them after that is a mystery. But watch them they do. Turn on the tube any given night and odds are the top rated show is going to involve more singing, dancing, bitching, and ambiguous sexuality than your high school drama club.
And slightly less talent. Maybe that's the real reason people love talent shows so much: the lack of genuine talent. Having amateurs reach the lofty heights of fame without any of the hard work, dedication, or ability it usually takes plays to one of the most enduring fantasies of the pop culture era. The idea that someday, someone's going to see how great we are and make us a star. In the meantime, we all bide our time waiting for Hollywood to come knocking by sitting on the couch and eating corn chips. You may as well watch SYTYCD while you're waiting.
Source: Paramount Pictures
Let’s face it, despite being in charge of the greatest cultural engine the world has ever seen, the folks in Hollywood aren’t all that creative. While they excel at marketing and presentation, they don’t often come up with anything all that groundbreaking. Watching the average Hollywood movie is like a waking up on Christmas morning and opening a beautifully wrapped toaster. That costs $75 million. It looks great and you’re excited as hell when you see the box, but at the end of it, you always feel a little let down. Given this dearth of creativity and the mind-boggling expense of making a feature film, is it any wonder that the dream merchants out in California love themselves some remakes?
When Does “My Little Pony” get its big budget Hollywood revamp? Source: Hasbro
Besides sequels, remakes allow the shlock-meisters to hedge their bets. Sure, the public may line up to see an original movie filled with fresh ideas and new characters, but odds are even better they’ll show up to see a “reimaging” of a movie or TV show they loved when they were 10. 2009 saw remakes of Friday the 13th, Land of the Lost, and Star Trek among countless others. Some were horrible (Land of the Lost) and some were surprisingly good (Star Trek), but all of them proved that no matter what you call them, remakes, reimaginings, reboots, retreads, updates, or revamps, they are here to stay. That is until every single original creation has been remade. Then what are we going to do?
Source: Summit Entertainment
What is it about pasty skin and a couple of oversized incisors that drives the girls so wild? It's been more than a hundred years since a vampire first rose from the grave to be a clumsy metaphor for sexual desire and in 2009 they're still going as strong, sexy, and clumsy as ever. There's all sorts of stuff out there in the Vampiresphere, but there's no question who's the king of Bloodsucker Mountain: Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series. Edward Cullen, the 104-year-old emo vampire with the incredible hair and piercing eyes rules the book stores and the box office, fueling more adolescent fantasies than that twerp Harry Potter ever did. Across the world, teenage girls (and a few delicate boys) are swept up in Twilight Mania.
There are millions of websites full of gushing reviews, horrible fanfic, and poetry, and endless pictures of shirtless dudes. Meyer has built a vast empire of books, movies, and anything else she can slap a picture of attractive young people looking way too serious on. Not a bad year for a monster first created in 1897 by an actor's personal assistant with a lot of sex hang-ups. Hey, do you think there's a market for a sexy reimagining of Frankenstein?
2. Sarah Palin
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Politics isn't for wimps. Life in the center of the political firestorm is harsh, cruel, and usually about half as long as the average dump. Even the best and the brightest burn up under the searing glare of the 24-hour news cycle, the partisan back-biting, and endless trail of chili cook-offs and Town Hall meetings. But not our Sarah Palin. Born with a preternatural sense of self-preservation and incredible teeth, Palin is the living embodiment of the American Dream: all you need to succeed is good looks, a few platitudes, and an absolute, driving, inhuman ambition and lust for glory. One year after she was plucked from obscurity to be John McCain's running mate, made a fool out of herself on a national stage, and suffered one of the most convincing defeats in American politics since Clay Aiken lost to Ruben, Sarah Palin is arguably more popular than ever.
Palin also currently leads the world in having her head badly Photoshopped on to porn stars' bodies.
Rather than slink back to Alaska and drown her sorrows gutting fish, Palin quit her job 18 months early, wrote a quickie book, and ascended to the highest levels of fame. Her book was a hit, thousands line up hours to hear her speak, and she's a serious contender for president in 2012. Not bad for former beauty queen with an undercooked bag of half-formed policies and a chip on her shoulder exactly the same size as the Frontier State.
1. Hour-Long Dramas About Total Pricks
Back in the old days, the main character of a TV drama was unquestionably a hero. The cops were good, honest Joes trying to make a difference, the doctors were dedicated professionals who really cared about their patients, and the lawyers weren't blood-sucking leeches preying on human misfortune. But somewhere along the line, things changed. Maybe it was having an a-hole sex addict and an a-hole fratboy in the White House back to back, but for whatever reason, the viewing public stopped embracing noble, selfless heroes, and got into selfish jerks in a big way. It seems the only way to get a TV drama produced these days is make sure the main character is a prick.
“Can we rewrite it so he bangs the chick and beats up the black guy?
Source: Intermedia Entertainment
The Shield and The Sopranos may be history, but Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy, and House still prove that people don't mind spending an hour with an a-hole, as long as he's cool, super smart, or ruthlessly murders his enemies and rivals. Don Draper, the main character of Mad Men, cheats on his wife, drinks like a wino, ignores his kids, berates his underlings, and basically leads a life of deceit and the selfish fulfillment of his basest desires. And we love him for it. The heroes in Sons of Anarchy are even worse. They do everything that Don Draper does, as well as run guns and kill people. The election of President Obama may have signified a return to hope and personal integrity, but in 2009, TV showed that no matter how much we may want to be better people, we still love to watch pricks being pricks.