Fortunately for my sanity and good cheer I consumed far more culture that I liked in 2011 than culture that raised my blood pressure. But there were some things that got me really irritated, whether because they’re noxious on their own or because they’re wasted opportunities. Here are ten of them:
1. Red Riding Hood is miserably conventional: The previews implied that Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight follow-up twist on a fairy tale would have Red Riding hood be the wolf, a parable of the violence of female desire and a throwing off of restriction. Instead, it featured a totally traditional love triangle, some impressively terrible dialogue, and a torture elephant. Good lord.
2. Lady Gaga’s incredibly terrible immigration reform song “Americano”: I love me some Gaga, one of the few major stars with any sense of how to use her platform to advance political goals. But this song was a hot, condescending mess. If she wants to dip back into these waters, she might want to take notes from Emma’s Revolution’s “If I Give Your Name.”
3. True Blood goes racist, incoherent:: Alan Ball should know that just because you say your show isn’t a political metaphor doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for the ideas your show expresses. And he should be pretty embarrassed by the way his show handled rape, gender identity, and the South’s racial history this season.
4. Colombiana is totally incoherent: Man, I want to adore Zoe Saldana as a badass tiny action heroine, but this movie featured laughable dialogue, fueled the idea that Ponzi schemers are solely responsible for the recession, and had what is possibly the least plausible romance on screens this year.
5. Coming to terms with reality television’s abuses in the wake of a Real Housewives suicide: It’s dismaying that Bravo decided to a season of television that chronicled the downward spiral and eroding marriage of Russell Armstrong, the late husband of Real Housewife of Beverly Hills Taylor Armstrong. But the revelations that came out after his death about the contracts reality show participants sign that absolve networks of responsibility if they’re raped, among other things, are even more disturbing. It’s not just what’s on-screen that often makes reality television creepy.
6. Grant Morrison’s comics memoir Supergods disappoints: I wanted to like this combination of comics history and creator memoir. But if the best we can ascend to is bashing Alan Moore and babbling about the awesomeness of sex magic, I’m okay staying solidly human.
7. Frank Miller makes the world a worse place with Holy Terror: Mr. Miller’s had a less than charming year across the board, whether spreading noxious lies about American Muslims or complaining that Occupy Wall Street protestors should get a job. But Holy Terror wasn’t just biased torture pornography, it was ugly, stupid, and narratively uncompelling.
8. 2 Broke Girls‘ racism: I wanted to like 2 Broke Girls more than almost any new show on television this fall. I love Kat Dennings, recession stories, and diners, whether they’re in Brooklyn or not. But the show’s relied on an off-puttingly heavy rotation of stupid racist jokes at the expense of character development or storyline. The show seems to be trending in the right direction, but it’s a long way from fulfilling the promise of its premise. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but New Girl, which I despised in the beginning, has gotten better faster.
9. The Ides of March is ridiculously smug: It’s one thing to try to sell me torture and to do it poorly. It’s another to convince yourself that you’ve stumbled onto a profound truth about politics in a totally banal observation that sometimes people who want power do bad things to get it. And it’s even worse to then to make a ridiculously overwrought movie filled with inaccuracies about abortion, factual implausibilities, and a totally flat performance by the inexplicable Dude of the Moment.