Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Vote Now! The 2013 Miserable Crank Awards: Day Three

Here are the candidates for day three of voting for the Miserable Crank Awards of 2013. (The first day of voting, for Government, Technology, Sports, and Embarrassment, can be found here. The second day of voting, for Business, Popular Trends, and Incidents, can be found here.)

 

Amanda Bynes
A graduate of the Spears-Lohan International Academy of Celebrity Meltdowns, former Nickelodeon star Amanda Bynes did what all good child actresses do--get in an incredibly impressive amount of trouble. A Twitter-fueled meltdown was the highlight this year, which included (but was not limited to) pot, partial nudity, pyromania, clear signs of either mental illness or drugs, and, of course, denying that there is anything wrong. She has apparently been getting the help she needs, but not before an incredibly fast and deep public breakdown, the sort of thing we all expect now that social media, and the insatiable appetite for celebrity gossip, exists.
 Blurred Lines 
Every summer has an anthem, although in the past Western Civilization has done its best to let that song not be a crass, dick-swinging setback to forty years of progressive feminism. Women who under any other circumstances have a zero-tolerance policy towards the sort of disrespectful behavior men have done against women had absolutely no problem singing, dancing, and paying good money for Robin Thicke's ode to veiled date-rape glorification called "Blurred Lines." (Even the title of the song is a pretty direct hint that getting her drunk enough is perfectly acceptable green light.) Women who boycott insensitive companies, refused to vote for candidates for President, and write hand-wringing self-reflections on Tumblr about the oppression of the patriarchy happily danced the summer away to a single whose attitude towards women would make the characters from Mad Men stop and say, "Dude, knock it off."
 

What Does The Fox Say? 
Every year seems to bring one viral novelty song that everyone loves right up until the point where it drive you insane. So it was with this year's winner of the Rebecca Black Irritatingly Popular Song Award, "What Does The Fox Say?" A catchy tune infused with just the right amount of Scandinavian weirdness, the refrain--involving the various odd and ear-covering noises that is the answer to the song's title--caught on like wildfire. While charming and innovative at first, it quickly devolved into the usual morass of commercial jingles, ring tones, and--the true harbinger that a song is officially past its cultural relevance--a parody skit on Saturday Night Live.

Miley Cyrus 
Disney rivals Nickelodeon in producing Girls Who Grow Up And Make Bad Decisions. The former Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus, at least tucked away a boatload of money before going on a salvia-fueled train wreck of a career change. Instead of slinging warmed-over pop music to fill her bank account and sate her need for adulation, she decided to "push boundaries" and "create cultural innovation" or whatever excuse is used by young performers these days to publicly act like a slag. From the violently sexual "Wrecking Ball" to dressing like a teddy bear and twerking onstage at the VMAs, Miley has created a new fan base out of (I assume) horny delusional men and impressionable girl tweens with little parental direction. (Which, incidentally, describes Billy Ray Cyrus and Miley Cyrus, respectively.) The only thing worse than her doing this as some sort of substance-fueled reaction is that she is doing this is a calculated (and profitable) move.

North West 
The pairing of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West isn't particularly surprising. Everyone has a type, and these two have basically made a living producing media advertising the exact sort of type they are comfortable with. (That was about as diplomatically as I could phrase "They make explicit sex videos and sexually offensive lyrics about who they want to bang.") These two very public, very un-diplomatic celebrities managed to produce an offspring. Instead of doing what normal celebrity parents do--give their child a life away from the cameras and the spotlight--they went and named him North. As in, North West, the sort of name that shows up as a pun gag on a Looney Tunes reel. Sadly, all the money and fame in the world aren't going to save that child from embarrassment at school, even if he's home schooled.


 
Paula Deen 
Paula Deen, the self-proclaimed Queen of Butter and Sugar, has long been a popular chef on television. She mixes a certain level of down-home charm, comfort food, and Type II Diabetes that is endlessly educational and entertaining to homes across the nation. But things took a rather unfortunate turn when, during a deposition against racial discrimination at her and her brother's company, she was alarmingly cavalier about her use of racial epithets. While, given her age and upbringing, there's a certain level of "What, exactly, were you expecting?" involved, her apparent coldness in trying to figure out what on earth she did wrong made her a public enemy.

Rob Ford 
The embattled (but as of this writing still in power) mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford makes Marion Berry look like a Girl Scout. He's shown up drunk in places, but (let's face it) what mayor hasn't done that? But things took a more serious turn when allegations of crack cocaine use surfaced. And when I say "allegations" I mean "They have him on camera smoking crack cocaine." This, of course, led to a large number of other accusations and incidents, resulting in a lot of his powers being stripped away. He is as of now still plugging away, trying to function as mayor and clear his name, although I assume that being the mayor of Toronto more or less boils down to coordinating snow removal and trying to be upbeat about the Maple Leaf's prospects of winning the Stanley Cup.

Ariel Castro 
The perfect nightmare fuel for a small Midwestern town (or, I suppose I should say, anywhere), Ariel Castro--who kidnapped and held hostage three women for around ten years--was discovered and arrested. The inspiring story of the three survivors didn't, however, assuage people of the horrors that were propagated; his situation pretty much hit every checkbox on the list of "There Is Someone Exactly Like Him Down My Street." The evidence eventually got him over a thousand years in jail; he at least had the good graces to hang himself in his cell a month into his sentence.

George Zimmerman 
Last year, George Zimmerman was acquitted from the killing of Treyvon Martin, a highly sensationalized trial full of racial undertones, second amendment advocates and detractors, and a litany of other causes. After his acquittal, he shied away from the spotlight, humbled from the impact his actions had caused the nation. Just kidding! In fact, he did everything possible to prove to people that we was the exact sort of reckless asshole we all thought he probably was, getting himself involved with domestic abuse, charged with aggravated assault, and generally made an embarrassing spectacle of himself.

Justin Bieber 
Oh, sure, it's easy to pick on the Biebs. He's such an easy target. But this year, he seemed to go out of his way to antagonize people above and beyond his usual crime of having immense success with mediocre music. He managed to make a visit to the Anne Frank museum awkwardly insensitive; he was caught with drugs while touring Europe; he got into an altercation with a photographer; and he eventually blamed a lot of bad behavior on simply having a "bad week." We'll know things are bad when he drags out the old "exhaustion" excuse.


 

Carnival Triumph
Cruise ships are chancy at best even under the best of circumstances--whether it's rolling the dice on stomach flu or that 45-year old that, after three days at sea, is going to look good enough--but they've become increasingly horrible as of late. Most cruisegoer's fears became realized early this year when the Carival Triumph's engines failed, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded in the middle of the ocean without electricity, food, or (ironically enough) running water. People were eating ketchup packets like barbarians. They were pooping in bags like a New Jersey Devil. After an excruciating three days at sea, they finally were pulled into port, where no doubt the passengers kissed the ground and took a hot shower that lasted approximately though the rest of the spring.

Editor's Note: I accidentally initially listed the Costa Concordia (which happened in 2012 and was an entry last year) instead of the Carnival Triumph situation.Sadly, I will now not be able to make fun of the Italian Navy.

Superbowl Power Outage 
The Superbowl is literally the single most-viewed program of all year. This year, it's the legendary Baltimore Ravens against the legendary I Don't Remember Anymores. Everyone is transfixed: NFL fans who want to watch the game, siblings and spouses who want to see the commercials, and everyone else who wants an excuse to eat buffalo chicken dip and bacon-wrapped meatballs. And then--the power goes out in the Superdome. Here it is, with the eyeballs of the world on one place, and the electricity just disappears. Was it terrorism? Was it a simple malfunction? Did Ray Lewis do something untoward? (Although statistically likely, it was not the cause.) Thankfully, the power was brought back up (it was something mundane, like an overload), but not before the world became equal parts concerned and perplexed.

Post Office Ends Saturday Delivery 
The Post Office, the long-suffering government institution known for inefficiency, bureaucracy, slowness, and red ink, was finally getting its act together. After decades of being the punching bag for good-government types for its lackadaisical attitude of actually delivering the mail, a decades-long reform of the entire system, including more efficient computerized sorting and a top-dog review of employee performance, had made the Post Office look pretty good. Then, the rise of email, increased fuel costs, and increased competition from FedEx and UPS drained the USPS of most of its revenue. Bleeding money, the Post Office declared that, as part of a cost-saving measure, they were going to close a bunch of offices and stop Saturday delivery. After a public outcry--and Congress effectively forcing them to remain open--they "changed their mind" and will be delivering on Saturdays after all. Still, they're still hemorrhaging money and they're more or less back to where they were, with no doubt increased postage costs and higher contributions from our tax dollars. But at least now we can get the latest copy of Field and Stream on a Saturday.

Kevin Ware's Injury
Ha! I bet you tried to forget about this! There you are, one of the many, many college basketball fans in America, and you decide that you're going to sit down and watch the University of Louisville play Duke. It's a game for the ages, no doubt, or at least a game for the office betting pool. And star player Kevin Ware goes up to block a three-pointer and OH MY GOODNESS WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? Ware, landing awkwardly, suffered a compound fracture on his leg, although at the time it appeared that his entire leg bone was torn from his muscle and exposed to everyone in the audience. Teammates vomited, coaches were visibly shaken, and the entire viewing nation barely moved for about three months.

Airline Consolidation 
Airlines are hell on earth. They are unorganized cesspools of hatred and bureaucracy, an unholy alliance between profit-seeking airlines, arcane government regulations, and ridiculously-staged security theater. There is not a single man, woman, or child who hasn't walked into an airport and immediately broke down crying. Well, now there is one less airline to deal with now that American Airlines merged with US Airways. While this may seem like a good thing--one less horrible company to work with--it means that there's less options to choose from, less competition to keep people in check, and the unnerving sense that this is somehow--somehow!--going to make everything worse. It always does.
[Voting is now closed.]

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