McGinnis: Some things in pop culture just tick me offWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the problems with being someone who cares about a lot of things in pop culture is when one of those things is treated poorly, it can tend to make you angry.
This is why I’ve ended up writing four different columns which have in some way focused on the “Superior Spider-Man” series, for example. (Canny readers will notice that this makes five.) I love Spider-Man as a character, and grew up with him as my favorite superhero. As an awkward, geeky kid, I could see myself in Peter Parker, just like many kids can. Just like I can already see my nieces can.
I would hate for my nieces to start reading Spider-Man comics now. We now live in a world where Marvel’s storytellers have had Peter Parker trade his marriage to the devil based upon editorial mandate. In a world where Doctor Octopus has taken over Peter’s body and left him to die, killed villains in his name, nearly kinda-raped Mary Jane (and is apparently poised to the same thing to Black Cat) and erased Parker’s memories from his brain, all while lecturing him about what a horrible superhero he really was.
Sure, it’s a short-term storyline. Sure, Parker will be back, no matter what Marvel says. Even if they think they’re being honest when they say that Octopus is Spidey from now on, the Clone Saga teaches us that they can change their minds on what’s “permanent” at the drop of a hat.
But, no matter what any of the creative minds behind Marvel think, permanent damage can be done to a character’s viability when mishandled. I truly believe the last five years or so of Spidey comics — starting with the ridiculous deletion of his marriage and moving on until this latest fiasco — has hurt the character’s basic core, to the point where maybe the best option is to throw out nearly 50 years of continuity and just start again. Let new (radioactive) blood clear the way.
I felt the same anger on Sunday night, Aug. 18, at the end of WWE’s August pay-per-view SummerSlam.
Daniel Bryan — real name Bryan Danielson — is the best wrestler in the world right now. He’s one of those guys whose talent and ability between the ropes makes him consistently entertaining to watch no matter who his opponent is. He’s toiled at the WWE grind for the past three years or so, moving past a ludicrous incident early in his career where he was fired for choking someone with a tie (long, stupid story) to become the hottest wrestler in the company.
Danielson was given the chance to main event SummerSlam, one of the company’s biggest events, against reigning WWE champion John Cena. And, despite the fact that he’s the antithesis of everything WWE honcho Vince McMahon usually likes to portray his wrestlers as — Bryan’s not tall or muscle-bound — he was written to beat Cena clean, which sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Then, not 10 minutes later, Bryan was made to lose the title to company mainstay Randy Orton.
It had been rumored that this “surprise” ending had been in the books for quite a while. But still, it was massively disappointing to see. And it brought back memories for me of all the other times WWE has been handed a character that has connected strongly to the audience, and found a way to completely screw it up.
The best example, oddly, was Orton himself — he had become an incredibly popular wrestler en route to winning the title at SummerSlam in 2004. Within a few weeks, he lost the belt to longtime WWE name Triple H and all his momentum was gone. It took years to rebuild his aura.
Then there was CM Punk, who two years ago had become the most talked-about wrestler in the world when he won the WWE title. His special aura was already being undercut by the time he lost the title a mere month later, but it was completely submerged by the time he was put into an undercard feud with Triple H.
Now, it’s all happening again. Danielson loses his big moment and now has to be rebuilt. (And guess who caused the big moment to be spoiled? Yep, Triple H.)
There are those who say to relax, that “the money’s in the chase for the title,” and that the company still clearly believes in Bryan. Maybe. But someone should tell Vince that “the money’s in the chase” when most of the history of WWE has involved one top superstar (Sammartino, Backlund, Hogan, Austin, Rock, Cena) being champion for a long time, with a bunch of challengers. It’s clear that this supposed wrestling truism isn’t really the way WWE does things.
What you’re left with is a situation where something great is being sacrificed, undercut because the braintrust behind the scenes doesn’t trust it, thus bringing it to a premature end due to simple lack of imagination. Whether it’s Spider-Man, Danielson or anything, that kind of short-sightedness always, always makes me angry. But hey, at least anger makes for a good way to fill column space.