Remembering 2010 as the Year the Antihero Took Our Culture Hostage
By Jett Wells Posted Dec 25th 2010 01:41PM
Pop-Ed: It's hard to imagine Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg ever thought he'd be TIME's 'Person of the Year' when he was blogging about girls' bra sizes from his Harvard dorm room. Flash forward six years, and there he is -- on the cover with his disarmingly blank stare. On the cover of TIME is a photo of a man who in six years launched an empire and fundamentally changed the way people around the globe communicate, and yet, as we've come to learn from David Fincher's 'The Social Network,' Zuckerberg is no saint.
Fabricated or not, the Academy Award Best Picture front-runner tells the public story of our 'Person of the Year' as a determined, anti-social kid willing to stomp on his friends' throats to get what he wants. For better or for worse, movies forever impact the way we judge history, and in 30 years people will remember Jesse Eisenberg backstabbing Andrew Garfield better than they'll recall Zuckerberg's own television appearances. In movies, antiheroes do the reverse of the archetypal hero: they're at war with themselves rather than with the world surrounding them. Despite his generous contributions to charity, Zuckerberg will forever be seen as the poster boy of a time otherwise known as the year antiheroes dominated culture.
It's impossible to ignore Kanye West when discussing glorified villains, so we won't stop now. His album 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy' is already regarded as one of, if not the best album of the year, and yet he's permanently chastised as a villain for his ever-growing ego and for stealing a trophy from a teenage country singer. Like Zuckerberg, Kanye's image may never change, but while the public is happy to point out his flaws, there's no denying how far his music spreads it's tentacles over our culture.
Sticking to music, the re-emergence of Girl Talk reminded the world how flipped upside down the music industry is. While record sales sit at an all-time low and Google funnels illegal file-sharing like Tijuana channels drug trafficking, Girl Talk, a.k.a. Greg Gillis, dodges copyright laws, sampling hundreds of artists. And on the day of his latest release, 'All Day,' he broke the Internet as soon as the news caught fire. No one hates Girl Talk, but he does represent music creation and industry destruction at the same time. Still don't buy it? The DJ has his own Pittsburgh holiday.
Even in sports, the greatest athletes, like Michael Vick and LeBron James, are hated by screaming fans. While Vick served time in prison for torturing dogs, and James ditched his home state in exchange for balmy Miami beaches, both are seen as two of the greatest physical specimens of the past 20 years. James shook the sports world simply because he wanted to switch teams, and now people are attempting to love Vick once again as he marches the Philadelphia Eagles towards the elusive Super Bowl. The true sign of an antihero is that he's still glorified even when he's at his worst, and in sports, you don't have to be popular to be "the man."
Wikileaks mastermind Julian Assange was widely expected to be given TIME Magazine's honor, but lost out to Zuckerberg, perhaps because he's become so controversial. Next to Zuckerberg, there isn't a person we know so little about and yet infiltrates not only our culture but global diplomacy. Assange preaches transparency by unleashing hidden truths around the world, and for the most part, he's seen as a hero by the people -- but he's also public enemy No. 1 for assorted governments the world over. Because so many of his released documents could very possibly get people killed abroad or sever valuable international relations, he represents the balance between journalistic integrity and reckless idealism. Luckily for Zuckerberg, he doesn't have a bounty on his head like Assange does.
The irony of being the antihero is that no one wants to be the antihero, because it's a lonely feeling. The entire state of Ohio hates LeBron. Vick will die known as a great quarterback, but also as a dog torturer. Russia wants Assange killed. Millions don't trust Zuckerberg because they think he's out to steal their private information for money. Record label executives wish they could sue Girl Talk for everything he's worth. And Kanye West is arguably the most unpopular musician who happens to make amazing albums. Society hates all these guys for different reasons than the ones that make us love them; such is the tragic romance of being a cultural antihero in a country still struggling to make its big comeback.
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