Every year, pundits planetwide dust off their search engines and pull together lists of The Best and The Worst of the preceding trip around the sun. I feel that in the rush to name the best videogames and the worst political scandals, something gets lost in the shuffle: things that aren’t that bad, aren’t that good, and frankly aren’t that interesting anymore.
So, for the second year in a row, I’m providing a vital listing of The Top 10 Things Nobody Cared About in 2012.
1. The PlayStation Vita
Really, nobody cared about portable console gaming in general in 2012, but the Vita took the brunt of the widespread indifference, failing to match even the relatively modest sales of the original PSP. The reason is simple: 99 cents is less money than forty dollars. Sure, a dedicated console game might be better, but look at it this way. If a cheap iOS game is like a Big Mac, and a high-end Vita game is like some Waygu-and-stilton masterpiece from a restaurant in the valet district, then that upscale burger would cost $160. Do they really make burgers that good?
2. Johnny Depp
Hey, everybody, guess what! In 2012, Johnny Depp starred in a quirky Tim Burton movie where he played an outcast misfit with heavy makeup effects and a weird haircut! Boy, it’s wonderful that we have someone who’s willing to play such off-beat, unusual characters that are completely like any others except all the other characters he plays! Unfortunately, in Dark Shadows, Depp was working with such weak source material that no amount of head-cocking, slow blinking and accent-affecting could save the movie, and people lined up in droves to not care about it. What might bring him back to the limelight? No promises, but a filmed deathmatch among Edward Scissorhands, Jack Sparrow, Hunter S. Thompson and the rest of his characters would definitely put me in a theater seat.
3. The Higgs Boson
The search for this fundamental subatomic particle was the equivalent of the old TV series Moonlighting or the slightly less-old TV series The X-Files. We desperately wanted the male and female leads — or “particle physicists” and “the Higgs boson” — to finally admit their love and fall into each others’ arms, but once it actually happened we promptly lost interest. Once you take out catchy terms like “the God particle” and the infinitesimal chance of the end of the universe, the story is just “scientists find particle they pretty much already knew existed.” Yawn.
4. Sarah Palin
After Obama was elected in 2008, everyone prayed that Sarah Palin would make a White House bid in 2012. Conservatives wanted to see her in the Oval Office, liberals wanted to see her crash and burn, and talk show hosts wanted easy material for their monologues. When she resigned from the governorship of Alaska in 2009, this further fueled the craving for Candidate Palin, even as conservatives had to admit that “She Quit the Last Post She Was Elected To” isn’t the best campaign slogan. But she didn’t run, and now she’s just another talking head on TV, not serious enough to be taken seriously, and not loony enough to be taken seriously by loonies.
If I were a competent prognosticator, I would have looked at the launch of YouTube and immediately run out and bought shares in ukulele manufacturers. Ukuleles are cheap, easy to play, kitschy, and most importantly are the simplest way to create an ironic not-quite-parody of a popular song that everyone’s already tired of hearing. The lazy ukulele cover isn’t dead — do a search on “gangnam style ukulele” if you need proof — but it’s increasingly difficult to believe that anyone cares about them except maybe, maybe the ones actually playing the ukuleles.
Superman films have the same problems as Jesus’. Everyone knows the basic story. If you tell it faithfully, nobody wants to see it except hardcore fans. If you mess with it too much, then you just piss people off. However, Superman doesn’t have the advantage of getting to decide what happens to you after you die, so he doesn’t have enough hardcore fans to generate much interest. With the upcoming Superman movie being the second in a row where most of the advance press is about the appearance of the title character’s crotch, it’s clear that if caring were Kryptonite, then the overall cultural interest in Superman would give him a mild headache and cottonmouth.
Let’s not pretend that everything Apple comes up with, or has come up with, is legendary, game-changing or, you know, useful. Siri sounds good on paper, with maybe a 75 percent chance of both understanding your question and being able to answer it usefully, assuming you’re asking the sort of question Siri can answer. But having to repeat yourself or getting useless information 25 percent of the time steadily eats away at the sense of wonder and awe. Even the DMV is only completely unhelpful 23 percent of the time.
I’m not sure this belongs on the list. Not because people still care about it, but because it’s arguable whether anybody really cared about it in the first place. I think I saw maybe two planking photos that weren’t in the context of “Hey, there’s this thing called planking, isn’t it dumb?” posts. Like “crushing,” “rainbow parties” and “Ron Paul,” this may have just been something someone made up to have something to hate, and a few lost souls obliged. Having said that, whatever heat it once had has long since escaped into the atmosphere.
9. Michael Pollan
I went to a party in Berkeley the other week, and the unthinkable happened: Nobody mentioned The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I’m not saying the book has lost all influence. After all, we were still snacking on free-range turkey breast slices with microfarmed goat cheese on fair trade, artisanal, organic, hand-pummeled zwieback. But nobody felt the need to comment on the fact that we were doing so, much less defend their shopping choices by quoting extended Pollan passages about how pastured eggs are so delicious because the chickens eat larvae out of cow poop. So while Pollan isn’t precisely irrelevant, at least it’s now possible to care about food without so much caring about him personally.
10. The Casual Vacancy
“Wait a second,” I pretend to hear you say. “Rowling’s first adult novel has sold over a million copies! There were all sort of articles written about it!” That, my compliant imaginary objector, is one of the central paradoxes of Western culture. Something can be lucrative, famous, even ubiquitous and still not actually generate enough caring to send a concern-powered bicycle three blocks. Did anyone ever really care about Jewel’s poetry? About Madonna’s book of softcore porn? About El Debarge’s entire career? Of course not, and nobody cares that the author of books about chocolate frogs and sorting hats also wrote a book about whatever this book is about.