Top 10 (Pop Culture) Wicked Theories Of 2014

By Bill Sweeney

Sure, it's my web domain/twitter/tumblr but what does "Wicked Theory" actually Mean? How the hell could I make a Year End Top Ten out of it?

While I chose it originally as just wordplay on the phrase "bad idea", over time I've come to fashion more of a meaning out of it. A "wicked theory", as I spin it, is a bad idea gone right. Or more to it, an idea or belief, that seems unlikely (or just plain wrong) when you hear it, but in retrospect, turns out to be really good. The most badass ideas are the one that shouldn't work - but do.

And for me, here, in my head, it's a thing I look for and see everywhere. And for what I do here, on the web, I keep it to the context of pop/geek culture.

So, rather than call this "The Top Ten Things In Pop/Geek Culture That Seemed Like Bad Ideas At First But Turned Out To Be Pretty Smart This Year", or "Hey Internet, You Were Wrong About Stuff" let's just go with the short version above, okay?

Theory 10. That killing off beloved TV characters is a good thing.

Without naming names or spoiling spoilers, this year saw major deaths on The Walking Dead, Game Of Thrones, Sons Of Anarchy as well as many other shows (here's a list with videos if you really want more) and as much as no one wants to hear this - it's for the greater good.

Most of these shows did so not because it's attention getting or for shock value, in truth, a good number of these shows exist in a story framework of heightened danger or there are characters that other characters simply want dead. In order to present that threat in as real a manner possible, people have to die off, the threat needs to come to pass now and again. TV shows can feel all the more fake when no one ever gets shot or ages or dies. No one ever expects that a main lead like Jack Bauer, Rick Grimes or Olivia Pope will die (unless it's the final episode, maybe) but those around them shouldn't really be safe.

How different would the Walking Dead feel if no one had ever died? Besides overcrowded, I mean. Wouldn't it feel silly then, every time a zombie lunged forward? Every time someone pointed a gun at someone else? You'd sit there rolling your eyes. That's how TV was in the 80's and 90's. There was a LOT of eye rolling.

Formulaic, scripted TV can only deliver so much "realism", and I'll take as much as it can offer, whatever form it comes in… no matter how gut-wrenching. Because I've had the alternative, and it's weak.

Theory 9.
That Bill Cosby would turn into a hated man.

Despite many prior accusations, at the start of the year many people had no idea The Coz had ever been accused of rape. Then comedian Hannibal Buress mentioned it on stage. And someone got that on video, which made the rounds and then it became part of the daily conversation on the webs. New accusations started arising. More women were coming forward, many not even looking to formally charge him - they just wanted the truth known. Then Coz had some dumb "Turn Me Into A Meme" promotion of some kind and the internet rose to the challenge, eviscerating him.

Some asshats still point the finger at these women saying they are doing it for money or the spotlight. Seriously? Because that's what people want to be famous for, being sexually attacked?

Point here is, 30 women can't all be lying, so he's a big ol' pile shit.

Theory 8. That a depressing, sometimes nihilistic, cop procedural would be the must-watch show at the start of last year.

It's easy to point to the track records of the network and the lead actors as up front proof this show was going to be a hit, because one could also point to other bleak cop shows, like The Killing for example, for proof that as a whole this was not a new idea, and these kind of shows can struggle. After the first hour though, HBO's True Detective had displayed approaches in tone, storytelling and characterization that felt so fresh and different, they demanded your attention. It became water cooler talk right away, which is always when the first wave of criticism becomes the public conversation. Was it trying to hard to be smart and different? What the hell is even going on, I can't follow it. Is this a supernatural show? Can it live up to the buzz and have a decent ending?

At the beginning you are given two cops that are anything but a good match. Each teetering on a ledge of personal and or mental problems while trying to solve a mystery that will wind it's way through 17 years of their lives. Speculation on the show's story got the web all a-buzz with theories on The Yellow King, featured symbols and much more. I haven't seen that happen since Lost. By the end, things do feel right as everything wraps with satisfaction, well told and well considered. Yet there is certainly a point early on where the show feels limitless, that it could go almost in any direction, even shift genre mid-season if it wanted to, and it would work. Those let down by the ending are most likely in love with an ending they created in their own heads.

Now the question is, can season 2 live up to season one?

Theory 7. That Taking Away The Hellblazer's Cigarettes Was Okay

Smoking's bad, we all know that, but what some may not know is that it's kind of central to the comic book character John Constantine, mostly, y'know, because he develops cancer. The network's stance on this characteristic was a big no as the series went into production. Fans were left thinking this whole show is going to be rife with studio compromises because John's got more than just this to be concerned with in his lore. Well, guess what guys, not even NBC can keep him from his habit. Since the first episode it's been mentioned he's recently quit smoking, and it's alluded to whenever he fidgets with a Zippo lighter he always has on him. Then in one episode, he s outside of the home of someone he's trying to help, at his wits end - and just he lights one up. Fuck you, NBC, I guess.

And in this way, I think it kind of works better. In a sense, the smoking can cary more story weight if he's not chaining them constantly, instead, lighting up a stashed, half finished ciggie in a quieter moment of frustration.

Theory 6. That the above 11 minute clip called "TOO MANY COOKS" from Adult Swim could renew my faith in mankind…

Theory 5. That a story about an old dude returning to his home town would be the most badass thing of the year.

Southern Bastards is the story of Earl Tubb as he returns home to Craw County, Alabama. He hates this place and that's why he left it. So what's to do when you get pulled into the Good Ole' Boy type bullshit? You start cracking' heads with a big fuckin' stick is Earl's answer. He's got little to lose, and nothing to gain, all he's got is his righteousness, anger and grit. Is it enough?

At first glance, this seems to be just a riff on Walkin' Tall, but we soon see it's about more than just Earl. It's about this messed up town and the football and BBQ loving' Bastards who live there. Just when you get all filled in on Earl's messed up back story, well, here comes one that's even worse once you really get to know town bad guy Coach Boss.

This book, over all others I've read this year, feels perfect for adaption on cable TV. This is the next thing AMC or HBO should scoop up, and you should too.

Theory 4. That an audio podcast where a reporter speculates about a murder trial and conviction from 15 years ago could really be THAT good.

Well, it depends on how you define "THAT".

Serial has just enough quirk, just enough polish - but not too much - and just enough "I'm figuring this out as I go along" type honesty that you can't help but want to listen to the next episode. The central "mystery", for many, is no mystery at all. Host Sarah Koenig's own doubt is as central a mystery as any person or event discussed while she tries to understand a conviction that just seems wrong to her. There's no "fourth wall" here and in later episodes the show itself begins to become a small issue as its popularity grows and becomes known to those being interviewed. Yes, it got real popular real quick, and for good reason, it's smart and compelling.

Theory 3.  That JJ would awaken the force.

The Imperial Geekdom was on pins and needles after Lucas sold Star Wars to Disney. They cringed when it was announced any prior "Non-Movie" mythology was out and new ancillary books and games and comics would replace them (albeit, much of the new material as officially canon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canon , which was never the case before).

Then came word that JJ Abrams was going to direct and a certain contingent of fans snapped. "The guy who just turned Star Trek into a glossy, lens flared, youth-ified reboot?" Despite JJ's very own, documented life-long obsession with the Original Trilogy, speculation went wild and all kinds of horrors were imagined. But then a funny thing happened. He started making all the right moves. It started with casting all the original actors along with the new blood. Then came the trailer for episode seven, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

And it did everything it was designed to do. It surprised you and left you with wonder, it left you with new iconic imagery that feels right, and most of all - without even showing a single member of the classic cast - it got legions of diehard fans pumped and eager for more. The Star Wars fandom's embrace of the brief preview can be seen all around the web, from pro quality fan art to simple exuberant speculation. Yeah there's nerd confusion about understanding the functionality and practicality of a Tri-Saber, but who cares, it'll be explained!

Theory #2. That a Franco and Rogen movie would be anything important.

Although the whole thing turned out okay, this whole situation is filled with bad ideas turned good. The decision to even write this movie probably seemed like a bad idea at one point. Because, y'know, that guy Un is kinda wacky. The decision to green light this movie probably seemed like a bad idea, too. Because that guy Un, kinda wacky. The decision to pull it from theaters, the decision to put it back.  Because… you get it.

In the end it was all good ideas.

Especially the one about killing Kim Jong Un.

I could go on, but this story is really fresh so you're probably sick of it anyway, besides, it'll be in your kids text books one day. And when they have to do a report for history, you can help!

Theory #1.
That the movie with the most riding against it would be, not just a success, but the hit of the summer.

It won't work, they said. No one's even heard of them, they said. It could break Marvel, some said. It's got an untested lead actor, a pro wrestler and some low budget director, they scoffed. Oh, for Pete's sake, it's got a freaking talking tree and a gun-crazy raccoon in it, they screamed. Repeatedly.

And they were almost right, it shouldn't have worked. But it did.

Guardians Of The Galaxy took everyone by surprise for a lot of reasons, but what most who've seen it will tell you is that it was fun. The movie had personality. And as we all learned from Jules, personality goes a long way. In a world of super serious sequels and prequels that have maybe one joke or two, here came a space pirate move that was just shy of swashbuckling, and refused to take itself too seriously - despite being about saving the universe. None should really be too surprised by this fact. Marvel movies always have a degree of fun and humor, that almost always lands, so why wouldn't a movie of theirs that put some focus on laughs knock it out of he park?

Yes, the relentless cynic in me has a couple of small issues, but they are exceeded by the overall charm on display. In the end, GOTG embodies what this list is all about -- not just in it's plot and story, but in it's success -- proving naysayers (and maybe even yourself) wrong with a great idea.

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