Notice that it’s about the delivery: Worst. X. Ever. There has to be a contemptuous pause between the words because that’s how Comic Book Guy said “Worst. Episode. Ever.” on Season 06, episode 06 of “The Simps0ns.” Catchphrases work because they powerfully encapsulate universes within them, and at that point in time, “Worst. Episode. Ever.” said everything about a) The Simpsons’ meta-humor b) Comic Book Guy c) the frequent cruelties of fandom. (What Comic Book Guy might think about, say, episode 674 of “The Simpsons” is best not pondered.)
“Worst. Person. Ever.” is not, aside from its titular reference, in any way about The Simpsons (although, gosh, “Best. Person. Ever.” would be a great title for a Matt Groening biography now that I think about it.) It is, however, a cartoonish comedic novel by Douglas Coupland (“Polaroids from the Dead,” “Generation X”) that uses the safe distance of its title to excuse Coupland’s satirical, not very flattering take on “where America stands now.”
Or, really, where it stood 10 years ago. “W. P. E.” uses as its start-off point a thin parody of “Survivor” (named, with symptomatic laziness, “Survival.”) For reasons that never once make sense, cameraman Raymond Gunt (“rhymes with…”) is dispatched to a Pacific island to film the reality show, but I don’t want to mislead you into thinking that “W. P. E.” has a plot. What it has is tirades, which I will summarize below:
“Reality shows are dumb! Americans are fat and gross and eat things from vending machines and they pollute and make a big prissy deal about saying the fucking f-word and, most damning of all, they’re not British or Canadians! Also, airplane food sucks! And don’t get me started on airport security! Duran Duran is terrible! But Echo and the Bunnymen aren’t all that much better – that will show you, New Wavers! And why is Mr. Bean so very popular? What is up with THAT?”)
None of that is nearly as transgressive as Coupland imagines; he proposes Gunt like he’s some sort of amoral force of nature, and instead it’s just a familiar misanthrope ranting at abandoned targets. Seriously, how long had all those Duran Duran jokes been germinating in Coupland’s brains? There’s several funny moments in “W. P. E.” but it’s like a stand-up show from 1988 found on a heat-damaged VHS tape. Don’t fool yourself: it’s not funny because it’s true. It’s funny because it’s trite.
RATING: GOOD ENOUGH with some COOL! LOL spots.
I suppose we’ve culturally transcended the point where Shakespeare or the Bible were good places to look for titles. It’s “The Simpsons”‘ turn to shine. I took a lot at some popular literary categories I use in this blog, and here are “Simpsons”-inspired titles for them.
POST-MODERN FICTION: “Just Because I Don’t Care Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Understand.”
CHILDREN’S/ YA: “The Happy Little Elves and the Prisoner of Shelbyville.”
CLASSICS: “Homer’s Oddity.”
ESSAYS: “Perfectly Cromulent Words: The Writings of Homer J. Simpson.”
FANTASY/ SCI-FI: “The Embiggened Man Meets the Space Coyote.”
GRAPHIC NOVELS: “Bartman: Infinite Crisertunity.”
ROMANCE: “Teacher, Mother, Secret Lover.”
HISTORICAL: “Stupid Flanders! A Reconsideration of Military Strategies in Flanders Fields, 1914-1917.”
MYSTERY: “Ask Me to Kill For You : A Chief Wiggum Mystery”
NON-FICTION: “Don’t Have a Cow, Man: A Vegetarian’s Manifesto.”
POETRY: “Ay Caramba, No Es Bueno! Latin American Poetry of the 21st Century.”
THEATER: “Is This the End of Zombie Shakespeare?”