Welcome to a first in a regular, bi-weekly feature of the Commutes called The Effects. In this segment, we will describe a category that is personified by a certain object in pop culture, be it movies, music, sports, history, science and so on. The name of the effect will be the most telling example and we will list a series of other examples personifying its manifestation. I think it would do best just to jump right into our first definition.
The John Mayer Effect – n. the effect whereby an object becomes so drastically overrated at a certain point that it subsequently becomes underrated
- John Mayer – To a certain demographic, John Mayer was typified by undying adoration of teenage girls. Their fandom consisted of playing Your Body is a Wonderland on repeat while hanging pictures from his latest album in their locker room. The most natural reaction by most during this time is one of revulsion. How can somebody write such horrible songs and be loved by so many? Don’t answer that, there are plenty of counterexamples. But, what happened next in his career is what is most compelling. In 2005, John Mayer formed the John Mayer Trio and the following year released the album Continuum. To guitarist enthusiasts everywhere, the stark departure of musical direction was a breath of fresh air. Suddenly, his music had returned to relevancy and people could appreciate him as an artist. If you are reading this and don’t understand the reverence I hold in him, try the album Continuum. It may just change your opinion.
- Allen Iverson – The personification of the me-first attitude of the NBA in the late 90s, Allen Iverson held a special place of disdain for most sports writers of America. This shoot-first, turnover-prone, low-FG percentage “point guard” scored a lot of points but could never break through to the next level. A vein of schadenfraude existed in every discussion of Allen Iverson’s career: he was talented enough to be a selfish ballhog that could not break through to win an NBA championship. But, in retrospect, how could he? The greatest players he played with on his lone 2000 Finals appearance were Eric Snow, Aaron Mckie and Todd MacCulloch. Wait, what? This four-time scoring champ and MVP winner’s worst crime was that he wore cornrows in the NBA. A demon in the backcourt, there was nobody who could ever completely shut him down. Perhaps twenty years from now, sportswriters will speak of him the same way some hold Dominique Wilkins and George Gervin in high regard.
- Avatar – These listings are very time sensitive and dependent on the social crowd discussing the topic. Avatar broke down barriers for a science fiction film. That’s what having James Cameron directing a film will do for a picture. If you haven’t heard of it, move out from under your rock. The film broke records for highest grossing film ever and was quickly on the short list for greatest film ever on IMDB and was on the top of every critic’s ‘Best of 2000s’ film list. That’s when the questions surfaced: isn’t this just Fern Gully (or Dances with Wolves) in space? Was there even a real screenplay? How hard is it to write about evil white guys ruining the environment? Discussions about the screenplay or its character development distract from the fact that the movie was damn entertaining. Treating the movie as a masterful literary masterpiece is the incorrect response to an action movie with stunning visual effects. And if you don’t think it was entertaining at all, leave your ego at the door and watch it again.
- Grand Theft Auto III – To videogaming enthusiasts, Grand Theft Auto holds a weird place in history. The game was immediately reviled by conservative watchdog groups and loved by gamers worldwide. After a short while, however, dissension amongst fans emerged. The game didn’t have a fleshed out shooting mechanism. The main character couldn’t swim. Escaping cops became too easy. The same cars and styles of missions kept cropping up. This inane style of contrarian criticism arose as a reaction to its sheer popularity. A true sandbox-style videogame, the game proved that games can be fun with or without a strong direction in its gameplay. Running around, killing things, picking up hookers and stealing cars can be just as fun as the most intricately designed storylines. In addition to this, the sheer wealth of gameplay possibilities and sheer fun that can be had is astounding. I also still want to hear Claude say something, damn it. Why can’t he swim?
- Poker – Chris Moneymaker winning the 2003 World Series of Poker was both a blessing and a curse for poker enthusiasts. It helped bring mainstream attention to the sport (or hobby, use them interchangeably) causing a huge surge in interest and prize pools. This made exposure to the game greater than ever, coinciding with the massive growth in online access to the game. Suddenly, everybody was following the game on TV and starting their own weekly games to test out their theories and strategies on their friends. I’ll be damned if those Thursday night games with $10 buy-ins were not as competitive and intense as the finals of the World Poker Tour. The poker resurgence was described as a fad and as is true of all fads, they fade (fads fade?). Where this strikes me as an overreaction, however, is ignoring how fun the game can be for those who are passionate about the game. When I go to a casino, I know the first section I search for. Suggesting a poker night for some is taboo and immature, although I would never scoff at the idea. Let’s bring poker back in style.
Honorable Mention: Jack Johnson, Ernest Hemingway, The Sopranos, University of Notre Dame (betting on them), the Coen Brothers
Please, disagree with me severely in the comments below and tell me that John Mayer is still aggressively overrated. Later, this week, we will hear the other three writers’ takes on this effect and perhaps their reaction to my ironclad opinions on the epitome of this effect.
Cameron Daniels works as a financial analyst in Texas. Hailing from the Greater Providence area, he is obsessed with following the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics and lets you know it ad nauseum. His other interests include chess, Good Will Hunting, Pearl Jam and playing piano. He also currently writes for Don’t Quit Your Day Job, a personal finance website dedicated to the night and weekend crowd. You can contact him through e-mail.