Poop-scooping Ozzy? Shoplifting Winona? The biggest winners of 2002 were losers.
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Finally, a year for me. Whereas in past years, entertainers tended to be all cool, with their nice hair and talent and stuff, this year, the way to become big was to humiliate yourself. I’ve been doing that since seventh grade when I told Michelle Brotspies I couldn’t go out with her because my parents thought I was too young for that level of commitment. I’m not sure exactly what kind of Hef-like middle-school lifestyle they thought I was supposed to have, but I do know that I still hate them.

I tell you this because all I really want to write about is me. But also because showing everybody what a loser you are is the 2002 equivalent of lighting a candle for the firemen. Sure, Ozzy was big when he was doing cool stuff like biting off a bat head and snorting a line of ants, but as a nonsense-mumbling man who can’t do sit-ups and picks up his dog’s poop, he’s huge. And while Anna Nicole Smith was popular when she was crazy-hot and naked, a winning combo any year, she’s 20 times as famous as a nonsense-mumbling woman who can’t do sit-ups and picks up her dog’s poop. Whichever star owns a pet horse is going to break out major next year.

Making a fool of yourself isn’t new, having been the basis of entertainment careers from court jesters to Jerry Lewis to Bill Walton. But those people had a skill we admired, or at least a very funny-looking hat, unless that’s actually Walton’s hair. Now, though, we want celebrities who make us feel better about our own lives through their example. That must have been the logic behind Axl Rose’s big MTV Video Music Awards gambit.

So this year, instead of a good old-fashioned wife-murder story, our favorite celebrity criminal was Winona Ryder getting caught stealing from Saks Fifth Avenue, which in the world of fallen Hollywood starlets is actually less embarrassing than costarring in an Adam Sandler movie. We watched women fight and cry and make out in hot tubs with the most boring man in the world in a contest to prove who was the most desperate to be married.

We were fooled into watching a really badly produced version of Star Search because we got to see a British guy ruthlessly mock contestants while they were forced to stand there and listen. CBS execs mistook the reasons for American Idol’s success and are actually bringing back Star Search next year, instead of the show we really want: Simon Cowell, Management Consultant, where he comes to your office and tells your bosses why they can’t run their company, no matter how many accountants they bring in to fix the books.

The biggest movie of 2002 was about a superhero who got beat up at school, couldn’t get a girl, and spent hours in his locked bedroom shooting gooey webs. The biggest romance was My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which I didn’t see because I’m married now and don’t have to do things like that to get some, but it seemed to involve someone who was fat and Greek and had a wedding, all of which the ads made sound pretty humiliating.

Christina Aguilera debased herself in several fascinating and, in my opinion, rather artistic ways. Ted Koppel became beloved after ABC told everyone they wanted to cancel him and made him the lead-in to Jimmy Kimmel. Matt Lauer got that haircut. Sheryl Crow played for an audience of 15 at the Big Brother house, and that’s including the home audience. Mariah and Whitney told embarrassing stories about themselves. Why HBO would cancel Arli$$ in the midst of this trend is beyond me.

Even hip-hop, which is all about how many G’s you killed and how many G’s you made and other abbreviations I don’t really understand, found that weakness and vulnerability were what the public really wanted. Eminem was popular with the kids by rapping about beating his wife and hating his mom, but he broke through to the mainstream by presenting himself in 8 Mile as a loser who got beat up and had to listen to his mom talk about oral sex with a really bad Southern accent, which was even more humiliating considering that they lived in Detroit. And Jennifer Lopez, who is all about the fabulous, made some lame attempt at being a loser with ”Jenny From the Block,” with unconvincing lyrics like ”Used to have a little/Now I have a lot/…I’m still Jenny from the block.” While that comes short of true humiliation, she did let Ben Affleck touch her ass in a video. Even Damon draws the line there.

How can a person’s ego be so weak, so needy, that they debase themselves in front of the public, willingly turn themselves into clowns, for a little attention?

I’m telling you, I blame my parents.

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