Is Stephen King a Big Dummy?

Posted: September 21, 2009 in Braak, reviews
Tags: , , ,


Let me explain!  I get a magazine called Entertainment Weekly.  I’m not altogether sure why–I believe it had something to do with also getting pizza coupons, and there’s not a lot I won’t do if it means pizza coupons.  So, Entertainment Weekly started showing up at my house, and it’s hard for me to be around text without reading it.

This is why I read Entertainment Weekly.

In Entertainment Weekly, there is a column by a man named Stephen King, whom you may remember as the guy who wrote the novelization for Firestarter.  Hah, I’m joking, he’s the best-selling novelist in all of history!  That’s why I am extremely interested in his opinions on Pop Culture, and why I read his column!

His most recent column was one in which he bemoaned the death of pop cultuure.  According to Stephen King, expert sociologist, the doom of American culture is going to come in the following apocalyptic visitations:

1.  There are no good American movies anymore.

This is how King’s argument goes:  The Hurt Locker was brilliant, and The Dark Knight was good, too.  But those movies came out last year, and next year is a different year, in which those movies CAN’T COME OUT AGAIN.  ZOMG!  No one is even trying to make good movies anymore!

The terror of bad movies is widespread and, I think, unfounded.  Hollywood has always made mostly shitty movies, speckled occasionally with a few good ones.  Remember 1942, the year Casablanca came out?  Here are some other movies that came out that year:

A Ship is Born
A Study in Socks
A Tale of Two Kitties
A Torrid Toreador
A Zoot Suit With A Reet Pleat
Aqua Antics
Army Surgeon

That’s just the A’s!  Stephen King, why are you not crying over who will make the next Aqua Antics?  America has made far more terrible movies than it’s ever made good movies–why are you getting your knickers in a twist because maybe a year goes by without a new The Hurt Locker?  Is it because you’re a big dummy?

2.  No one is going to publish books.

There’s a valid concern lurking in this, I guess–the fear is, if people don’t buy enough books, publishers won’t be able to afford editors or to give authors advances, and then…I guess there just won’t be any books around?  Authors will have to have second jobs?

What King doesn’t realize, of course, is that a lot of authors DO have second jobs.  They also do not have a small army of personal editors who will pay a fifty thousand dollar advance for a rough outline of a book about “Maybe a girl is in the woods, and there’s something chasing her?  A bear?  A ghost bear?  I don’t know, you guys think of something.”  Many publishing companies are going to be hurt, but Steve, have you noticed the number of small presses that have been cropping up?  Actually getting books onto shelves in bookstores, even?

This is because large publishing companies have to devote most of their resources to maintaining their own infrastructure–when profits sink, the companies implode.  You probably don’t remember, Steve, when you were getting shitty advances and an editor maybe looked at your book for twenty minutes before throwing a typo-riddled copy into a cardstock cover and dumping it on unsuspecting supermarkets everywhere.  But they did.  It turns out, in the era before 30-dollar hardcovers, there actually WAS some kind of business model that kept people in business and books on the shelves.

3.  Network Television is Shitty

This one was hilarious, because he actually says something like, “Why don’t the major networks do shows like Mad Men or Breaking Bad?”  As though no good television on NBC somehow equates to no good television anywhere, EVEN THOUGH HE’S ALREADY WRITTEN TWO GOD-DAMN COLUMNS ABOUT HOW GREAT BREAKING BAD IS.  Fucking dummy.

4.  Classic Rock Stations Are Unsuccessful

He apparently owns a classic rock station in Maine–that national hotbed of rock-music culture.  And Steve is terrified–TERRIFIED!–that there will be no fancy rock DJs to discover the next “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”  For those of you keeping score, that’s a song that came out forty-six years ago.  An entire generation as grown up, had children, and then had grandchildren in the time it’s taken since that song came out.  We’ve changed the way the public finds new hit singles three times since then.

Sure, maybe the overlap of “Good Music” and “Panty-Moisteningly Popular Bands” is small, but did you ever think that that was kind of a coincidence in the first place?  It’s not like there aren’t any good bands anymore.  And in the 60s, how would we have ever gotten someone like MC Lars?

Stephen King:  you are not allowed to be in Entertainment Weekly as an expert on pop culture if all of your opinions on the nature and function of pop culture were formed a half a century ago.

Sorry.  You fucking dummy.

  1. ” … it’s hard for me to be around text without reading it.”

    All America should have your problem.

  2. Moff says:

    Stephen King just printed this post out in full color, even though that used up like a quarter of a laser cartridge of black ink, and then he printed it out a thousand more times, because he wanted to have a fire and forgot to pick up a new bag of $1,000 bills.

    Also, I don’t think he ever got shitty advances. If I remember right, he’d been writing for a while before a publisher (Doubleday?) bought Carrie (his first novel), but they gave him $200,000. Which in the late ’70s was even more than it is today.

  3. You’re forgetting this hilariousness.

    He has his moments.

  4. katastic says:

    Don’t be surprised if you start getting stalked by a giant clown/ wasting slowly away because of a gypsy curse/ eaten by giant bug-alien-creatures, Braak.

    Of course Stephen King is a moron. He has been for years. Have you ever read “The Stand”? There’s an entire passage in that book in which the female protagonist writes about how THANKFUL she is for men DEIGNING to give women rights as human beings, how much the apocalypse made her APPRECIATE their countless sacrifices. Seriously, she writes “Thank you, men!”, over and over again.

    Moron, moron, moron.

  5. braak says:

    @Moff: Well, that would probably explain why he’s got a skewed perspective on the subject. “Wait, what do you mean some people only get $10,000 advances?”

  6. Lord Wackadoo says:

    Here’s the thing about Steven King. He can’t be that big of a dummy because he wrote Carrie, and Carrie I think is a very intelligent novel. Here’s the conundrum, Steven King has actually come out and said he thinks Carrie is stupid, so I have no idea what to think of the man.

  7. Moff says:

    @kat: Well, yeah. Anytime a character does or says something, it’s a reflection of the author’s personal beliefs. George Orwell fucking loved strapping rat cages to people’s faces.

  8. katastic says:

    @Moff: Dude, the ENTIRE BOOK is sexist. That’s just the most egregious example. And it was totally out of character! There’s a definite shift in tone when an author uses a character to proselytize, and it was obvious. It was forced and awkward. Stephen King’s female characters, in general, are about as three-dimensional as a sheet of paper. Don’t be a prat.

  9. Moff says:

    @kat: What’s wrong with being sexy? And why do you hate men so much, Boys for Pele?

    I haven’t read The Stand in a long time. I don’t remember it being sexist, but I do know what you mean about the definite shift in tone. When i read it again, I will keep my eyes open.

    But I will not stop being a prat.

  10. katastic says:

    @Moff: I only hate men because it’s easy and fun, and y’all are a convenient outlet for my anger and aggression. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to listen to the Indigo Girls and draw big crying eyes in my poetry journal/ sketchbook.

  11. braak says:

    Hm. I don’t remember that part in the Stand, either. But I do remember the part in It where they were lost in the sewers, and the only way to get home was for all the boys to have sex with the one girl.

    That was…I don’t know where that came from.

  12. katastic says:

    Read it. It’s there. I remember it distinctly because I was HORRIFIED.

  13. Moff says:


  14. Dave says:

    Stephen King is a man who is on record as hating one of Stanley Kubrick’s better films and decided to have it remade for TV with Steven Weber playing the lead (his previous film role was in Dracula: Dead and Loving It). This seems like the act of a giant-sized dummy (or possibly Alan Moore who, it should be noted, is utterly insane).

  15. Jeff Holland says:

    He also seemed to think Mirah’s last album was the best music release of 2008.

    It was not.


  16. Hsiang says:

    Keep in mind that King lives in Maine, a lightly-populated state in the Northeastern corner of the 1950s. It is quite pleasant there with rugged coastlines, several trees, and rife with folksy free-thinkers; a man can legally marry another man, a moose (of any gender), or a decorative wall-hanging made from driftwood and pine cones. On the downside every inhabitant is required by law to play one of King’s radio stations (he has both kinds, classic rock and sports talk) at all times and must consume twice their body-weight in lobster each year. It is possible to become very tired of lobster in an amazingly short time. Maine is a land of many contrasts…
    …and lots of weird people.

  17. Jeff Holland says:

    Hey, that man and that decorative pine cone are in LOVE! Who are any of us to stand in their way?

  18. Hsiang says:

    @ holland: Wuv, twoo wuv. Ahyup! I love the fact that both of Maine’s Senators are female Republicans who often stand against neocon idiocy. Mine own great-great grandfather, Warren Chute, was Maine State legistlator (Dem.), Deputy Sheriff of Cumberland County, stagecoach driver on the Boston-Portland line, and something of an snake-oil salesman. Had a mustache the size of an Old Town canoe. Very odd, your average Mainer is. Folks in those parts joke that Stephen King isn’t all that interesting, his family just happened to find a typewriter.

  19. V.I.P. Referee says:

    I’m still not convinced that Braak has Entertainment Weekly coming to his place because of some coupons…

  20. Lindsay says:

    Entertainment Weekly? Really?

    Now I have a similar relationship with text, if it’s there, I’ll read it.

    Which is why I fought with Time Out NY for 3 months until they canceled my free subscription to their vapid fucking magazine. I couldn’t stand the dying brain cells.

    If anyone (especially Stephen King, who I suspect does it for shits and giggles) spends more than 10 minutes writing a column for Entertainment Weekly, I’d be very much surprised.

  21. braak says:

    Yeah, I don’t know why you’d think he was just doing it for shits and giggles. I mean, it’s not like it’s funny in any way. It actually usually seems pretty unpleasantly earnest.

  22. V.I.P. Referee says:

    If I was asked to do a column for Entertainment Weekly, I’m not sure I couldn’t find a way to make the best of it.

    “Ah, it’s not such a bad little magazine afterall; all it needed was a little love…” to which a choir of angel-voiced reality-TV stars, raising their cracked-out voices in tearjerking unison, would follow.

  23. braak says:

    I like to think that if I had a column in Entertainment Weekly, I might alternate between writing about my theories on stochastic aesthetics and making lists of terrifying diseases.

  24. Jeff Holland says:

    All day, I’ve come up with one or two weak, not-particularly-insightful comments, and deleted them because, well, who cares.

    But it’s the end of the day, and I have decided to compile them all!

    – For those of you who noticed a shift in tone/ideas/whatever midway through “The Stand,” I recall King mentioning in his memoir on writing (cleverly titled, “On Writing”), he actually did stop writing it in the middle, not knowing quite what he wanted to say or where he wanted it to go, and only came back to it after a long while of letting it sit. So that’s what you may have noticed. Which is not a good thing, and solidifies my general prejudice towards Very Thick Books.

    – (“On Writing,” by the way, is the only King book I’ve actually read most of – and only by skipping all the personal stuff in the middle, because I just wanted to learn about his process, not his goddamned youth growing up by the ol’ fishin’ hole in Whereverthefuck, USA.)

    – I, too, somehow ended up with a subscription to Entertainment Weekly, for reasons I can’t quite recall. It’s an amiable timewaster, and I won’t speak ill of it. Especially since my reason for canceling was it puts EVERYTHING up for free on its website, and I can’t imagine that’s a great business model. So VIP’s “sad Charlie Brown christmas tree” analogy may be pretty apt.

    – While it’s easy (and fun!) to make fun of Stephen King, I will admit that I was a bit pissed off that I didn’t read “On Writing” when I was a teenager – I could have avoided a lot of trial-and-error mistakes had I known King had already written them out, practically verbatim, in his memoir.

  25. Moff says:

    Y’know, I really think Stephen King is a pretty great writer. Oh, I see where there’s room to criticize, but lots of times (barring the sexism thing Katastic mentions, which I’m not in a position to deny the existence of, but which I can’t say is something that’s ever jumped out at me about him), the typical criticisms leveled at him seem kind of obtuse or straw-manny. Like, I think he’s just a guy who’s pretty good at telling stories, and I don’t think he purports to be much else. He’s maybe prone to self-indulgence sometimes, and his work might have fallen off a bit as he’s gotten older, but how many artists is that not true of?

    The Eyes of the Dragon is a very good book. The Long Walk is straight-up excellent. Carrie really is pretty great, and if he has subsequently disowned it a little, that’s pretty ridiculous. The Talisman was a delightful read. And the dude wrote The fucking Shawshank Redemption. The fucking Shawshank Redemption.

    Anyway, I know no one here is explicitly knocking his oeuvre, but I mean, geez, cut the guy some slack. No one else has ever written a shitty magazine column before?

  26. braak says:

    Hey, look: I am not knocking Stephen King as a writer. I think that he is a very good writer, a brilliant short story writer, he’s contributed a lot of good books to the world.

    And no, of course he isn’t the only person who’s written a shitty magazine column before. He’s just the one that happens to have written the shitty magazine column in the magazine that I happen to have read.

    Anyway, no matter how great you are, it’s still imperative that people tell you when you’re acting like a big dummy. I think, debatably, it’s more important under those circumstances.

  27. Moff says:

    @braak: I know. Mostly I was just thinking, if Stephen King happens to come here and reads this, he’s totally not inviting any of you poor saps to his next big champagne room party.

  28. braak says:

    Who knows? Maybe he’ll be so grateful that someone finally had the courage to be honest to him that he’ll hire me to just hang out with him and tell him when he’s being a dummy.

  29. Moff says:

    I’ll tell him you said that right before we both share a hearty chuckle and do a few more lines off some boobs.

  30. braak says:

    Hah! Everyone knows that there are no boobs in Maine. Just hairy lumberjack chests.

  31. katastic says:

    @ Moff: Touché.

    And I will grant you that The Shawshank Redemption is one of my favorite movies ever.

  32. V.I.P. Referee says:

    This reminds me of a situation involving my ex, his friends and Neil Gaiman in a bar; something about useful criticism, Neil Gaiman buying the drinks and appreciating being told what wasn’t working for readers and what was.

  33. dagocutey says:

    I have the same prob re: compulsion to read anything available. I also have a spelling fetish, so If SK’s a dummy, the editors of EW are vacuous bubbleheads. How does one become an editor for a nationally syndicated mag and misspell a word in the title of Stephen’s column? (and a few more times within the article?) It was a few weeks back, and the word was “pablum”, which EW spelled (and published, and distributed!) “pabulum”. My eyes, my EYES!!!!! And yet, I can’t keep my paws off of the the newest issue . . . it’s a sickness.

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