The Pop of King

Pet Peeves of 2004

The horror writer discusses what has annoyed about pop culture this year

50 Cent | TIME TO CHANGE 50 Cent has caused many-many-many-many headaches for King
Image credit: 50 Cent: Jim Cooper/AP
TIME TO CHANGE 50 Cent has caused many-many-many-many headaches for King

Stephen King on his pet peeves for the year

Pop culture is full of pleasures, but it also has its share of annoyances; for every pretty, talented Elisha Cuthbert there is a Paris Hilton (and her little dog, too). We soldier on bravely in spite of this, but sometimes it helps to unbutton that stiff upper lip and verbalize. In that spirit, I offer the First Annual Pet Peeves Column in the selfless hope that by exposing my own annoyances (in all their triviality), I may encourage you to speak of your own and thus lighten your psychic load.

''I'm George W. Bush/John Kerry and I approved this message'' Really? Did you think I somehow got the idea Paula Poundstone approved it? Annoyance level: minor headache.

Britney Spears She was cute and kind of fun, but now always seems to have the look of a woman who's just spotted something nasty in her closet, running around inside one of her shoes. Annoyance level: minor headache.

TV talking heads who wanted Martha Stewart to do hard time Oh, please, enough is enough. It's time to let this go. If you guys want to talk about hard time, let's talk about Ken Lay of Enron. Annoyance level: minor headache.

''Many Men (Wish Death)'' by 50 Cent I liked Get Rich or Die Tryin' (I was ''down'' with it, as us hepcat-pushing-60 white dudes like to say), but ''Many Men'' is one of those insidious, totally annoying tracks that lodges in your brain and then rots there. I found myself waking up in the middle of the night and muttering ''Many-many-many-many men...wish death 'pon me.'' I thought ''Tainted Love'' by Soft Cell was bad; this is worse. Annoyance level: minor headache (daytime), moderate headache (middle of the night).

High-concept TV ads Some, like the Geico ads (''Mr. Jiggy Fly, I have good news''), are very amusing. Others are just awful. The current front-runners in the awful category are the McDonald's ads for Chicken Selects and the Ditech ads featuring the portly loan officer. In the Mickey D chicken ads, a hollow-eyed young man who looks as if he might be at the end of a three-week coke run tells a bunch of people who aren't even there to ''put the chicken down and step slowly away from the deliciousness.'' In the Ditech.com ads, the portly loan officer always seems about to produce a high-powered rifle and go on a shooting spree and finishes with the familiar cry of existential agony: ''Lost another one to Ditech!'' Annoyance level: moderate headache (paranoid loan officer); moderate to severe headache (paranoid chicken salesman).

Dr. Phil He knows everything, which renders him extremely annoying. He never fails to make me want to dance around the television in my underwear, sticking out my tongue, making arm farts, and yelling ''Phil the pill took a spill, slid on his fanny down the hill!'' Plus other childish things. Annoyance level: moderate to severe headache (due to feelings of inferiority).

The Donald Out-greed some of the other contestants on The Apprentice, and you get to tour his vilely overdecorated apartment. Out-greed them all, and you get...what? To check out that hideous comb-over on a daily basis? The mind quails. One can avoid the TV show, but lately the Donald's face is everywhere, and the hideous comb-over always floats above it. Annoyance level: moderate to severe (due to unavoidable comb-over).

Classic-rock FM stations I am just so sick of this crap. Never mind that they're strangling rock & roll in their steadfast refusal to play anything new by established artists (how many cuts from The Rising did you hear on the classic-rock stations programmed into your car radio?); never mind that they're killing it by their steadfast refusal to introduce contemporary artists like James McMurtry or Jack Ingram to a larger audience. Even forget the fact that you can't hear cuts from a great successful album like Green Day's American Idiot. How about the fact that you can only listen to ''Won't Get Fooled Again'' or ''Stairway to Heaven'' so many times without BLOWING YOUR LUNCH? These fools are turning what used to be a refreshing river into a stagnant swamp, and why? So they can sell more Chicken Selects, of course. Put the music down and step slowly away from the putridity. Annoyance level: severe to migraine.

Ads before theatrical movies I pay $10 to see The Forgotten, and even before I get a preview, I have to sit through an ad for the Xbox videogame system — how insanely capitalistic is that? I think that the trend toward putting ads before films has grown slowly in America (it's common in Europe) because moviegoers see the local theater as a last refuge from the TV hucksters, and the chain owners have sensed that. But this is America, amigo, and if there's a buck to be made, someone out there is gonna try to make it. Now listen — I think the Fanta girls are as cute as bunnies, but I still hate having to look at them before the movie comes on, I just HATE IT, and the next time they start singing ''You look hot in all that plaster/Drink some Fanta! Faster! Faster!'' I wish every moviegoer in America would stand up in the dark and shout, ''TURN THAT S--- OFF! TURN IT OFF! THAT ISN'T WHAT I PAID FOR! TURN IT OFF RIGHT NOW!'' Annoyance level: head-splitting migraine. There. I got that off my chest and I'm glad. Over to you.

What ticks you off? Post your response below.

Originally posted Oct 29, 2004 Published in issue #790 Oct 29, 2004 Order article reprints