By Frank Moher
Top 2 reasons that Top 10 lists exist:
- They’re an easy story for a journalist to bank during the holidays
- They make journalists feel really, really good about themselves
#1 is only a problem if the journo banks his story too early: say, a film critic putting out his Top 10 list before the Christmas Day releases have arrived. This critic at The Chattanooga Pulse even admits it’s too early to issue his Top 10 list — but that doesn’t stop him from doing it anyway. And while we’re on the subject: does anybody really need a Top 10 list from the film critic for The Chattanooga Pulse?
Which brings us to #2. Top 10 lists are largely an exercise in self-idolatry for those creating them. Journalists like nothing more than that feeling of being, to quote a certain movie character, “The King of the World” — the centre of the circle, the Secret Service guy carrying the football. This is especially true of young journalists, especially young critics, caught up in the first flush of having a forum for their views: you mean somebody actually cares what I think? Nobody does much care, of course, but the young critic likes to think otherwise. We speak from experience.
And nothing gives one that sense of oracular all-seeingness, all-knowingness than publishing a Ten Best list. It has nothing to do with identifying quality, and everything to do with identifying just how hip/ informed/ powerful the journalist is (or would like to be). Even better is publishing a Ten Worst list, which provides an opportunity to demonstrate just how much better his taste is than yours.
Nevertheless, we here at backofthebook.ca do not hold ourselves distant from this annual spectacle, and so herewith I’m proud to present our “Top 10 Top 10 Lists List.” In truth, as with that exercise in Chattanooga chi-chi, I’m publishing this sucker way too early, before the full range and snottiness of the year’s Top 10 lists is available. Unlike him, I’m writing for a web publication, so maybe I’ll update it as the year wends to a close.
Meantime, here are the strangest, most self-serving, or most useful of the Top 10 lists to be found so far. Yes, occasionally a Top 10 list can be useful. Still an exercise in self-congratulation for the twerp creating it, but useful nonetheless.
1. The Better Business Bureau of Louisville, Southern Indiana, and Western Kentucky’s Top Ten Scams of 2006. You mean those e-mails with hot stock tips aren’t from Merrill Lynch?
2. The Guardian’s Definitive Top 10 Albums of the Year. Not just the Top 10 — the definitive Top 10. To be fair (just for the hell of it), this is a compilation of various critics’ top 10 lists into one — but still, talk about overcompensating.
3. Celebrity Baby Blog’s Top Ten Celebrity Babies Born in 2006. Awwwww. Cute and rich.
4. JunkScience.com’s Top Ten Junk Science Moments for 2006. In the commentary we learn that carbon emissions are not a problem, DDT is good after all, and stem cell research is one big racket. Hm. We’d like to know who’s funding this one.
5. iFilm’s Worst Trailers of 2006. Okay, so maybe the trailer for Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties wasn’t that good. But did you see the movie?
6. The Vietnamese Ministry of Culture and Information’s list of Vietnam’s 10 Most Significant Cultural Events in 2006. Our favourite: “Announcing the Politburo’s Conclusion No. 41 dated October 11, 2006, Prime Minister’s Directive 37/2006/CT-TTg dated November 20, 2006 on a number of solutions to strengthen the leadership and management of the press, creating condition to improve the efficiency of directing and managing the press.” Yeah. Remember that? Good times, good times.
7. The Toronto International Film Festival’s Top Ten Canadian Films of 2006. No, seen any of these either.
8. Dose.ca’s Top 10 Hottest Canuck Actors. Notably, none of them were in any of TIFF’s Top Ten Canadian Films of 2006.
9. National Geographic News’ Top Ten Photos of 2006. Between “Alien Appears in Duck X-Ray?” and “Giant Jellyfish Invade Japan,” we have a feeling National Geographic is starting to confuse itself with World Weekly News.
10. Project Censored’s Top 25 Censored Stories of 2006. All right, so it’s a “Top 25” list, but this is probably the only one that’s actually necessary. We just don’t know how they missed that “Alien Appears in Duck X-Ray” story.