"I'll smack you in the mouth, I'm Neil Diamond!"
August 28, 2015 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Is there a particular phrase or word to describe the phenomenon of people who are famous for innocuous reasons being extremely unpleasant human beings?

I've talked about this with some friends, and every once in a while a particularly heinous example appears in the news, but none of us are aware of any specific shorthand descriptor for it. The latest, of course, being the horrific story of Jared from Subway. He is a man with some degree of fame gained from eating a particular kind of sandwich many times and losing a bunch of weight, and also appears to be a complete monster.

In addition to sandwich pitchmen, beloved comedians, and "Painters of Light," there are many apocryphal stories of musicians who make bland, unthreatening music being entitled and cruel towards others. It seems like this sort of thing happens often enough that there would be a word or phrase for it, but as far as I've been able to tell there isn't.

(NOTE: The title of this post comes not from a real story about Neil Diamond, but from a Will Ferrell Saturday Night Live skit in which he plays on this concept as Neil Diamond, saying a bunch of horrible stuff and threatening people.)
posted by tomorrowromance to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think it's a case of cognitive dissonance, the difference between the apparently bland exterior/public persona of someone, and the awful things they have actually said and done.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:13 PM on August 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've always called this popwashing. I honestly don't know if that's something I read or heard somewhere or something I just made up. Basically: someone is so popular and beloved their various shortcomings and scandals get ignored/glossed over until finally the dam breaks. (Or doesn't, cf. Elvis, the super popular megastar racist who slept with young teenage girls.)
posted by phunniemee at 12:28 PM on August 28, 2015 [7 favorites]

Mommie Dearest syndrome?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:36 PM on August 28, 2015

posted by OHenryPacey at 12:51 PM on August 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

posted by Confess, Fletch at 12:53 PM on August 28, 2015

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:55 PM on August 28, 2015

It's also a bit of an example of Sayre's Law. Feelings are intense because the stakes are so small.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:57 PM on August 28, 2015

Isn't that the classic "wolf in sheep's clothing"? At least in the Cosby and Jared examples.
posted by Francies at 12:59 PM on August 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Feet of clay.
posted by The Tensor at 1:03 PM on August 28, 2015 [11 favorites]

something something Fogerty?
posted by blue t-shirt at 1:19 PM on August 28, 2015 [5 favorites]

This seems related to the Depraved Kid's Show Host trope.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 1:21 PM on August 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not exactly a term, but it has to do with confirmation bias- because there's such a conflict between their image and their behavior, the villainy of the person with the "clean" image sticks out in memory more than that of someone we expected to be awful anyway. (And of course, untrue urban myths tend to attach to people like this, like the "Elvis was racist" stuff.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:27 PM on August 28, 2015

Everybody click the Fogarty link. You will be glad you did for the rest of your life.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:21 AM on August 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

Is it that they become divas because they are used to everything everything being stage-managed perfectly for them, and when something goes awry, they scream like a spoilt child?

Check out Wikipedia's entry on "Prima Donna" - the contemporary meaning of the word has taken on this negative connotation of a vain, undisciplined, egotistical, obnoxious or temperamental person...

Either that or they're just an average person who has entered into stardom without understanding that fame might have negative psychological effects, and upon finding they have no right to public life without being harassed (read: asked for signatures to being the victim of verbal abuse) get fed up and lash out verbally or physically like many of us would when we were pushed to out limit.

Fogerty seemed to have a little of the Diva complex - was used to being treated well, and expected it. Now the person charged with holding the seats - iconoclastic schadenfreude?
posted by guy72277 at 5:42 AM on September 7, 2015

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