The A.V. Club staff has had an interesting e-mail conversation today, sparked by a reader question that we'll be answering this Friday: What pop culture figure gets a lifetime pass? Who will you always respect, no matter how far they fall?
I won't reveal any of our answers. But John Travolta came up as an example of someone for whom an argument might be made, although it would be a shaky one.
Back and forth we went, trying to decide if Travolta had enough greatness in his career to earn a pass. The negatives immediately came to mind: Look Who's Talking (the trilogy!), Battlefield Earth. And many more. But it's amazing how easy it was to use those disasters to dismiss some of the really solid -- even transcendent -- work found in his filmography. Pulp Fiction was generally held to be unassailable. But what about Saturday Night Fever (a movie I just showed to my film class)? Get Shorty, a wonderful comic performance? Blow Out, one of the cleverest of the De Palma pastiches? Heck, even if you hate Grease and Michael, try to separate Travolta's performance from the movie around it.
It's always interesting to get the staff together, because there is a surprising diversity of opinions on what we all know to be true. Anyone who suggests that movie X or album Y is obvious schlock -- and, more importantly, assumes that everyone in the conversation is going to agree -- soon finds themselves embroiled in an argument they didn't expect to be having.
The question made me realize, though, just how soft a touch I am. Or maybe it's loyalty. If a filmmaker, actor, musician, writer, or artist does work I love, it's very difficult for them to lose me completely. I'll wait forever for a return to form -- for the genius that I once saw, and can't quite believe is gone forever, to reappear.