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Shia LaBeouf to Luis Suárez: Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting

Ellen E. Jones
Sunday 28 December 2014 01:00 GMT
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently (Getty Images)

We shouldn't admire them, and yet …. There's something about these 2014 headline-grabbers which intrigues. Their insouciance, their joie de vivre, their outrageousness or their originality makes the world, if not a little better, then at least a bit more interesting. Here are 2014's anti-heroes:

KFC Woman

Eating copious amounts of fried chicken wouldn't usually earn you hero status, but Tan Shen from Chengdu in China was different. Anyone who'd ever had a broken heart could sympathise when she reacted to a break-up by walking into a local KFC and staying there. For a week. "I just wanted some chicken wings," she told the assembled media. "But once I got in there... I decided I needed time to think."

Then one day, tired of both the media's glare and the taste of chicken, Tan Shen left KFC and boarded a train to her parents' house. There's been no update since, but I like to think of her sometimes, throwing herself into her work, hitting the bars at the weekends and generally moving on with life in fabulous Beyoncé stylee.

Shia LaBeouf

Until the end of 2013, Shia LaBeouf was best known as the star of Transformers. It probably didn't help that the first we knew of any wider artistic ambitions was via a plagiarism accusation. Since then, he's produced performance art which makes Joaquin Phoenix's bushy beard and James Franco's beat poetry look lazy. He quoted Eric Cantona's gnomic "seagulls" statement at the Berlin Film Festival and later arrived on the red carpet wearing a paper bag over his head emblazoned with the words "I am not famous anymore". Even if you wouldn't call that "art", there's something admirable about a man brave enough to look like a total wally – again and again.

Josie Cunningham

Mob hate was the fuel that powered celebrity in 2014, and while some wannabes rode that motor all the way to the top, others seemed in danger of getting dragged under the wheels. Tabloid bête noire Josie Cunningham is not a war-mongering dictator or a serial killer. She's just a 24-year-old aspiring glamour model with an uncanny knack for winding people up.

Cunningham first rose (fell?) to fame in 2013 as "the NHS boob job scrounger" – a headline that belied a childhood plagued by serious bullying and a genuine medical condition. This year she graduated to full-time press fixture via some really quite ingenious attention-grabbing wheezes, including announcing plans to abort her third pregnancy in order to appear on Big Brother – which didn't take place, but oh, the outrage!

Many court outrage, but Cunningham's distorted attempts to emulate the perfect woman, the perfect mother, are something else. Her press persona is the monster that the media's most misogynistic outlets have created – and what fun it is to watch her terrorise them.

Not-Matthew McConaughey

In the year that the "McConaissance" took hold, who didn't admire Texan actor Matthew McConaughey? His face was everywhere. Yet, the year truly belongs to Not-Matthew McConaughey, otherwise known as Rory Curtis, a 25-year-old barber from Redditch, Worcestershire, who was placed into an induced coma after a car accident. When Rory awoke, six days later, he believed he and McConaughey were one and the same: "I was in hospital thinking I can't wait to get out of here and back to filming movies." Note too, that this occurred in 2012, meaning Rory's prescient subconscious saw something in the star of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days way before anybody else did.

Luis Suárez

In this world supposedly run by grown-ups, it's difficult to get your head around the existence of a 27-year-old man, who earns £200,000 a week and sometimes gets so frustrated at work that he bites people. Like an over-tired toddler! Still, as Luis Suárez pointed out in his not particularly apologetic autobiography Crossing the Line: My Story, this wildness is also what makes him one of the best footballers in the world. "There is something about the way I play that is unconscious, for better or worse."

Elsa from 'Frozen'

Elsa from Frozen is a hero in the traditional sense for millions of small children. But for parents, Elsa is Satan incarnate with big blue eyes and a decapitated snowman for a boyfriend, who used her fiendishly intricate show-tune "Let It Go" to hypnotise their sweet offspring, turning them into dead-eyed, worshipful automatons. Then again, anyone who has been declared "part of the gay agenda to normalise homosexuality" by right-wing evangelicals can't be all bad.

Adnan Syed

If this year's cult podcast Serial was the noir crime fiction that some fans seem to think it is, then Adnan Syed, the handsome 33-year-old who may or may not be a murderer, would be a classic anti-hero. He's articulate, mysterious and likeable, yet impossible to ever fully trust. The fact is, however, that 17-year-old Hae Min Lee really was killed in 1999, her family still mourn her, and Syed really is serving life in prison on some pretty scant evidence. With results of a DNA test pertaining to the case expected at some point in 2015, ill-judged fan memes are likely to be circulating the internet for some time.


Paula Patton is the total babe you may remember from such films as Déjà Vu and Precious, but that's not that "Paula" we're talking about today. Paula is a 2014 album released by Robin Thicke in an excruciatingly embarrassing attempt to win back his estranged wife, Paula Patton. As an apology to his wife it failed, but as an accidental apology to feminism for the sexist lyrics and demeaning video of his hit single "Blurred Lines", it had merits. In June, a promotional Q&A on Twitter was hijacked and transformed into cathartic trolling session. Now everyone feels much better.

... And a Twixtmas Carol

What's to be done with these days between Christmas and New Year? In modern Britain, the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th days of Christmas no longer retain their significance and instead mostly feel like an anti-climatic dribble of time with no official name and no particular traditions. Perhaps that's exactly as it's supposed to be. These are days designated for letting time drag, because it goes so horribly fast for all the rest of the year.

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