I began this morning as I begin lots of mornings, Googling "John Corbett" and looking at his Wikipedia page to remind myself of all the wonderful facts about his life and career. I also noticed, perhaps for the first time, that in his profile picture he was sporting a jaunty pair of sunglasses that I'm sure my mother owned at one time or another in her life. Because Wikipedia only allows public domain pictures with the most-relaxed Creative Commons licenses, it can make for a very limited selection for even the most famous celebrities' pages. But it's led to a wonderful sub-genre of internet nonsense: terrible, unflattering, or just plain confusing Wiki-imagery. For most public figures, this is the web page about them that people will look at the most, and this is the face they have to present to the world. Below, some of my personal favorites.
You know Jean Reno as the ice-cold French action star who featured in such films as The Professional, Mission: Impossible and Ronin. Here, he looks like a harried academic who just got off an 18-hour flight after attending a three-day conference on applied microsciences and was just told that the car service he arranged to pick him up forgot about the appointment.
Elijah Wood played jocular Hobbit Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings films, but off-screen he is much more of a pale, cave-dwelling Gollum type. It is unclear whether his Wikipedia picture is devoted to a non-emerging fashion trend that encourages people to inexplicably fasten their top buttons, to give their neck a "weakly strangled" look.
Perhaps you know Jeanne Tripplehorn from her exemplary work on HBO series Big Love, or maybe from her co-starring role in Basic Instinct. Or maybe you just remember that time her craning, disembodied head attended the Cannes Film Festival in 1992? That must have been the last time she was photographed in public.
NBA coach Stan Van Gundy is making headlines today as the Golden State Warriors and Detroit Pistons both seek to hire him as their new head coach. He's well-respected in the league for his tenures at the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, and also for that time in 2005 when he donned a child-sized bike safety bib and posed on a random street corner somewhere on Earth. Worth noting: this picture was taken in the middle of a satisfied sigh.
Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand was photographed leaving a polygamist compound in 2007 with a steely, depressed look on her face and has not been seen since. Please direct all inquiries and tips to your local police precinct.
"Come on now, David," I hear you saying. "Hasn't Kevin Federline suffered enough?" Clearly, Kevin Federline has suffered, but he also must have some unfinished business here on Earth, since he's still haunting it as a pale ghost clad in white sheets. Poor K-Fed. I forget how it is he died?
Perhaps it's too easy to pick on reality stars, but shouldn't Kris Jenner have slightly better control over her public image? There's a list of probably 20 to 30 people in the world who would actually want their upper arm to be the most prominent thing in a picture of them. Kris Jenner is not on this list.
Honestly, even considering the weird crop-job and the weird perspective making his outstretched hand look giant and hairy, Dan Aykroyd probably could have done worse. This is present-day vodka honcho and UFO truther Dan Aykroyd we're talking about.
On that blessed day when Jesse Ventura is elected President of the United States, the country will finally reach its full potential. Then, the internet's most important challenge will be to preserve this picture on Wikipedia. No official portrait with him standing in front of an American flag can be permitted. Ventura should mount a run for office based on this picture alone. Anyone who dares to challenge it can answer directly to him.