This isn’t a shocking admission on my part. Most people who know me, or have at least seen my movie collection, have seen an embarrassing array of guilty pleasures (yes, that’s Charlie’s Angels on blu-ray) but who among us doesn’t have a guilty pleasure? For some of us (okay… it’s me) it’s the high-school rom-com that perpetuates unrealistic ideals of beauty and high school life. For others it’s stoner movies like Harold & Kumar and Half-Baked. The point isn’t “what are our guilty pleasures?” After all, there’s as natural as a gerbil’s urge to eat her own young… okay, maybe that’s a bad example, but guilty pleasures are normal, believe me. The question is, “what do we do with them?”
Personally, I’ve always felt that the shame comes from hiding them. Yeah, I own Josie & the Pussycats starring the all-but-forgotten Rachel Leigh Cook and Ms. Tara “Bad Boob Job” Reid, what of it? It makes me happy. Now, I’m not saying I find it terribly intellectually stimulating… although one could make a case that the film serves as a scathing indictment of modern consumerism… sorry, that’s the film school talking. The point is, not everything we watch has to be “Best Picture” at the Oscars material. Hell, look at some of the stuff that even the Oscars pick. I mean, seriously? Marisa Tomei won an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny. Don’t get me wrong, fun movie, but it’s hardly a revolutionary achievement in filmmaking.
Maybe it’s the fact that I’m constantly surrounded by media scholars, whom I love, but the instinct to defend your guilty pleasures is such an unusual one to me. At what point did we stop accepting the reasoning of, “I watch it because it makes it me happy” and start analyzing every piece of content?
I’m not saying I’m any better. I look for cultural value in everything, even when it’s not there. Seriously, try to find value in things like Bones. It’s not there. It’s entertainment. The problem is, these products of the media do say something about the society that produces them. It speaks to our interest in the ever-violent world of crime. It says something about our fascination with a woman in a typically male-dominated world (or at least that is how it is portrayed).
So how do we reconcile these two areas? Between not taking our TV shows and movies too seriously but also recognizing that they aren’t as frivolous as they seem on the surface? This is the constant struggle in the world of media studies and unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as we’re any closer to finding that elusive “answer.” Mainly because it seems that there is none. But just remember, next time you’re watching your guilty pleasure, try to ignore the question of what does this television show or movie say about you, but don’t forget what media is always saying to you.