Monday, March 15, 2010

No guilt!


I don't have "guilty pleasure" movies.

Because I like all kinds of off the wall and trashy movies, people assume I have to with some regularity.

I don't have a stock answer.

Well, I do. It's that I don't feel guilty for experiencing pleasure. That usually leads to an eye-rolling "You know what I mean!" response, since our society so wholly embracing the basic premise of this. But I'm not sure I do... exactly.

I mean, it has something to do with enjoying movies like Ed Wood movies or Troll 2, right? Yeah, I enjoy those. Not as a habit, but on occasion.

I also admit having a more complicated relationship with Mystery Science Theater 3000 than merely the trash movie fan offense at the fact of it or the movie geek's frustration at people taking it as legitimate or valid criticism and know the movie's bad because it's gotten the MST3K treatment and they "saw" it.

Just trust me, you could that to Citizen Kane, to reach for the tritest example, and most people who saw it like that first would assume it's terrible. It's a trick.

And kind of like a magic trick, a reasonable person should be aware that it's a trick even if you don't bother learning it or how it works. You can enjoy the trick for the art of it and preserve the illusion for yourself, but you shouldn't assume Joel or Mike "proved" a movie is bad any more than you should believe the guy at your kid's birthday party made a rabbit appear from nothingness inside his hat. That makes you a fool.

But then my opinion of what defines "bad" is different than a lot of people's, too.

But then a lot of people's opinion of what defines "bad" is just goddamn wrong as all Hell.

No, don't give me that damn lecture on people having opinions. I mean, most people's opinion of what they think is bad is wrong as all Hell.

If you've ever complained that you didn't like some movie because it wasn't "realistic" and then praise, I don't know, 300 or, say, Fantasia means that you were just goddamn wrong about why you didn't like the first movie.

I've said I like the name "Best Worst", as in Best Worst Movie, best of what I've heard for this kind of ironic viewing, at least of the terms I've heard.

Partly that's my critical mind that notes that the title acknowledges there's something right (or at least rightish) about the rare "bad" movie that works as it's own bizarre kind of ironic treat. Most bad movies are just fucking boring.

But most I'm actually offended by the idea that I would or should feel guilty for taking pleasure from something as simple as a movie (or a song or TV show).

Fuck you for suggesting I should be!

Seriously. I don't mean this because I'm making some point about the direct logic of the words and their literal correctness or some other pedantic grounds. I find the term morally repugnant. I won't stand for it.

Sometimes I've considered making up a stock answer that annoys people less.

"Just think of a movie that you enjoy with some degree of irony and stick with it. Have a stock answer."

But I don't want to have a stock answer to that any more than I want a stock social answer to what my favorite "nigger joke" is. The answer's the same, "Fuck you for asking!"

I don't mean to be a spoilsport. I like to play along with everyone. I'm willing to play along. I'm just not going to lie, even by implication, about my opinions to suit the kind of disturbing Puritanical notions that other people allow to thrive in their own mind and life.

And that's not even getting into the fact that if I do try to play with more than two people, one dipshit invariably says something like genuinely brilliant like RoboCop, in that case usually because they're too dumb or self-delusional to catch that all of the irony is carefully placed there by the moviemakers and not because they are better or smarter than the movie.

Thanks to Tenebrous Kate, whose excellent Ms. 45 review contains this statement, "as a culture, it's time to banish the term 'Guilty Pleasure' and own the fact that sometimes, we get a thrill out of watching grotesque things."

Obviously I agree and I've been meaning to write this all done for a long time and I'm glad I finally just went ahead and put it all down.

6 comments:

bill r. said...

Okay, but what IS your favorite guilty pleasure movie? Mine is X - THE MAN WITH X-RAY EYES!

Roderick Heath said...

I know exactly what you mean, Neil. When the phrase "guilty pleasure" first turned up, it denoted films that we love very much in spite of our better artistic perspectives, but there was also an aspect also of guilt inspired by the fact that the film also encapsulated questionable values, too: films in short we know we shouldn't love because they appeal to something retrograde in us, at least something that generates actual GUILT rather than mere ironic appreciation in spite of say, low budget necessitating high invention, or a film designed as pure brainless entertainment being enjoyed as such. Since then it's been redesignated to encapsulate the broader concept of traditional cult movie, where anything that's not especially expensive and relies on invention, or anything designed as pure entertainment, can then become a guilty pleasure.

Neil Sarver said...

Bill, good choice!

Rod, I totally get that kind of guilt. Like DEATH WISH! My recollection is that it's fairly unapologetic and unambiguous in supporting Kersey's actions, which I am not.

(Forgive me DEATH WISH fans if I'm remembering correctly. I am actually considering doing a marathon of the first three one of these days and will report back on my more up-to-date thoughts.)

But, yeah, it's come to be part of a whole "I'm smarter than these moviemakers" mentality that I'm not down with. Like, sticking to the example, I'm not sure I'm willing to jump out and say I'm smarter than Michael Winner. I agree with my much greyer moral stance on vigilantism and not his seemingly more black and white stance, but not necessarily because I'm smarter.

And, yes, once people's answers started to be filled with movies that were intentionally ironic and/or smart but struggling with a low budget and/or working from a non-mainstream point of view and/or attempting to try new things with the medium, then the reasons for people's guilt - blatant and unrepentant conformism - became more offensive and something I'd feel guiltier for than enjoying any of those movies... including the ones I do think are crappy!

Neil Sarver said...

I also forgot to touch on the "pure entertainment". I think this one is actually fairly interesting, as it's become a weird - and inappropriate - dividing line in movie fandom.

Suffice to say, I don't think anyone's movie diet should consist entirely of candy bars, but I'm the last to suggest that one shouldn't enjoy one when they have one. Hell, especially when you find one of those really good organic dark chocolate ones with maybe some really good toffee in it and... Well, this metaphor is becoming ridiculous...

On the other hand are the people who act like I expected something other than "pure entertainment" from something like Transformers and my complaints are because it wasn't as good as Bergman would've done if he'd made a movie about giant robots kicking each others asses.

(Oh, crap! You know how much I'd pay to see that movie!)

Greg said...

Here's what I want to say: You're line about MST3K is perfect. It can be done with Citizen Kane and work. You could ridicule it and any movie endlessly. It is easier with a bad movie, but I can make jokes about The Godfather while I'm watching it too.

And that's what bugged me about the choice of This Island Earth for their theatrical release. I love This Island Earth. It's a terrific little interplanetary sci-fi comic book. By giving it the MST3K treatment many people who'd never seen it probably walked away thinking it was on the same level as Manos: The Hands of Fate or something, and it's not. That kind of bugged me but I guess that says more about the fans than the show. But again, your observation that it's just a trick and can work with anything is dead on.

Neil Sarver said...

I agree about This Island Earth, it always bothered me, too. What I figured out was that it looks good up on a big screen which justifies having an audience pay $10 to see it on a big screen. I suspect there's another "bad" choice that would've worked as well - or close enough - but I don't have an obvious nominee off the top of my head.

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