Is It Time to Bring Back the Guilty or Shameful Pleasure?

Blowhard, Esq. writes:


Over at BoingBoing Mark Dery suggests that it’s time to get back in touch with our guilt and shame when it comes to certain things:

Guilty pleasures are all about cognitive dissonance. When I say Thomas Harris novels like Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon are one of my guilty pleasures, it’s not because I’m a holdover from a bygone era when People Like Us believed “in some kind of universal taste” or because I’m a closet snob who’s secretly “most comfortable in the elite precincts of high art”; it’s because I’m genuinely ambivalent about Harris. I want to nuance my affection, locate it somewhere on the grayscale spectrum between the black-or-white binaries of love and loathing.

My knee-jerk reaction upon hearing the phrase “guilty pleasure” is to be one of those people who says, “No no, one shouldn’t feel guilt about any pleasure,” but Dery is making me reassess my position because I think contemporary fanboy culture could use a healthy dose of ambivalence and cognitive dissonance.

As Fabrizio has observed in conversations I’ve had with him, and as Kevin Smith also points out in his interview with Bret Easton Ellis, is dispiriting how many fanboys turn art into a proxy for sports or politics. A movie or album is either The Greatest Thing Ever or a Piece of Shit. There’s no in-between — it’s like they’re rooting for a favorite presidential candidate or against a hated rival team. Sure, I get the appeal of loyal tribalism and don’t at all dismiss it, but isn’t one of the great things about art the fact that it defies such easy on-or-off categorization? You’d think so but I come across so many people today for whom nuance just doesn’t compute. Movie critic Matt Zoller Seitz has complained about the same thing. He once tweeted: <<[Banjo twang] “Gather ’round, y’all! I’m a-gonna tell ya a story ’bout a thing people used to know how to read: a ‘mixed review.'”>>


About Blowhard, Esq.

Amateur, dilettante, wannabe.
This entry was posted in Books Publishing and Writing, Movies and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Is It Time to Bring Back the Guilty or Shameful Pleasure?

  1. Fenster says:

    I would no more eschew nuance than I would abjure sesquipedalianism! After all, it takes only one to make an argument.


  2. lloydville says:

    As I drift into my twilight years I find I’m able to take greater and greater pleasure in movies that aren’t all that good overall, or dreadfully flawed in some way, but have one or two amazing passages that are uniquely great. In my youth I was looking for masterpieces — I look more now for random treasures wherever I can find them. I see this in my love for the late films of John Ford, like “Donovan’s Reef” or “Two Rode Together” or “Cheyenne Autumn”, which have serious problems as whole works but passages as wonderful as anything in movies. I think artists come to this attitude, too, as they get old — Ford probably made those movies just for the great passages that interested him and didn’t care all that much about the rest of the movie. You see this in many of Shakespeare’s late plays, the nutty Romances in which he seemed to lose interest in the plausibility and coherence of the plot and concentrated on the images and poetry that fired his imagination and are a good as anything he ever wrote.

    Liked by 1 person

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