Thursday, November 09, 2006

Guilty Pleasures

My husband isn’t much of a sports fan: on the rare occasion when we turn on a game (the Superbowl, the Stanley Cup finals), it’s usually at my instigation rather than his. Part of the reason for that, I think, is that hubby is temperamentally unsuited to the role of a fan. Once, when we were dating, we attended a Buffalo Bills game. For the first hour or so, a good time was had by all: sure, we were huddled miserably in the snow, but the maniacal cheering of the thousands of red-and-blue-clad fans kept us warm. Then, right about the time hubby’s beer-buzz wore off, the Bills scored a touchdown putting them up by twenty points. From then on, hubby’s expression became increasingly dour as he simmered with disgust at the gloating Bills fans whose cheering was unabated by the lopsided score in their team’s favour.

"Pissing on the parade," is the expression his ex-girlfriend reportedly used to describe his habitual need to moderate the excessive enthusiasm of others. With his innate appreciation for the virtues of balance and moderation, he is uncomfortable on a bandwagon: the more rabid the behaviour of those around him, the stronger his impulse to inject a healthy dose of negativity.

This is not a trait I share, of course: as I’ve admitted before, I never saw a bandwagon I didn’t like. I love to get caught up in a crowd, relishing that moment when critical detachment is lost in a tide of shared emotion. It doesn’t matter whether the hero-worship is directed at Bono as he belts out the opening lines of "Sunday, Bloody Sunday," or at Joe Sakic as he angles the puck into the uppermost corner of the net: I thoroughly enjoy the cult-like experience of losing myself in that temporarily forged group identity. Back in ’85, I was one of those people who thought that doing the wave was the coolest thing ever.

As resistant as I am sometimes to hubby’s rebellion against the coercive forces of group-think, I do share some of his rebellious instincts when it comes to the things I’m not supposed to like. Perhaps because I’ve spent so much of my life in an academic environment, I take a peculiar pleasure in embracing the low-brow, the despised, the mediocre. As a Masters student, I wrote essays comparing Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale to the Harlequin "American Romance" series; likewise, my M.A. thesis was a passionate defence of sentimentality in which I suggested that our cultural contempt for the "tear-jerker" genre arises from a misogynist distaste for fluidity. (There was a perverse pleasure for me, I think, in co-opting French feminism for the purpose of celebrating L.M. Montgomery Rilla of Ingleside, an unabashedly sentimental novel that is the fictional equivalent of John McCrae’s "In Flanders Fields" – another popular icon that earns nothing but scorn in academic circles.)

I’m tempted to psychoanalyze the sources of this impulse to affiliate myself with low-status forms of expression. I teach Children’s Literature. I use references to The Bachelor to illustrate my lectures on Paradise Lost. Is this habit my long-term reaction to those years of high-school persecution for being too smart? Is it, like so much else in my personality, a result of my deep desire to be liked by everyone? (It may be relevant to note here that when asked to come up with something positive about me, the members of my church small-group identified "uses big words" and "isn’t scary" as my top two positive attributes.) Or are my low-brow tastes evidence instead of a peculiarly Canadian dislike of anything uppity or pretentious – a fundamental distrust of status and success?

All those explanations might hold a grain of truth, but they obscure the fact that many of the best things in life are those guilty pleasures that normal people indulge in secretly while I trumpet my enjoyment of them to my stunned undergraduates. If I had ever managed to become more of an intellectual snob, it might have been good for my career, but then I would have missed out on these gems:

  • Ian’s proposal to Meredith at the end of season 2 of The Bachelorette
  • Nick’s Kind of Woman (my all-time favourite Harlequin, in which two people who are deeply and fundamentally unsuited to one another finally admit that they’re in love and get married – oh, wait, all the best Harlequins are about that)
  • mommy-blogging
  • the Outback steakhouse’s Bloomin’ Onion
  • the oh-so-1990s Country Traditions calendar hanging in my kitchen
  • that karaoke night in 1999 when hubby sang "Friday, I’m in Love"
  • many a breakfast at the Cracker Barrel restaurant (not so low-brow, perhaps, until you consider that I’m willing to drive two hours for the privilege)
  • jumping out on the dance floor at the opening bars of "Karma Chameleon" or "Come on Eileen" so that I can do the moves (invented by Madonna) that I first learned at my grade-seven lunch-hour dances
  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (or, better, A Night at the Roxbury)

Okay, so that list kind of expanded from its original purpose to include not only the low-brow but also the trashy, nerdy, and tragically unfashionable. So confess! What are your guilty pleasures?


Julie Pippert said...

First, Harlequin and Atwood? Help a sister out with more detail.

Second, guilty pleasures? How much time and space do you have?

I like chick lit and chick flicks. In fact I like any romance or deliberate sentimentality. But not deliberate angst. Spare me any white oleanders.

I like flavorful food, especially of the dessert variety.

I care about Dancing with the Stars, and all the people on it. How is Ashley Del Grosso doing? And seriously, six sisters, all named A-something? All of whom are great dancers? And adorable? Wow. Kudos to the parents.

I eat ice cream out of the container.

I let myself go Walter Mitty sometimes---in my mind of course. Although the older I get the less it happens.

I get up on a high horse and a soapbox upon occasion.

It surprises--perhaps even shocks---people that my favorite movie is Clueless. Which I find very ironic. It seems very logical.

I like teen shows. The first DeGrassi came on when I was hmmm well older than the target audience. I watched it. And if I catch wind of a reprisal, like a "where they are now" show? I'll watch it.

I even like some kid shows. But not Angelina. God help me, not Angelina.

And that's just the tip of the tip of the ice berg.

nomotherearth said...

I have so many guilty pleasures, that I'm starting to think they're not just guilty pleasures, but rather that I just have low-brow taste in general. It mostly runs to film and tv:
1. America's Next Top Model
2. Legally Blonde, Clueless, basically any movie that can be quantified as "teen drama" or a "makeover/rags to riches" flick
3. Any movie about dancing, up to and including rollerdance like "Roll Bounce", no matter how badly acted. I haven't seen "Honey" yet, but I want to..
4. Swiss Chalet quarter chicken white with fries
5. Celebrity gossip, esp. when it pertains to celebrity babies
6. Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Battlestar (in my defense, these are only low-brow choices to those who haven't watched them, and don't understand how cool they are, but I'm looked down upon all the same)

The list goes on and on. Have you lost respect for me yet?

Becky said...

To add to nomotherearth's list, I am a die-hard Babylon 5 fan. Loved it. Have all the DVDs. Still love it. Unlike ST:tNG, B5 was not "cool", unless you watched it.

And (sigh!) I miss the quarter chicken dinner with fries. O my sweet Chalet Sauce, I miss you!

And recently for me, it was watching Project Runway. I got fully sucked in. And I couldn't stand Laura or Kayne.

cinnamon gurl said...

Dirty Dancing, Havana Nights (Dirty Dancing 2), other bad dance movies...

Fiona Walker, Jilly Cooper and other British chicklit... it's pretty much the only fiction I read anymore... I just can't get into the good stuff anymore.

And I think it's great you use so many pop culture references in your courses. It's important to demonstrate that critical analysis isn't just for the canon...

Ooh, I just read nomo's comment... I must check out Roll Bounce!

Beck said...

Low-brow? Moi? Oui.
1. Kraft Dinner with hot dogs in it.
2. The Ghost Whisperer
3. My husband's beer sweatshirt
4. Trucks
5. Beer
6. Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy
7. Women's Day Magazine.
8. The poetry of Coventry Patmore.
9. Putting up framed pictures of my kids all over the house
10. Dancing With The Stars
11. Living in a small redneck backwater town, quite happily.

It occurs to me that I'm less a smart person with some comically low-brow tastes than a low-brow person who happens to be bright. Oh, the shame.

Julie Pippert said...

Nomotherearth...LOL we sure did hit a coincidence there LOL.

Cinnamongurl...have you hit Tart City yet? It's Tart Noir central. I am a huge Lauren Henderson fan, and then found Sparkle Hayter (sheer genius) and Katy Munger. if you haven't been. If you have. Hola sister!

bubandpie said...

Oooh, these are such good supper ideas... Should I make hotdogs and macaroni & cheese, or just order Swiss Chalet?

Kristen said...

The one that immediately comes to mind and most shames me is...oh god... top 40 music.

Sigh. I know.

It's just so predictable and rhythmic. And sometimes I need that, damn it.

Becky said...

oh oh... right up there with KD and hotdogs: weiners and beans. :) I make it for myself when hubby is working. (he's anti-beans.)

Terri B. said...

What a great topic!

Let's see:

I'm with nomotherearth and love Battlestar Galactica, Buffy, Firefly. I'd add to that Dr. Who. I also love B movies. Particularly liked watching B movies on MST3K.

NASCAR races.

Whenever I'm near a Cracker Barrel, I must stop in to eat and look around the "country store" with the millions of little things. We don't have a Cracker Barrel where I live, so I only get this chance after driving 6 hours over to Phoenix.

I actually have some Ty Beanies. Only the really "cool" ones though, like the Beaver and the Fox.

DiGiorno frozen pizza. I don't even know if it is considered low brow. I just like it.

So who says you can't work in academia and enjoy low brow? I've done it for years. Of course, I'm perfectly content to imagine that I fit it :-)

Terri B. said...

I don't think I "fit it" so much as I "imagine I fit in."

Christina said...

Oh, I have a lot of guilty pleasures.

1. Wife Swap, American Idol, and Supernanny
2. Singing Mmmm, Bop! at the top of my lungs when it comes on the radio. (even though I don't know the words)
3. Reading trashy magazines like Glamour and Cosmo
4. Sailor Moon (the subtitled version)

and especially...

5. Bollywood movies - I LOVE these and can't get enough of them!!

Em said...

Chick lit - and I re-read my favorites.

Having Grey's Anatomy, Pride & Prejudice, North & South etc. on DVD so I can watch it over and over again.

I'm a romantic (what more can I say?!)

Jill said...

Who you callin' low brow?

Mommy blogging and the movie Clueless are neither low brow nor guilty in my book. Here's what is:

-Celebrity gossip
-Pickle-on-a-Stick at the state fair
-Sex-in-the-City reruns with the swear words dubbed out.
-The Bee-Gees
-Eating Ben & Jerry's Phish Food when I should be on my Stairmaster.

Love em' all.

penelopeto said...

people magazine!
the movie bring it on!
rickert's red!
manchu wok!
and my guiltiest pleasure...

lord of the dance (but, shhh - please don't tell anyone)

Virtualsprite said...

Oh, such wonderful guilty pleasures!

Chocolate frosting on graham crackers

"Bodice-ripper" historical romances

Friends (the show)

Bobita said...

Love this post! My guilty pleasures: Ricky Martin and Dumb and Dumber. Oh, and I once used the movie The Matrix to explain Chaos Theory in a presentation to my graduate cohort. Heh.

Mad Hatter said...

I have no high brow joys. I guess this means my entire life is one long guilty pleasure. You name it, I love it (except Love You Forever as was recently established): country music (yup); John Denver (yup); teen romantic comedies (yup. Heck I saw Can't Buy Me Love in the theatre--not rental--when I was in my 20's); American and Canadian Idol. Honey, I am bona fide white aglo saxon trash. "How come the only 8 track in my car is Johhny Cash?" Shit, Fred Eaglesmith references aside I actually remember having a Dr. Hook 8 track. Yes indeedy, I was born into a life of pleasure with scarcely a thought given to guilt.

Gwen said...

Ian and Meredith? Loved it!

I don't feel particularly guilty about any of my pleasures, but I suppose they could be called low brow:

1) Donuts (I hear in Canada they have Tim Horton's; are they good?)

2) Bologna and American cheese sandwiches with chips. In the sandwich.

3) So You Think You Can Dance? Looove that show; loved Cat.

4) Schlocky martial arts movies; they can't be too badly dubbed for me; I love them all.

5) US Weekly, although my friends who are buddies with the editor (Janice Lin?) claim it's the best of the bad; but how can you tell?

The Bee Gees? That made me laugh out loud. I know all the lyrics to every Barry Manilow song .... NOT that I would ever listen to him anymore, or sing along or anything like that. Oh no.

Veronica Mitchell said...

Demolition derbies.

Barbershop quartets.

British village mysteries (though I draw the line if the crimes are solved by the kittens of librarian caterers).

Frito pie.

Not-so-Sage Wisdom said...

The Gilmore Girls. Now, before you say, "That doesn't sound that bad!" you must realise that... we don't have a TV! Joe and I have spent weeks watching 4 hours a night, sitting down with the rented DVD in our laptop. And I have a thesis to write! Yikes! current friends still laugh at my expense because of my admission that when I was in University, I used to watch (ugh) Temptation Island. Remember that?! Reality TV at it's worst, and I couldn't look away!

Speaking of children's lit, have you read the "Alice, I think." series? I'm obsessed, and not just 'cause Smithers, BC is my home away from home.

I agree with Cinnanom Gurl, I would have had so much respect for a prof who brought contemporary cultural references into the classroom (although, admittedly, it would be a lot more difficult in a biology class).

Mamalooper said...

Hmmm...guilty lowbrow/nerdy pleasures....

These aren't in any particular order, just as they come to my foggy mommy brain.

- Felicity on dvd. Wanted to be her. Big time. Even though I am so not the demographic for that show!

- Elizabeth George and Minette Walters mysteries

- In Style and Glamour and Vanity Fair and O mags

- Roseanne reruns (my sister's life!)

- Ask This Old House

- Old Dutch ripple chips

- Second Cup coffee

- black romantic comedies like Soul Food

- Czech movies

- anything with Adam Sandler in it

That's enough for now!

Andrea said...

None to share, sadly. Except scrapbooking. Is that plebian enough? My normal interests aren't so much 'lowbrow' or 'highbrow' as 'just plain weird.'

But I do fondly remember Rilla. Still have the ending memorized: "'Yeth,' she said."

Have you ever read U le Guin? This essay reminds me a bit of one she wrote describing why she chose to write YA and science fiction.

bubandpie said...

Christina - Another "MmmBop" fan! How I love that song - it singlehandedly broke the music world out of the angsty, grungy funk it had been mired in for years...good times. (I've always preferred really peppy, happy music - is that because I'm a mindless optimist, or because it actually takes quite a lot of work to keep me happy?)

Penelopeto - Did you hear that Michael Flatley just got married? He kind of creeps me out, but seeing Shae-lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz's Riverdance live at the Canadian championships was one of my life's peak experiences.

Gwen - Are Tim Horton's donuts good. Is the Pope Catholic? (Actually, mindless patriotism aside, I prefer their cookies and coffee to the doughnuts.)

Veronica - There's a Frito pie? I still intend to try out your onion pie... And I love barbershop quartets AND tea-cozy-mysteries (though no one can ever quite be Agatha).

NSSW - I'll have to check Alice, I think out. The only problem with my pop culture references is that I'm getting old. I actually interviewed my class this year on their TV-watching habits and it looks like I'm going to have to start watching the OC if I want to make sense to them.

Andrea - I've read two Le Guin novels and didn't enjoy either: The Left Hand of Darkness and The Wizard of Earthsea. (LHoD was awhile ago, so I can't really remember what I didn't like, but in WoE I just disliked Ged so strongly I found it impossible to care about what happened to him.) If I were to try again, what would you recommend?

cinnamon gurl said...

Ooh, Mamalooper I love Elizabeth George books too. Have you read Deborah Crombie and Peter Robinson? I like them too.

Tim Horton's has GREAT pumpkin spice donuts... but only in October (for Canadian Thanksgiving)... WHY?!?

kate said...

oh man, i just wrote all about mine on my blog this week--duran duran. but it's not so guilty anymore. just a pleasure. yeah, i'm "out" about it now.

also--i'm right there with you on the wave.

Not-so-Sage Wisdom said...

Yes, do check out "Alice, I think." The author is Susan Juby and I suppose it qualifies more as teen lit than kid lit, but it's really funny.

Just realised that in my last comment I wrote "when I was in University" right after mentioning my thesis. That's telling, isn't it? It should read "when I was doing my bachelor's degree".

(Oh no! And the bane of my writing life -- the "it's" instead of "its"...IT'S a good thing I'm not one of your students.)

Lisa said...

Bad TV - I cried, yes I did, every episode of Ghost Whisperer last year.
Celebrity Gossip
My other guilty pleasures have to do mainly with food and pedicures. Really I'm just spoiled.

Love the Atwood/Harlequin essay topic.

Gwen said...

Pumpkin spice donuts? I may have to journey north of the border just to check TH out.

I'd like to add two more gp's:

Beef Jerky (nitrates! yum!) and Josh Hartnett.

Or is that only one?

kittenpie said...

Chocolate, television, celeb gossip, puzzle books, and choosing a mystery or some chicklit over good solid literary fiction more often than not.

mamatulip said...

Oooh, guilty pleasures! A topic I can't resist. ;)

- plucking my eyebrows (stop laughing!)

- Tootsie Rolls

- Oreo ice cream

- drinking milk out of the bag. Yes, the bag.

- A chicken combo from Wendy's with a Coke

- antique hunting

- tattoos

- America's Next Top Model

- ogling Peter Krause

- Maeve Binchy

- sparkly jewelry

I'm going to stop now.

ewe are here said...

Lots of guilty pleasures...hmmm...
to name a few...
1. Pedicures!!
2. Chick lit
3. Teeny-bopper movies, such as: 10 Things I Hate About You; French Kiss
4. Pizza
5. Corona with lime (when I'm not pg, of course ;-) )
6. Bad reality tv: American Idol; The X Factor; the Supermodel shows... sigh
7. Mainstream TV: Lost; Grey's Anatomy; Nip/Tuck
8. Eating Nutella out of the jar
9. Dressing my little one up for the holidays and taking lots of pics (pumpkin; baby Santa; etc.)

Jennifer said...

I have far too many guilty pleasures to list. Though I might want to work on the "guilt" factor -- as in, I should probably feel a bit of it over this list:

1. Justin Timberlake

2. Frosted amimal crackers

3. MTV's show "Two-a-Days"

4. Dawson's Creek (back in the day)

5. Felicity

6. All My Children

7. People magazine

8. Target's "Dollar Spot"

9. Cheese balls

10. Dressing my kids in coordinating colors/outfits at times.

I'd better stop while I still have some dignity...if it's not too late... ;)

Mary-LUE said...

Guilty pleasure, eh?

Coupling on BBC America. As a prim and proper sometime elder of a church, I cannot jusify watching that show but it totally cracks me up.

Big Cherry chocolate covered cherries. The grossest maraschino cherries, thick pink blobby stuff and cheap milk chocolate. Y-u-m-m-y!

There is hardly an old sitcom I will not watch. Brady Brunch reruns, MASH reruns, Law and Order reruns. Television to me is like that old joke about sex: even when it's bad, it's good.

BLOGGING! It isn't low brow, but I think if the questions they ask you to help you determine if you were an addict were rephrased to include blogging, I'd be a goner. But I don't care. I will blog... and blog... and blog.

I'm sure there are more but these are the first things I thought of.

penelopeto said...

uh, oh, B&P - you just reminded me of another secret guilty pleasure - figure skating. but only when my mum is over and forces us to watch. i swear.

(i totally loved the slb/vk routine as well. shae lynn is from hubby's hometown, and their moms know each other - we ran into her once. she's very sweet.)

metro mama said...



Rob and Amber's Wedding

Kraft Dinner

Track pants

Harry Potter

Taco Bell

Beer and nachos

Ryan and Trista's Wedding

The Star


Did I say beer?

PeanutButtersMum said...

Um, hello? Has noone used this one yet?

Big Mac Combo with a DIET Coke!

I unfortunately have a few more:

The Bachelor

Baking "diet" loaves and eating 2-3x as much 'cause it's "good for me."

Chick Lit - though I don't particularly feel guilty about that

Reading intellectual blogs and pretending I "get it."

Pretending to be ignorant so that I can Plead Ignorance.

Bridget Jones' Diaries (I wish she had more than 2)

I have been known to partake in a few too many pity parties. And I'm the hostess of ALL of them.

People Magazine.

kfk said...

Well, we could have used your husband's "pissing on the parade" attitude at my son's soccer game last weekend. The other team's parents were pouring salt on our kids' wounds when they kept cheering loudly and AGGRESSIVELY for each of the 11 goals they made to our zero. I understand excited competitiveness, but my God, clearly they were the better team and really they should have just shut-up!

Tina C said...

AFV, is my guilty TV pleasure. that is my pet-name for "America's Funniest Home Videos", which is INDEED a funny show!

enjoying cigarettes is also another guilty pleasure. boy, do i feel guilty about that.

Shannon said...

Now wait just a minute sister! Austin Powers, low brow? You're talking about the man I love!

Actually, that's no joke. I'm putty in my husband's hands when he starts with the "shagadelic, baby" and the wriggly eyebrow routine.