Of the last 24 hours, I’ve spent about 10 watching first The Trolls movie, then the holiday special, then the entire first season of the Netflix show. Usually when the unexpected binge happens, it’s because something is SO GOOD, stunningly good, astoundingly good, trumpet it to the world good. Think the first season of Stranger Things, or Jessica Jones, or Hilda (ha! another kids’ troll show – but seriously guys, that one is BRILLIANT and you should just go watch it, I don’t want to write about it in case I inadvertently spoil something). Usually such a binge is not all *that* unexpected – I already knew the thing was going to be good, someone has told me I will love it, it’s just a matter of not realizing quite how very right they were…
This is not that. This is a story about the so-called guilty pleasure. Jaybird asked me if I’d write Sunday!, and I said, “no, the only thing I’ve been doing is watching Trolls, I watched the movie AND the holiday special AND the whole first season of it and the whole point of this sort of thing is that I don’t HAVE to think and everything is just pleasant and if I write an essay about it I’ll have to think about it and certain parties will complain about people being immature and what is the fun in ….” and then I realized Jaybird was really really really tired and I love him very very very much and well, here we are?
But also, you know, there is a *reason* why I watched all those things, and, pace certain parties, I don’t really think it’s because I’m not capable of harder stuff. The books on my nightstands right now are Revenant Gun (very mathy very fun rather challenging SF) and a 1970-something psychoanalyst’s view on Jung and the Tarot. I read across nearly every discipline, fiction and nonfiction, hard and soft. I have a undergrad science degree from McGill and a terminal master’s degree (in science!) from Syracuse. The only book I’ve ever put aside because I couldn’t manage it was Gravity’s Rainbow, and I’m pretty sure that’s just because I was still living in Canada at the time and I thus didn’t get most of the mid-century-American allusions and it was too much. I’ll try it again sometime before I turn 50, and I reckon it will be just fine (I love _Underworld_, and there’s no way I would’ve been able to enjoy that at the time of life when I originally tackled _Gravity’s Rainbow_ ). If you look at my massive corpus of books, movies, music, and other cultural objects consumed, they date from thousands of years before Christ, to yesterday, and originate in at least 30 languages. (And I have the sense to wince at how all these self-regarding facts actually prove nothing about my elitism or lack thereof….) I’m not lacking in intellect, or in patience, or in (strictly from a cultural-consumption perspective) discernment.
So why do I still enjoy fluff so much, and not just competent, artful fluff like Trolls, but even, sometimes, really *bad* fluff that I’ve been warned is bad, that I can see for myself is not very well-done?
Because it’s okay for not everything to be a challenge. Not everything has to be work, not everything has to be Very Stimulating, not everything has to be unproblematic (or problematic for that matter), not everything has to take my breath away, not everything has to be a gateway into a whole new world of self-improvements and metaphysical epiphanies. Sometimes it really is okay to just relax. Wholly, utterly, uncritically…. relax.
Think of it, perhaps, as television meditation. (But don’t think about that too hard! No religion!) A way to clear my brain of all the things I might normally overthink about, without giving it anything else to overthink about instead. And without making that lack of thinking into a moral high horse of its own… it’s just a kids’ story, after all.
Trolls is a sweet, hooky, kids’ story with lots of dance music, funny jokes suitable for 8 year olds, physical action, and very little of the over-their-heads-meant-for-adults-humor that most kids’ movies rely on too heavily. All the actors’ performances are convincing and the emotions ring true. And if you do end up liking the original movie, the follow-ons are not bad company while you’re putting away laundry, reading your email, or trying to process a lot of heavy stuff (be it personal or global) with the back end of your brain.
And that’s good enough, sometimes. Sometimes any more than that would be too much.
Soooo…. what are you reading, watching, listening to? And/or what so-called guilty pleasures do you not feel much guilt about?
(image is fair use, the poster from the 2016 Trolls movie)