Sunday Morning: Trolls (2016, 2017, 2018-)

A toy troll stands behind the word Trolls; the background is a swirly rainbow field.

Justin Timberlake – CAN'T STOP THE FEELING! (From DreamWorks Animation's "Trolls") (Official Video)

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)

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Maribou is a voracious reader who also likes to watch, stare at, and listen to stuff. Occasionally she makes stuff, too. She works in a small liberal arts college library, and shares a house in Colorado with her husband Jaybird, five cats, and what looms ever closer to ten thousand books. ...more →

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15 thoughts on “Sunday Morning: Trolls (2016, 2017, 2018-)

  1. I’m reaching the point where “guilty pleasure” means “something I’m doing instead of work-related stuff”.

    So it doesn’t matter if I’m reading Dostoyevsky or Batman, neither one is about Red Hat.

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  2. Sometimes, I consider lighter stuff to be something like a palette cleanser. After being engaged in something really dark or mentally taxing, it is nice to employ something fun and light.

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      • I know when I was reading A Song of Ice and Fire and Wheel of Time I would read lighter stuff like Discworld in between. When I decided to read War and Peace, I took some breaks with short, easy books as well. A lot of graphic novels can serve that purpose as well.

        For me they serve one of a few different purposes, sometimes overlapping. If a book is really dark, having something more whimsical or humorous is nice. If a book is very dense and more mentally taxing, it can be nice to intersperse reading that requires less brainpower. Another time it is nice, when reading through long series, is just to get a change of writing style.

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  3. Reading Maugham’s Painted Veil. He is becoming one of my favorite writers as I get older, along with many of his contemporary Brits. Contemporary lit has been such dreck for the last decade, since the millennium really, going back in time has been really rewarding and refreshing.

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  4. “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.”

    Oh man, yes, this so much this.

    I love – unabashedly, unapologetically love – stuff that some more serious sorts would either label “dumb and hokey” or “problematic” or “can’t you stretch yourself more, this is too easy for you.” And as I draw in on 50….well, the joy of things that are just simple and easy to love and where you can kind of turn off some of your higher critical/analytical stuff and just enjoy it without thinking too hard about it….is a relief.

    I love Golden Era detective stories. Especially British ones. Yes, in some of them the writing is not great and in many of them I can see “who did it” a mile away, and many of them have their “problematic” aspects (example: anti-Semitism was common in 30s Britain. But that’s not the only thing). But I still enjoy them and they provide a respite from a world where all too often the wrong guy is arrested and the guilty party goes free, or someone’s death goes unavenged, or whatever.

    And cartoons. I love many cartoons that are aimed squarely at children – the current My Little Ponies being one, but I also enjoy some of the stuff on Cartoon Network and even though it seems there are like only eight different episodes of “Bunnicula” that Boomerang keeps re-running, I like that too. And even some of the “educational” or ‘very small child’ cartoons: I get Qubo and sometimes now they run a 1980s era Paddington-Bear cartoon that makes good background distraction.

    Most of my movie library is either Pixar/Disney cartoons or fluffy silly comedies.

    And this time of year….oh, it’s the best. I spent much of yesterday watching AMC’s re-run of the old Rankin-Bass animagic specials: I love these dearly because they were a big part of my childhood Christmases, and AMC was even showing some of the ones (like the one about the donkey) that you hardly ever see any more.

    I dunno. People have accused me in the past of being too non-serious, but I’ve gone through some deadly-serious periods these past couple years (dealing with very grown-up issues: mortality of loved-ones, possible loss of a job, concerns for my own health and whether my life will be as long as I originally thought it would be) and honestly? I think people need a break from being so serious.

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    • Nice. I consume serious stuff, but agree 100% with what you and Maribou are saying. I also love the Rankin Bass specials, as cheesy as they are. And Pixar has some amazing films.

      You’ve probably seen them, but Midsomer Murders is on netflix and it’s a great British murder series; it was one of my “easy” entertainment options, even if it did make most of the folks living in the British countryside seem like a-holes–seriously, most of the victims were asking for it (as they’re fictional characters this seems okay to say).

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      • I’ve seen bits and pieces of it on PBS (I don’t get Netflix; I pay for cable in order to get my Internet and I am resistant to paying for more streaming stuff). I admit I prefer the Father Brown series (even if Chesterton would spit about what they did with his character)

        And yeah, the “The dude who got killed was usually a jerk” is a big part of why I like the murder mysteries. Along with “The jerk who killed the first jerk usually winds up facing justice in the end.” It’s a simple world.

        “Elf” is another Christmas movie that is just silly and fluffy but I love it so much because it is so goofy and good-hearted, and it’s one of those set in a universe where a literal Santa Claus actually exists, and I admit the “Santa is real and people on the Nice List get gifts” AU is my favorite AU.

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  5. Reading: OT’s very own Michael Siegel has published a novel, The Water Lily Pond that is one of the better books I’ve read in 2018. Check it out.

    Watching: Mrs. Slade and I went to see Green Book Saturday, and I can’t recommend this highly enough. It’s a great Christmas movie.

    Also watching: Blazing Saddles. It doesn’t matter how many times I see this movie, it cracks me up every time. Plus, it’s great to see that Borscht Belt comedy survived at least into the early ’70s.

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