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Coolness be damned: Let's own our guilty pleasures
by Denise DuVernay

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Bart makes a stir on Twitter.

Bart makes a stir on Twitter.
My brain has been filled with issues lately. Big issues. My dangerously low level of employment. Libya. Tunisia. Egypt. Wisconsin's asshat governor. Bart Simpson's birthday (which was not February 23, as you may have heard on Twitter or read on The Chicago Tribune's website; get the real skinny here). With all these weighty issues on my mind, I simply can't talk about how disappointed I am that THE SOCIAL NETWORK didn't win Best Picture. It's too much to handle right now. So I decided that this week I'd switch gears to talk about something not life-changing but a pet peeve nonetheless.

The "guilty pleasure."

Why do we designate certain favorites of ours as guilty pleasures? Matchflick's profile editor refers to them as "the movies you know you probably shouldn't like, but you do." Are we really that insecure in our coolness that we have to temper our tastes with qualifiers?

And if we really shouldn't like it, it should be because it's racist or misogynistic or otherwise unsavory, and we're certainly not going to admit that, even as a guilty pleasure.

And frankly, if I'm going to judge someone on their movie tastes, I'm going to come away with the same conclusion whether or not he or she qualifies something as a guilty pleasure. Example: if a guy says his favorite movie is JACKASS: THE MOVIE or whether he says his guilty pleasure is watching JACKASS: THE MOVIE, I'm going to think twice about going out with him. It's not a dealbreaker either way, mind you, but I might have more respect for the guy if he
No, I didn't like it only because it was an adaptation of Jane Austen

No, I didn't like it only because it was an adaptation of Jane Austen
just owns it.

Let's face it: if I told you that my favorite movie was CITIZEN KANE, you'd probably think I was super douchey, a liar, or both. Sure, I've seen CITIZEN KANE. Sure, I appreciated it, respected it. But I don't remember enjoying it. I saw it in a film class in college and the only movies from that class I've ever wanted to rewatch were MARTY and AFTER HOURS. Does that make me stupider than people who say their favorite movie is CITIZEN KANE? I have a master's degree, bitches! I took medieval lit. I wrote a 25 page essay on Bleak House. I almost finished Moby Dick, dammit. I know what suffering is.

I try to see the important movies, the hard ones, the ones that I'll learn something from and be glad that I saw later on. I don't subject myself only to brain candy, and I think most people do the same. But the ones that we watch, knowing that we're only in it for the entertainment or to feel good, so often get thrown onto the guilty pleasure pile. Why is that? We want Hollywood to entertain us, right? Poor Hollywood: we complain when their films are didactic, but we pass others off as "chick flicks" or "guilty pleasures" if they're too light. Groups of girls go to chick flicks together to justify seeing them. Even the organizer of the outing tells her co-workers on Monday, "I didn't really want to see LOVE, ACTUALLY, but that's the one the rest of the group picked . . ."

I'll admit that my Matchflick profile has some movies listed as guilty pleasures. It's new, this revelation that the concept of the guilty pleasure annoys me. I think CLUELESS and THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE are the only ones I have listed in that category, from when I first joined Matchflick four years ago. But I
I relate.

I relate.
am going to make the switch and keep that category blank, and maybe move those two to the real list of favorite movies because I'm going to own even the picks that might make my Flickfriends think I'm shallow, stupid, or easily amused. Think those things of me if you must, but I know you like things at least as frivolous as my favorites, even if you won't admit it. Because, you see, we all have guilty pleasures, which means that we all have things we are embarrassed to admit we like. I am not super into '70s rock, but when Heart's "Magic Man" comes on the radio, I crank that baby up. And I'm owning that right here and now publicly for the first time. It feels great! Most people I know don't put AMC on to keep them company as they do housework or homework*. We tend to choose things that are comfortable and that have re-watchability. Isn't re-watchability a mark of a quality piece of entertainment? The Simpsons is perfect for re-watching because it is so layered that there are jokes we didn't catch or understand the first time we see an episode. Luckily, the majority of my peers understand that The Simpsons is not just a cartoon. And if they don't get that, I recommend a really good book to them.

I'm tired of being busted by my housemate as I'm watching LEGALLY BLONDE on basic cable yet again. I'm tired of apologizing sheepishly for having it on by saying "oh, you know, it's just my guilty pleasure." If it continues to make me laugh and if I derive real pleasure from re-watching certain scenes, LEGALLY BLONDE just might officially be a good movie in my eyes. I like it, and I own that. It's got Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon, for
I'd hire her.

I'd hire her.
starters, whose delivery is spot on and really, really funny. It's got good messages about what happens when people are judged on superficial qualities, like looks, hair color, and genre. It has a damn cute Luke Wilson. And that moment when Elle realizes that the daughter is lying about the shower because her hair had just been permed is so satisfying.

While I'm at it, I'm not going to apologize for liking MEAN GIRLS, even though I'm not young enough to be considered its target audience. It's well-written, satirical, and craftily put together. And BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY is terrific: tons of pathos and talk about satisfying! (I will NOT be defending its sequel, however). As for CLUELESS, it's a little tougher to watch now that Brittany Murphy is dead, but I saw it recently and still adored it. (I fear I didn't appreciate Murphy enough while she was alive and I feel guilty about that. Did you see LITTLE BLACK BOOK? She was excellent). As for THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, it sucks me in whenever I surf and find it. I actually root for Peyton.

And while I'm ranting, why don't we get rid of the term "chick flick"? Just because a movie has a female lead and/or is relationship-centered does not mean only women like it. And by relegating something woman-oriented to the film equivalent of the kids' table, we're being misogynistic and we're acting like we don't want men to see JULIE & JULIA with us. Let's stop that.

Which reminds me, I still haven't seen the last half hour of VALENTINE'S DAY.

*The person I live with actually does this. He was watching WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF one night while writing a freelance story. He also reads superhero comics, but spells it "comix" and wouldn't be embarrassed for you to know that.

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Mike Thomas
Mar 6, 2011 3:06 AM
[X] delete
I'm with you, Du. But I have to to disagree with your rationale on the guilty pleasure. Identifying that you like Bad movies as a guilty pleasure is no more a snob factor than having a triple chocolate fudge brownie sundae, or wearing those sneakers everyone else calls "bo-bo's" because YOU like them.

I can see your point by announcing your guilty pleasure, you're proclaiming, "Hey, look at me! I'm a Bohemian! Look how I march to the beat of a different drum!" But by not acknowledging that difference, you set yourself up as a movie inbred, that you don't know any better.

You know that I'm a fan of bad movies, and I wear that badge proudly. Vince Lombardi once said to a player who did his "touchdown dance," don;t act as if you're never done this before. But I say, celebrate your passion! If you like LEGALLY BLONDE, or I like 1941, then that's what defines you as a person.

BRING ON THE CLUNKERS!



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Take Your Queue From Du
Every other Sunday

Semi-wholesome Midwestern girl and certified Geek Magnet offers her suggestions - often new, sometimes classic - for DVDs that are definitely queue-worthy.


Other Columns
Other columns by Denise DuVernay:

Goodbye, Du

Du Chats Movies With Comics Author Lonnie Millsap

Du Reviews ALPOCALYPSE by "Weird Al" Yankovic

Another Piece Praising BRIDESMAIDS

Friendship Films and DVD Picks for May 17

All Columns


Denise DuVernay
9 out of 10 librarians think Denise is a hoot. The 10th one couldn't corroborate because she was dead.


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If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Denise DuVernay by clicking here.


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