A few years ago it seemed that I had reached a milestone of sorts. I had pretty much stopped being embarrassed about anything. Such liberation! I had finally reached so complete a state of inner satisfaction that I cared neither jot nor tittle about what other people thought about me. Unless they knew what jot and tittle really meant, in which case I’d go hide in a hole.
Then Kelly Johnson — fellow writer whom I met at the 2012Backspace Conference — challenged her fellow SF-Fantasy writers with a piece about Not-So-Guilty Pleasures (read how it started up at Kelly’s site here) …and Zap! The spell was broken.
Here’s the whole sordid confession.
Guilty (dis)Pleasures Exposed
I have been lying to myself. Of COURSE I am still capable of abject embarrassment, especially over things I secretly enjoy. (Just please don’t re-post this. Ha ha.)
1. Dog, the Bounty Hunter. As a writer, the whole concept of reality-TV as a substitute for well-crafted storytelling just grinds sand in my eyes. And this series is among the longest-running examples of that. So, why oh why am I so darn fascinated by the sad, often meth-addicted outcasts who Dog rounds up every week? Or maybe it’s his team – a broadly-drawn comic book with such characters wouldn’t sell a single copy. Yet there they are, famously popular in certain districts, which yes includes my living room.
2. Oooky chocolate desserts. OK, this isn’t a particularly unique G.P. But for me, this is a complex embarrassment with numerous non-parallel vectors. It lies just south of hypocrisy, just east of shame. It summons masochistic death-wishes bathed in sparkly sunshine with cute little bluebirds flittering around. (Enough with the conflicting metaphors, already?) All through a meal, I’m skipping the carbs, putting chemicals instead of sugar in the iced tea, pushing away the butter dish, and then ordering the quadra-choco-melt-decadence cake. (But I do have them hold the whipped cream and sprinkles.)
3. NASCAR. Hey, you wanna go sit in some bleachers in 95-degree heat for five hours and watch a bunch of juiced-up cars painted with corporate logos drive around in a big circle a couple of hundred times? No, but I’ll sneak a peek on my big screen at home, until the family comes in and I have to feign dignity. (Clearly, I need to seek help.)
But wait… Every Yin has its Yang, and frankly I’ve also got Guilty Displeasures – things I’m ashamed to admit I DON’T like. Let’s face it, when you’re mixed into a group of people who are gushing about some Thing that you personally can’t stomach, all you can do is smile and hope they don’t ask your opinion, right? I’m enough of a hermit already without admitting that some primary aspect of popular culture just doesn’t resonate with me. For example:
1. Vampires that aren’t killed by sunlight. I mean, come on, people! This stuff has RULES. You can’t just cast out a century of tradition because you don’t want your novels to be Too Dark. You might as well say Superman’s taking a pill now so he’s not vulnerable around Kryptonite anymore.
2. American Idol and it’s clones. A huge part of this program seems to be about bad singing. This to me is not entertaining. And also about judgement, with truckloads of arbitrary critique. What pleasure can one derive from the failure of others? This does not lift my spirit. But I DO give tons of credit to the producers who could rename a simple Talent Show (We had those in high school. Hello?!) with a title that rings of both of patriotism and pagan worship rituals.
And finally my most secret Guilty Displeasure…
3. Babies. (I’d better say “most” babies, lest my two young grandsons get their hands on the Internet one day.) If you show me your baby, I will make the appropriate noises, raise my voice an octave, declare it cute, give him or her a little tickle, and congratulate you. This will be acting. Unfortunately for me, I see right through the ruse nature has thrust upon us. What I most likely will be thinking is: “You, sir or madam, are a stronger person than I, to tolerate the fluids and the noise and the disdain this fresh creature will bestow upon you. Show it to me again when it acquires language and self-control, and I will give you my honest opinion.” There is a lot of preprogrammed human behavior around babies. This is good for the species, but generally not for me.
In sum, quoting some crew member of the HMS Pinafore: “I am but a ganglion of irreconcilable antagonisms.”