5 Pieces Of Pop Culture I’m Embarrassed To Like (But Still Do)


Everyone has their guilty pleasures.  If you love fiction as much as I do, it’s almost inevitable that along the way you’re going to fall for some real clunkers.  When a TV show does one thing right, when it captures your interest in the way that makes your socks roll up and down, you’ll overlook some pretty horrendous flaws.  Looking at you, Heroes.

Sometimes it goes beyond that, though.  Sometimes you like a show, a movie, a band, a book series, or a video game for no earthly reason… or at least no reason that you’ll admit to yourself.  Come journey into the depths of masochism with me as I examine one item from each category that I’d never admit I actually liked to my friends in a bar, even if they were shoving bamboo into my fingernails, yet will happily disclose to everyone on the internet for some reason.  (The reason is comedy.)

Embarrassing item #1 – A TV show


I know, I’m kind of easing into it here.  Liking House isn’t exactly a dark shameful secret.  It’s not a terrible show, it’s just a very, very average one.  It’s formulaic almost beyond belief, its characters are wooden for the most part and prone to “plot-forced development,” (Chase murdering that dictator is a pretty egregious example of this; also basically anything that happens to House in one of the season finales).

If the show comes up in casual conversation, I’ll readily admit watching it, perhaps giving it a backhanded compliment by saying that I only watch it because Hugh Laurie is so good.  And that’s part of it, but not the whole part.  All 54 seasons of House just went up on Netflix streaming, and I’m pretty sure I’ll work my way through the whole thing.  God.  Which of these things doesn’t belong?

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 11.25.41 PM

Some part of my brain likes the comfort.  After 9 hours of work, it actually feels easier to watch something I’ve already seen that follows the most rigid of all plot paths – you can actually time out when House gets his epiphany to a 30 second window in every single episode – something I absolutely rail against when talking about how good fiction doesn’t do that.

House is the “grab a frozen pizza and a six pack instead of making dinner” of the TV world, except in this example, instead of not having to do the work of making dinner, you’re just clicking a different button.


Embarrassing item #2 – A movie


Now were getting somewhere.  This is the level where I actually hesitate, thinking maybe I can come up with a less-bad movie that still counts as embarrassing.  Nope, sorry, it’s Notting Hill.  I have ruthlessly mocked friends (and one girlfriend) for liking this movie.  It’s the most rom-com of rom-coms.  Say what you want about Family Guy, but they pretty much nailed this one:

Trying to justify it is hard, except to say that apparently I’m a big ol’ softie, and to point out that cynicism and romanticism are pretty closely linked.  They both involve a kind of observation where you’re able to see the world as it is, and the world as it should be, and the giant, terrifying gap in between.  Where you fall on the spectrum has to do with how you deal with that gap.

The point of that little divergence is that, is it too much to ask that a charmingly befuddled guy with a boring life could basically stumble into love with a mysterious, glamorous girl?

Also, Julia Roberts is legit good in this.  She downplays and understates in a way I haven’t seen her do elsewhere.


Embarrassing item #3 – A band

Smash Mouth All Star

Oh god.  Now we’re into truly unforgivable territory.  Liking Smashmouth is just… there’s no defense.  I will probably go to my grave being able to recite, verbatim, the entire lyrics to “All-Star.”  I’m really not OK with that.  I like good music, dammit.  I will not get pumped up while running if “Diggin’ Your Scene” comes on.

We’re into a level Dante Alighieri would appreciate here – and yes, I’m dropping a literary reference in a desperate attempt to convince myself that my brain is still functioning properly.

Look, I’m not into Smashmouth or anything… I don’t know anything about the band, I never saw them in concert.  I just enjoyed the hell out of their hits as a teenager and somehow that part of my brain never got around to developing.  And I don’t think it ever will, because now I know enough to know they’re an objectively terrible band.  I suppose hypnotism or some sort of treat-based training like they do with dogs is out of the question?


Embarrassing item #4 – A book


Fun fact; in between writing the last entry and this one, I got up to go physically look at my bookshelf to for inspiration.  Stupid idea, really, as only the best of the best get the honor of a physical purchase.  But as I browsed the books, I found myself whistling bars of a tune, kind of mindlessly.  It was only after more than 10 seconds that I realized it was “Diggin’ Your Scene.”  By Smashmouth.  Excuse me, I’m just going to go drown myself real quick.

Anyway!  I’m relieved that I don’t have to put Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey here, because, yikes, I actually might drown myself.  Thankfully both I consider to be terrible.   Twilight I actually have a kind of fondness for, mainly because the source material is so earnest; its main character so painfully naive it’s almost endearing as she pontificates with world-weary sophistication the lessons gleaned from reading such highbrow titles as Wuthering Heights and Romeo and Juliet.

Anyway the second.  Let’s talk about the actual book I’m embarrassed about.  Yes, I know it’s a literary classic and you know it’s a literary classic, but does the sweaty guy with the mustache reading it on the bus know it’s a literary classic?  The title of the book has taken on such a huge amount of cultural baggage that it’s basically impossible to navigate.  Like, to find that image, I very specifically typed “Lolita Vladimir Nabokov” into Google because some small, smart part of my brain thinks leaving off the last two words probably definitely puts me on some kind of NSA list.

To be clear, not embarrassed about liking the book.  Nabokov is a genius-level writer,  and Lolita is right up there with Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan in being poignant, tragic, heartrending, and I swear to god, funny, all at the same time.  I am, however, embarrassed to read it in public, especially when it’s one of the more unfortunately evocative covers.  Yeesh.


Embarrassing item #5 – A video game


I’m so sorry.

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