Irish comedian Dara O’Brian has a great bit where he rants about the term “guilty pleasure”. Liking a certain band or movie, he argues, should not make you feel guilty and the term “guilty pleasure” should be reserved for things that should actually make you feel guilty, like smelling women on public transport. He’s probably right, and part of me thinks that if you’ve found something in this often scary and uncaring world that makes you happy and doesn’t hurt anyone else, more power to you. I, however, was raised Catholic, which means that pretty much all pleasures are guilty pleasures. These ones though? These are the things that I love that just make me feel dirty.
5) Family Guy
Why I love it.
Alright, I know that this is a terrible show. It commits basically every writing sin there is, there’s no structure, zero consistent characterisation and it leans way, way, waaaaay too hard on shock value to try and get its laughs. And, just so we can put this to bed, racist humour is not edgy.
And yet, and yet…in any given episode of this show there will be at least one joke, one gag, one little bit of surrealist humour that will make me laugh out loud. Law of averages I guess. This show’s modus operandi is flinging gags at the wall at a rate of knots and hoping that they stick. And, as much as the scripting is bad in a kind of big-picture, overall sense, there are often little scenes and vignettes that contain some frankly beautiful writing. There’s a scene (incidentally from one of my least favourite episodes) where Stewie takes the entire cast of Next Generation to the drive though and it just captures perfectly the frustrations of trying to order for a large group of people and that is something I think that Family Guy can do very, very well. Just capturing the truth of little day to day moments. Also, whatever you may think of his comedy, Set McFarlane is an absolutely phenomenal voice actor.
Guilt Level: Parking in the disabled zone.
So why do I feel guilty?
4) “Ill Mind 5” by Hopsin
WARNING: SO, SO, SO FUCKING NSFW
Why I love it
I first came across this song on That Guy With the Glasses when RapCritic named it his best song of the year. After one listen it was already my favourite rap song of all time. Over the course of three verses addressed to, in turn, a white high school dropout, a white teenage girl and a black wannabe gangsta Hopsin takes his entire benighted generation and goes through it for a shortcut, lambasting his contemporaries as shallow, driftless, lazy, celebrity-obsessed jackasses. With impeccable flow and timing, pitch black wordplay and white-hot rage Hopsin makes a lecture essentially telling kids to stay in school, study and eat their greens sound like the most hardcore, revolutionary thing you’ve ever heard.
Guilt Level: Shouting “bollocks” in a crowded church.
Yeah, as Rap Critic himself pointed out, it’s that second verse that really raises the alarm bells. It’s not even that I particularly disagree with Hop’s central premise viz; that if you’re a young woman who’s primary method of meeting guys is to go down to a skeezy nightclub and essentially give the patrons a strip show gratis then it’s maybe slightly disingenuous to then complain that the men you’re attracting aren’t exactly the gender’s A-team. But let’s be honest, am I going to sit here and pretend that lines like “You want Romeo, you’re not worthy/You’re cock-thirsty, nasty and probably got herpes” aren’t horribly misogynistic? No. Because I speak English as a first language and know what all those words mean. Does that mean it’s a bad song? Um…no. Great art does not have to be nice, and great artists often aren’t nice people (for example: pretty much every great artist who has ever lived).
Why I love it
Bryan Fuller’s retelling of the pre-incarceration years of Hannibal Lecter may be one of the most beautifully shot and scored series ever made for American TV. The cast (Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Laurence Fishbourne, Gillian Anderson) is A list, the performances are magnetic and the whole thing just drips with atmosphere.
Guilt level: Realising you’ve shot the wrong Captain Kirk.
There’s an episode in season 2 where Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishbourne) recalls how Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) objected to the name of the FBI’s “Evil Minds Research Museum”. Graham’s objection being that the name glamourizes and mythologises serial killers, making merely mentally ill criminals seem like mystical creatures. No word of a lie, when I heard that line I laughed milk out my nose at the show’s chutzpah, because glamourizing serial killers is Hannibal’s whole raison d’etre. Whether it’s the title character or any one of this universe’s seemingly inexhaustible stable of gimmick based recreational homicide enthusiasts, the series constantly presents serial murderers as terrifyingly brilliant, tortured, beautiful, otherworldly monsters. But, hey, it’s TV. I can look past that. I can also look past the show’s depiction of the seriously suspect practice of criminal profiling as essentially magic, allowing the writers to skip to the next phase of the investigation whenever they feel like it. No, it was around the end of season one when the murders became less “lurid crime scenes” and more “fucking art installation pieces”that I finally realised that this ostensibly VERY SERIOUS show was running on pixie dust and dream logic.
2) Warhammer 40k
Why I love it
Weirdly, I consider myself a fan of Warhammer 40k despite never actually having played the tabletop game. I’m just a fan of the setting (and I’m also an addict of the tie-in PC game Dawn of War). In the 41st Millennium, the Imperium of Man, a vast despotic empire spanning thousands of worlds, battles enemies on all sides while crumbling under the weight of its own corruption and the malicious influence of the dark gods of Chaos. The Warhammer 40k universe may actually be the grimmest in all of fiction. Take the Tau. They’re an expansionist alien empire base on Imperial Japan, forcibly conquering other alien races and annexing them in service of “The Greater Good”. In any other science fiction setting these would be the bad guys. In 40k, they’re the closest thing to heroes. Then there’s the Eldar, an ancient species so spectacularly racist that they would happily let an entire alien civilization die to save one member of their own, the Orks, who wage massive intergalactic rampages for fun, the Imperium, a ruthlessly xenophovic theocracy that want to murder anyone who’s not human, the Necrons, who want to murder everyone, period, and the Tyranids who want to murder everyone and then eat them. Oh, and then there’s the forces of Chaos. Who are the bad guys.
Guilt level: Recounting your time in the Khmer Rouge to an international tribunal
Because it makes me a massive hypocrite. I’m the guy who’s got a quote on TVTropes “Silly Rabbit, Cynicism is for Kids” page about how the most important and worthwhile thing in fiction is to write something uplifting that doesn’t give in to cynicism and nihilism. And yet, here I am, a fan of probably one of the most nihilistic fictional universes there is. But I can’t help it, it’s just so sumptuously gothic, so meticulously detailed in its awfulness that I can’t help but love it. There’s something about the Imperium especially, basically Gormenghast crossed with the Galactic Empire, that I find incredibly compelling. Lemme tell you, if they ever make a movie based on this, they need to get Terry Gilliam to direct it.
1) Reading bad reviews.
Why I love it
Probably my favourite piece of internet movie criticism, and probably the one that inspired me to begin reviewing movies myself, is Doug Walker’s evisceration of The Legend of the Titanic. I remember thinking that what Doug was doing was almost artistic reclamation, taking a movie that had almost no redeeming features and using it as material to create something hilarious and quite brilliant. I like the idea that any movie, no matter how bad, can be put to good use and made into something entertaining. And let’s be honest, there is just something so satisfying about seeing some piece of hackwork torn apart with a single, withering put down. I don’t really write that many negative reviews myself (of the 65 movies I’ve reviewed only 13 have scored over 50% or lower) but whenever I see a one star review or an F-Grade on the AV Club I am all over that like white on rice.
Guilt level: Hearing that damn heart beat under the floorboards.
‘Cos it’s schadenfreude, pure and simple. Because, at least it part, it’s an act of mockery. And because as a writer I know that getting bad reviews is part and parcel of being a writer, actor, director, successful hotel chain, whatever, and I have no right to be smug. Am I going to stop reading bad reviews? Absolutely not. But as it happens, I’m going to be reviewing several plays in the upcoming Dublin Tiger Fringe and Dublin Theatre Festivals for Meg.ie. And some of those shows I may have to pan. But in the back of my mind I will always be thinking that that could be me. And really, in the interest of fairness, if I’m going to read other people’s bad reviews, they should be able to read mine.
Neil Sharpson aka The Unshaved Mouse is a playwright, blogger and comic book writer living in Dublin. The blog updates with a new animated movie review every second Thursday. He’s also serialising his novel The Hangman’s Daughter with a new chapter every Saturday. Like Unshaved Mouse? Let the good people at the Blog Awards Ireland know what’s what by voting for me HERE.
Excellent post! Such a simple idea and executed with such humour. I think you might need to fix up the title a wee bit though.
Thanks, I’ll fix it. I can’t take credit for the idea, Nostalgia Chick did a similar one years ago.
Nonetheless, a very enjoyable read!
Great Post! Btw, is masturbation considered a guilty pleasure? NOT THAT I DO THAT. I’m just curious…
Yes, now get out of my kitchen.
Hey, your teacup asked for it!!!!
I hate Hannibal. I totally get why it could be someones guilty pleasure though. Mads Mikkelson is superb. I disagree a little on Hugh Dancy being included in the same praise Made gets, but he’s more tolerable than some of the rest of the cast who are all utterly dislikeable, everyone else is a bit of a dick. Like that redhead reporter who shows up, says something bitchy and leaves several times. Lawrence Fishbourne I feel really lets himself down, his performance is really bad. Myself and a friend were laughing at him trying to be tough and angry in the first few episodes.
It also seems like the premise of the show is “Man in world of utter incompetence uses super powers of competence and charm to become supervillain.”
You wouldn’t watch a show like that?
You know, because so many People are obsessed with Hanibal, I gave it a shot, but didn’t last more than one and a half episode…but I never figured out why this rubbed me so much the wrong way. But yeah, that’s exactly the reason, the glorifying aspect of the show.
I think bad reviews are entertaining and a good way to discover things one might have to pay attention to in the own writing.
I read the review. Morbid curiosity. Ouch.
My own favourite comedian, Tim Minchin, has a similar segment on guilty pleasures. He also has a song about bad reviews, if this helps at all. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Onjdw_FXyw
My chief guilty pleasures are creature feature films and The Eye of Argon by Jim Theis. He was only seventeen when he wrote it, the reaction to it stopped his dream of writing in its tracks, and he’s now dead. But it’s just SO BAD, I can’t help but laugh every time I think about it.
Yeesh. Poor guy. *googles eye of argon*. Yeah, it stung a bit. Not gonna lie.
“Prepare to embrace your creator in the stygian haunts of hell, barbarian!”
– Actual line of dialogue which doubles as a warning to the reader.
Don’t miss the part where the hero Grignr (not a typo) makes a dagger in pitch darkness out of the pelvis of a giant rat he murders with his bare hands, and then stashes the dagger in his G-string somehow.
I can see why that’s your favorite rap song. I just don’t listen to songs with that much swearing, in general. The one exception is this song, which I consider a guilty pleasure because of the swearing:
I like that song too. It’s a very good way of bigging the members of the band up but, showing that they are human.
I really like that quote of yours on tv tropes. Though actually I think most people are optimists about the future but, pessimistic about the present. We have to believe things will get better.
I don’t see how seeing things like Doug Walker’s reviews can be a guilty pleasure. Yeah, bad reviews are something that any entertainer has to put up with, but the craft of the bad review makes it more enjoyable to sallow the criticism. Plus, there is a difference between reviewing a bad movie and hating a movie. I found this critic called Confused Matthew a few weeks ago. I liked his positive reviews, but his bad reviews were the most insulting things I have ever seen. Advice for reviewers: never insult the target audience of what you are reviewing. Calling somebody a lobotomized monkey because you don’t like the Avengers invalidates your argument.
I’m sorry. I lost my train of thought. Oh, yeah. Criticism is just a part of life. It’s how people handle it that matters. Use humor or logic, just make the points valid.
Since everyone is posting their guilty pleasures: Legend of the Guardians: Owls of Ga’hoole, Advent Children, Hotel Transylvania, The Last Unicorn, Blood+, Bleach’s Bount Arc, The Phantom Menace, and any bad pop song of the 1990s.
Oh my goodness, Confused Matthew is the worst offender in that category. His Incredibles review was really bad.
His Lion King Review is notoriously bad.
I define Guilty Pleasures as things that you’re embarrassed to admit that you like. So it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad or anything, they just don’t fit in with what you normally like so it’s somewhat embarrassing to admit that you like them. For me, the movie Clueless is the one that always comes to mind.
The comments section on slightly disappointing sites like Thought Catalog. Lately, most of the articles are basically the same stuff over and over, and I rarely get anything out of it. And the comments are so aggressive and just horrible….and oh my god I love them. I have no idea why, but don’t tell anybody.
I like 40k because it’s cynical to the point of self parody. INTENTIONALLY so as far as I can tell.
Eh, certainly when it started. Now it seems to be in dire danger of taking itself seriously
I love 40k because it’s SO gothic and SO over the top that it circles around to being funny again.
Wait. Shit I didn’t notice I already commented on this.
It’s okay, no charge.