Kristy Feels no Guilt Objectifying Chaucer

I’m not sure whether to file this one under “guilty pleasure” or not.  It’s got all the substance light deliciousness that accompanies most guilty pleasures, the problem is I don’t think I feel the requisite amount of guilt or shame which is supposed to be associated with a guilty pleasure.  But as we’ve established, my shame gland, like my self-preservation instinct, is somewhat underdeveloped.  So file this where you see fit.

We all have a movie or two we watch when we need to cheer up.  Something guaranteed to lighten our mood no matter what’s going on in our lives.  For me, my go to movie is A Knight’s Tale.

I’m not gonna lie.  It’s almost entirely about naked Chaucer.

Now before anyone raises any complaints (I don’t really expect any of our readers to do this, but in case some random know-it-all happens by):  I’m a very part time medievalist, but I’ve spent some quality time with Geoffrey Chaucer.  I am well aware that this movie is in no way a faithful depiction of his life or fiction.  I’m also quite secure in the knowledge that Geoffy would have loved this movie.

For whatever reason, historical films which make a show of being “historically accurate” but aren’t drive me nuts.  But when a movie just throws historical accuracy out the window and is open about it, I tend to love it.  Except the movie version of Funny Girl because the costumes are simply ugly.  So the use of Queen music and David Bowie in a film about the middle ages?  Just fine with me.  (Also, not convinced David Bowie wasn’t around then)  Those crazy assed hair styles and costumes that Shannyn Sossaman wears?  Delightful.

And did I mention naked Chaucer?

Which is to say nothing of clothed Chaucer in his glam rock coat doing the herald thing.  Which I adore.

Oh!  And Edward the Black Prince of Wales.  Who is scrumptious.

Speaking of Scrumptious we also get Alan Tudyk playing a character who really doesn’t make any sense but doesn’t need to on account of his Alan Tudyk.

Is it any wonder this movie improves my mood?  My students should be grateful:  I have it on in the background as I’m grading their tests.  I expect the averages to be high.

Bad Fauxmance?

Tonight’s post is a quick one.  Just a guilty pleasure.  Something on the internet that amuses me.  And I’m easily amused.

In particular, I’m amused by Kevin Smith’s ongoing twitter war/fauxmance with Megan Phelps.

If somehow you’re fortunate enough to not know who Megan Phelps-Roper is, she’s the granddaughter of Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church. Yes, the one’s whose url is hate speech and who protest soldier’s funerals.  I guess Megan’s the younger, hipper contingent because she spreads the WBC’s message of hate via twitter and Lady Gaga parodies.  Yeah.  I want to feel sorry for her, knowing she’s only the product of her environment and she’s been indoctrinated into what she is but… she makes it really damn hard.

I imagine given the opportunity, most of us have more than a few choice things we’d like to say to Megan and the WBC.  But let’s face it, telling them how despicable they are only fuels their fire.  I think Kevin Smith has hit on a better tactic.

He flirts with her.  Every time she tweets some kind of criticism of him or announces the WBC will be picketing one his events, he acts like she’s hitting on him.  He responds by gently chiding her with the fact that he’s married.  Then he offers to see if he can talk his wife into a three way.  Then he offers to share his pot with her.  It’s basically a fifth grade technique (albeit with slightly more adult content), but I like it anyway.  I don’t think any of its going to change her mind or make a difference.  Megan seems pretty set in her ways, though she is young, so there might be hope.  And honestly, I think she likes the attention.  But whatever.

What I care about is it makes me snicker.  And it’s the end of the semester, and I need all the laughs I can get.

So thank you Mr. Smith—you’ve brought the funny yet again.

In Which MTV, MPB asks, “Who’s your Daddy?”

And hopes your answer is, “Damned if I know!”

Yes, it’s been a while, but we’re back to

TV Cliches We Love

Okay… so we can double file this one under “guilty pleasures” since this is one particular television cliché that I absolutely don’t want to admit to loving.  Because I really don’t want to love it.  I want to simply roll my eyes at it and talk about why it’s a sign of bad writing.  I want to hate it.

But I can’t.  In spite of every learned standard of good fiction that I have, something innate and instinctual in me loves it.  I blame my upbringing—Momma watched a lot of All My Children.

I am speaking, of course, of the “Who’s the daddy?” storyline—WTD for those who frequent online message boards.  You know, those stories where a female character has sex with two (sometimes more) different men in a short span of time and then winds up pregnant.  Then we have months and months of angst and anguish and probably some lying and scheming until the paternity of said baby is revealed.  Delicious, delicious angst.  Sometimes years go by before the truth comes out.  Sometimes one truth comes out and then another truth comes out.  And I’m watching eagerly the whole time.

Why do I eat it up?  I don’t know.  I can give you a whole list of reasons why said storylines suck.  Beyond being cliché, there’s also an argument that they promote negative images of women.  (You see, this is what happens to women who aren’t sexually pure—they wind up stuck in trite storylines!)  In the era of better birth control, awareness of birth control, and the morning after pill they are increasingly ridiculous.  Furthermore, on most television shows, WTD stories are a tool for abusing fanbases (which, to be fair, tend to eat it up as much as I do).

And yet… they hook me.  Maybe there’s some sort of deep seeded psychological reason rooted in my dislike of babies.  The WTD story goes against the normal portrayal of babies as cute and wonderful, always welcome things (which ignores the fact that they don’t do anything cool, they just make noise, make waste and smell like stale mac and cheese).  Maybe it’s because they’re full of angst, and I love angst.  I don’t know.

All I know is that back in the days of Farscape we were all excited when we got the cliffhanger reveal of Aeryn being pregnant, but I personally was almost as thrilled when she revealed she wasn’t sure who the father was.  Even more so when we found out that due to some Sebacean biological peculiarity, the baby could have been conceived years earlier.  Are you kidding me?  So many possible daddies!  (Maybe; she was never really that forthcoming on that point.)

My soap opera, One Life to Live (I’m not saying it’s good, I’m just saying  you should watch) right now has dueling WTD stories.  And what could be better than two simultaneous WTDs?  The two Mommy’s to be, Jessica and Natalie, are twins!  (Who have different fathers.  It seems WTD is an inherited condition.)  (Incidentally, for Jessica, this is her fourth pregnancy and second WTD—impressive record!)  Even better?   One man, Brody “Tiny Hulk” Lovett might be the father of both babies.  Or neither baby.  Who knows?  That’s the whole point!

This is where part of me wants to look at the head writer and say, “You sick bastard!”   And the other part of me wants to go, “I know!  Isn’t it great?”

So in summary, I would like to say to all the soap writers and soapy writers:  These stories are trite and cliché and you should stop writing them.  But if you don’t?  I will keep watching them and shamefully loving every second of it.

Tumbling + Teen Angst = Guilty Pleasure

As we’ve alluded to a few times, I’m not easily embarrassed.  Much to Cammy’s chagrin.  I’d like to say I’m like Barney Stinson and have an awesome gland where my shame gland should be, but in reality it’s more like I have a very small shame gland which was unable to develop properly due to my enlarged attention whore gland.  So there’s not a lot of guilt involved in most of my guilty pleasures.  I will tell anyone who wants to know about my soap opera addiction.  I’m open about my love for Degrassi.  But there are some things even I hesitate to admit to watching.  Like Make It Or Break It, for example.  I’m not going to deny that I watch it, and clearly I’m telling the entire internet, but I’m not ever going to bring it up in conversation.

Let’s start by getting one thing clear:  It’s not a good show.  It’s not even a mediocre show.  I mean, in many ways, it’s truly awful.  The fact that it comes on ABC Family probably tells you a lot.  But I can’t stop watching it!

It’s really not that difficult to figure out why I would watch it.  I’m a huge fan of gymnastics; it is, to my knowledge, the only show out there about gymnastics.  I also enjoy teen angst.  And what this show is really about is teen angst.  Win-win.  Sorta.

The show follows the adventures of a quartet of elite gymnasts as they train and compete and experience the hell known as adolescence.  We have Scrappy!Emily, the daughter of a ne’er do well nail technician who also has a wheel chair bound brother.  Her family has no money and she doesn’t feel like she belongs in an elite gym.  Then there’s Bitchy!Lauren from a broken home, poor little rich girl type.  Super competitive in and out of the gym.  Not above endangering a fellow gymnast’s life by tampering with the vault or sleeping with her friend’s boyfriend.  Then we have Payson who simultaneously manages to be bad ass and boring which is a clear indication how talented she is.  She traded in a personality for work ethic.  Last but not least, Sparkly!Kaylie, whose ex-athlete father is more interested in finding endorsements to parenting and whose mother is more interested in banging the coach.  But she’s cute and has something approaching a personality.

And wackiness ensues!

Wackiness that is generally predictable and yet horribly addictive.

Okay, the first glaring problem with the show is honestly one I will concede them: though the characters are supposed to be some of the top gymnasts in the world, the skills we see them doing are somewhat less than world class.  Though this impacts the realism of the show, there are only a handful of women in the world who can actually do world class gymnastics and most of them are too busy being world class gymnasts to have time to do stunt work for an angsty television show.

Then there’s the soap opera problem of nothing having lasting consequences.  Lauren leaves the gym and comes back.  Carter gets kicked out of the gym but comes back.  Lauren and Kaylie end their friendship over Carter, but they all bond in the end.  I might have been distraught when Payson fell off the bars at Nationals, injuring her spine so that she’d never be able to do gymnastics again.  If I thought it would actually stick.  Sure enough, Counselor Troi showed up and performed a revolutionary surgery, leaving her good as new.  (Incidentally, would you let Counselor Troi operate on your child?  Because I wouldn’t.)

The bigger problem is that they fail to make the characters sympathetic.  Every male under 25 who enters the show seems to fall for Emily, despite her lack of curves, brain and backbone.  And the fact that I want to smack her at least half the time.  Payson was at her least annoying while handicapped and they fixed that.  Lauren is fun with her crazed bitchiness, but at best is the type you love to hate.  There are moments when I like Kaylie, but then I remember she was that obnoxious girl I hated in high school.

All this said?  I’m totally going to be watching the season premiere on Monday (or perhaps whenever they get the episode online since I’ll be working during the initial broadcast).  Because I may not want to, but I eat it all up.  It’s like that can of cream cheese icing in the back of the fridge.  You know that there is nothing to be gained by eating a big old spoonful of it, but that won’t stop you.

Guilty Pleasure: Young Guns II

I have mixed feelings about historical movies “based” on a true story.  I’m not really a purist when it comes to adapting novels or comics to films.  But some distortions of history I can’t stomach.  Disney’s Pocahontas for example.  On the other hand, other distortions I rather enjoy.  Such as tonight’s guilty pleasure.  I’m no expert, but I’m fairly certain that the only similarity Young Guns II has to actual historical events are some names.  That doesn’t stop me from loving it.

Maybe it’s because I first saw it when I was too young to know better.  Maybe it’s because it’s not a period/geographic area of history on which I’m an expert.  Maybe it’s because it’s fully of attractive men.  … Yeah, that’s definitely a factor.

All I really know is there is something about this movie that’s like a can of cream cheese frosting in the back of the refrigerator.  I know it’s no good, but I can’t help myself.

I definitely prefer Young Guns II to the original.  Strange, I know, since sequels are generally regarded as inferior.  It might simply be because I saw the sequel first, but I suspect the real reason is Christian Slater.  He’s not in the first movie and that is a sad, sad thing.  I have a theory that nearly every movie can be improved with the addition of Christian Slater.  (An old roommate and I once came to the conclusion that the only thing that would make the Lord of the Rings trilogy even better would be if it had included Christian Slater as Aragorn’s skeezy roommate from college.  Think about the prospect and try not to smile.)  Much to Cammy’s amusement, I’m kind of in love with George Strait’s song about Arkansas Dave, just because it allows me to picture Slater’s character from this film.

But it’s not just Christian Slater.  This movie falls into a category with a handful of films (The Outsiders, School Ties, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) for being so full of hot men that it’s almost painful.  Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Philips, Emilio Estevez, Balthazar Getty…  Look for Aragorn himself in a small part and Jon Bon Jovi in a bit part.  And they’re all riding around on horses and shooting things.  Could it be hotter?  Also, I love the score.  I mean I like the Bon Jovi music from and inspired by album, but I love the score.

How much do I love this guilty pleasure?  I own the DVD, the Bon Jovi CD was one of the first I ever purchased and I can sing all the songs.  I can recite Chavez’s entire speech about his family being wiped out (and I get misty eyed every time).

But yeah, I do it all with a bit of guilt.  Because on some level I do recognize that this is not really a good movie.  But that won’t keep me from watching it.

Ode to Soaps

Since this blog is going to spend plenty of time discussing the great TV we love, I think it’s only fair that I acknowledge the bad TV I love. (I’m also going acknowledge right now that “great” and “bad” are extremely subjective terms, and that if I love them both, perhaps misleading. Don’t over think it—just go with it.) More specifically, I’m talking about Daytime Soap Operas.

Really? Yes, really. I LOVE soap operas. I have since I was a wee thing. My mother used to watch All My Children religiously back in the day and I used to watch with her. During summers when I was usually home alone for most of the day I would watch the whole ABC soap block. Which I suppose was ultimately what led to the strange deviation that One Life to Live, not All My Children, became my soap of choice. I’ve left and come back a couple times—tried to get clean. From about 1999-2004 I didn’t watch at all (it helps to leave the country). Then I moved in with someone who watched One Life to Live, and it was all over. I was hooked again. For a while I watched General Hospital too, but I still haven’t forgiven them for killing Georgie. Long story. Messy break up. Sometimes General Hospital still calls me drunk at 2am, but I keep telling it we should both see other people.

I’d call this a guilty pleasure, but the problem is I don’t really feel a lot of guilt about it. No, it’s not necessarily something I advertise all the time. I don’t sit in graduate classes and say, “You know, it’s interesting, because Dundes’s argument here really reminds me of this one time on One Life to Live…” (For the record, I think Alan Dundes could have had fun with soap operas.) But I don’t actively hide it. I don’t lie about it. But I do find that it bothers many of my more intellectual friends. Hell, it bothers a lot of my less than intellectual friends. So for the record, here’s just a few of the things I love about daytime soaps (list of things that drive me nuts about soaps to come at a later date):

1. Escapism. Okay, I’m a full time student in a PhD program. I’ve studied the great works of literature. I’ve taught the great works of literature. My “occupation” tends to be looking for deeper meanings in everything. So sometimes, I like to have the opportunity to turn my brain off and watch trash. It’s a survival technique.

2. Related: Lack of pretension. I’m sure I often come off as pretentious, but I really hate pretension in others. And I like that soaps have kind of embraced their own stereotypes. They don’t try to pass themselves off as more than they are. Let’s be honest, there are soap elements in every primetime show, no matter how critically acclaimed. But they try to pretend they’re all deep and whatnot. Whatever. Get over yourselves.

3. Possibly the only place on television where the men are consistently hotter than the women. It’s kind of the reverse of the sitcom formula of the overweight slovenly guy with the wife who looks like a supermodel. Granted, the women on soaps are still much hotter than I will ever be, but they tend towards being an achievable type of hot. The kind you look at and think: I don’t look like that, but I probably know people who do. The guys on the other hand… Okay, maybe gratuitous shots of David Fumero with his shirt off are exploitative. But given the much more widespread exploitation of women in the media, I’m willing to live with it. And drool while I live with it.

4. Ahead of their time? Okay, it might be successfully argued that soaps have lost this to some degree, but I think it’s worth acknowledging that daytime television dealt with issues like interracial relationships, abortion, and homosexuality at times when primetime wouldn’t touch them. Give props where they are due.

5. I’m a sucker for a long, rambling, complicated story arc. And no one does that better than soaps because no one has the time to do it better than soaps. What they lack in continuity, these story arcs sometimes make up for in sheer complexity. I mean, I’ve explained the Summers family tree to Cammy (X-Men reference for the nongeeks) and I might have broken her brain in the process. But I wouldn’t even attempt to explain the Buchanan or the Lord family trees. Not unless there were copious amounts of alcohol involved.

So there you have it. Confessions of a soap fan. I know everyone’s already writing the eulogy of daytime drama, and I’m not swearing they’re wrong. But I intend to enjoy the ride as long as I can.

Watching the Claire Car-wreck

It’s all Kristy’s fault.

Hers and Canada’s.

I was minding my own business, being active and productive in my off-hours until Kristy starts in with, “You should watch the new Degrassi!  It’s amusing Canadian teen-angst!”  And, having vague memories of the original Degrassi, I finally caved, thinking I would then be able to mock this new stuff.  Or at least I could watch it, tell Kristy I’d tried, I wasn’t interested and I could go back to my limited span of TV shows.

So, innocently, I turn on The N (as it was known until a few months ago) while I’m doing my ironing on a Sunday afternoon–because, conveniently, The N/Teen Nick plays Degrassi on embarrassingly heavy rotation (almost as heavy as their ad rotation for Proactiv® or the Bumpit™).  And….

Yes, I was sucked into the vortex of Canadian, soap-story teen-angst.  It’s like crack.  It’s bad for me.  I know this, and yet I keep coming back.  This stuff should come with a warning label from the Surgeon General.  Something.  Anything.  At the very least we should be aware that this is part of the Great Canadian Invasion Conspiracy (I, for one, welcome our Hockey Loving Overlords).

Since I didn’t start this foolish journey any sooner,  I’m in a strange position compared to others.  My introduction to this “new Degrassi” is not so much Degrassi the Next Generation as “Degrassi the Next, Next Generation” since I came in at the beginning of the most recent season.  This allowed me to instantly latch onto Claire, the sweet, innocent, dorky little brain who reminds me entirely too much of myself in junior high/high school (or she did, until she got the cute little boyfriend–I never had one of those).

But here’s the problem: as my addiction has led me back in time to view the misadventures and teeny-bopper drama that have graced the Degrassi campus since before Emma and Manny had boobs.  When the New Years  “Every Degrassi Ever” marathon sucked up the remaining days of my holiday time off,  I came to a horrifying realization about my poor little Claire: she’s doomed.  You cannot watch this show and not realize that the cute little boyfriend?  He won’t last. In all likelihood, breaking up with the puppy-love boy will be the least of the traumas she suffers.  My cute, innocent little Claire will not escape unscathed.  This is, after all, Degrassi.

Once you accept that she’s doomed, it’s all just a matter of trying to predict what will happen to poor little Claire before she finishes Degrassi (if she finishes–oh, there would be an nice twist:  the top scholar turned drop out!).  We already see the writing on the wall about the boyfriend, which is sad, but really, Degrassi is relationship poison, so it’s not a shock.  What kind of kick-in-the-guts will follow? Remember kids, we haven’t had a pregnancy storyline in a while, and now that what’s-her-name is off being a model, we’re short a teen-parent, so that option is open.  There’s always room for someone else to go slutty, although that base is currently kind of being covered by the Little Bhandari.  However, role reversals are par for the course, so the possibility still exists for Claire to get trampy.  Drug addition is always popular, but we’ve got Peter taking care of that.  Kristy has actually joined in the speculation and suggested a nervous break-down in the great tradition of Jessie Spano from that other teen classic, Saved By the Bell (go head, act out the “I’m so excited…” scene–you know you want to).  The only grand flip out we’ve had in this way was Paige and that’s been ages ago, so it’s high time we had a nice academically induced panic attack, if you ask me.

No matter what, it won’t be good.  That’s the Degrassi way.  And therein lies the addictive magic of the program.  You know there will be angst, drama and teenage BS in massive, gut-wrenching quantities, and yet, just like a car accident on the freeway, you are powerless to look away.