guilty pleasures

Ross: Rachel claims this is her favorite movie.
Chandler: Dangerous Liaisons.
Ross: Correct. Her actual favorite movie is?
Joey: Weekend at Bernie’s.
(Friends, The One With the Embryos)

On my college application, I said my favorite song was the Commendatore scene from Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni. I do like it — it’s a compelling piece of music — but if I was being honest, in 1989, my actual favorite song was probably Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam’s “Head to Toe”.

Even sadder, “Head to Toe” came out in 1987. By 1989, my favorite song was probably something by Paula Abdul.

Sure, we all wish we had consistently high-brow tastes. And sometimes we do! I really do like Mozart, and my favorite book really is Anna Karenina. At the same time, when I want to wooby with a blanket and the cats, I’m usually reaching for something with a lower IQ requirement. So I share with you, with no small amount of shame, my guilty pleasures.

Movies

Selena (1997): The true story of Selena Quintanilla-Perez, a Texas-born Tejano singer who rose from cult status to performing at the Astrodome, as well as having chart topping albums on the Latin music charts. This one stars Jennifer Lopez and Edward James Olmos (if Olmos is in it it can’t be all bad!) and I could watch it FOREVER. I’m nearly physically incapable of changing the channel if it’s on, despite, yes, owning a copy as well. BIDI BIDI BOM BOM.

The Twilight Series, but especially Eclipse. Look, these movies are crap. There’s no two ways about it. I own them all, though. There’s no good explanation. The plots are trite, the dialogue is mediocre at best. I’m frequently rooting for the bad vampires. Mostly the wolves. The soundtracks are surprisingly good (Iron & Wine, for crying out loud!) and there are some neat visuals. I find Kristen Stewart oddly mesmerizing. And Taylor Lautner’s abs are distracting. As Edward says:

Edward himself is singularly unappealing to me (what happened to that handsome young lad in Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire?). And they’re both young enough to be my kids, so there’s that. (Well, Pattinson only if I started REALLY young.)

The Devil’s Advocate (1997). This one is my husband’s fault. It’s his guilty pleasure movie, one he has a supernatural ability to find airing on TBS at any given time. Al Pacino gives the worst performance of his career (did he lose a bet?) and Keanu Reeves makes you wish he was playing a robot in a plot full of holes you can drive a semi through, while Charlize Theron changes her hairstyle and hopes you forget she was even in this piece of dreck.

Just about any dance movie, ever. Favorites include Center Stage, Strictly Ballroom, Dirty Dancing, Footloose, All the Step Up movies (all five!), Shall We Dance, White Nights, Mad Hot Ballroom, Coyote Ugly, Billy Elliot, Singin’ in the Rain, and Save the Last Dance. If there’s dancing anywhere in it, I’ll watch it. Repeatedly. Starting with when it premieres in the theater. Me and a lot of teenagers, usually. I’m there.

Books

You know, I don’t feel guilty about these. They’re great books. It’s just the sheer number of times I’ve read them that borders on embarrassing.

Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay: I once started this book at a favorite scene somewhere near the midway point, finished, went back to the beginning, and read the entire book through again, to the end.

Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books. The ones she actually wrote, not the ones her son has written since she died. (No offense, Todd.) I think what lies beneath this obsession is a deeply-rooted desire to able to communicate telepathically with my cats, along with the knowledge that we would be bonded for life. On the other hand, sometimes I think their thoughts might not be particularly flattering, especially on the days they haven’t had any Fancy Feast.

The Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I still have the same yellow paperback set I had as a child. By the Banks of Plum Creek! By the Shores of Silver Lake! Nellie Olsen. Almanzo. Nearly freezing and starving to death in The Long Winter. Pa and his fiddle. Good times!

Having said that, there are a few books that only keep from embarrassing me out of an admiration for the written word in all forms. Judith Krantz’ Princess Daisy. Flowers in the Attic. Jean Auel’s books, especially the latter ones like The Plains of Passion — I mean, Passage. Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches saga. Janet Dailey’s Calder books. And oh, The Da Vinci Code. I hang my head in literary shame.

Songs

The Spice Girls, Wannabe. They sold, like, a zillion copies of that CD, but no one ever, ever admits to having owned it.

Britney Spears, Womanizer. I’ve got an excuse for this one. It was my favorite routine on the Wii “Just Dance” exercise program. I mean, with lyrics like “Womanizer, woman-womanizer, You’re a womanizer, Oh, womanizer, oh, You’re a womanizer, baby”, what’s not to like, right? But it does make a good workout song.

Carly Rae Jepson, Call Me Maybe. Every now and then a song is so annoying you end up liking it, which doesn’t make sense but it’s still true. I still feel like this song got published on a dare, but if so, it paid off.

The Backstreet Boys, As Long As You Love Me. Okay, I’ve got no defense for BSB. It’s not like they can consider themselves pseudo-cool like NSYNC for bringing us Justin Timberlake, Lance Bass, and Joey Fatone (hey, he was good in My Big Fat Greek Wedding!). I can’t name a single other song of theirs, but I like this one. It’s nice!

Lastly, and this I say with no shame whatsoever, Sonny & Cher’s I Got You, Babe. You know, this song had a bad rap for a long time, but I don’t know why. It was sung by two kids who were nuts about each other, and stayed good friends for the rest of their lives, even after their marriage ended. I had this song played at my wedding and it’s one of my favorite memories of the whole night. So I’ll leave you with a very early performance, from 1965:

glee finale

Glee_logo-1-Tonight is the finale of “Glee” and I’m not embarrassed to say that I’m going to be sad to see it end. Well, maybe a little embarrassed. But not slushie-to-the-face humiliated or anything.

Anything you could say to criticize “Glee” would be completely accurate. Yes, it’s WAY cheesy. Yes, it’s basically an hour-long musical every week, which poses the same problem all musicals do (who just breaks out in song like that, really?). Yes, there are plot holes the size of a dinosaur-wiping-out craters, really basic stuff like “how does a high school manage professional-quality productions, complete with stage lighting, costumes and sets at the drop of a hat?” And “are the state requirements to become a teacher somehow not in effect in Lima, Ohio?” and “why did New York City look so much like LA?” “Glee” is guilty of all that and much more, such as questionable guest stars, repeated plot devices and no real concern for the boundaries of space, time and the actual taking of high school classes.

Pilot_GleeBut the “Glee” pilot remains one of the best first episodes of a show I’ve ever seen, hands down. And that’s saying something. I downloaded it from iTunes and brought it with me on my new iPad when I’d been called for jury duty; sitting in that bullpen all day, waiting to be picked or sent home, I put on some headphones and started watching, and couldn’t stop. It was like nothing else on TV at the time in its sheer, unadulterated, so-cheesy-I-can’t-watch-without-crackers, well, glee. I went to a performing arts high school and even we didn’t have a show choir — I was jealous. I wanted in, slushies and all. I loved a lot of the songs they covered, and I found a lot of new artists to listen to, by following the “Glee” versions (handily released on iTunes, of course) to their originals. “Glee” is where I first heard Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Adele.

rachelfinnConfession, though: my enthusiasm waned, after awhile. Somewhere in Season 3 I got bored. I didn’t like the music, the plots seemed more ridiculous than usual. I stopped watching. Stopped, completely. And came back a couple seasons later — something I’ve never done with a show. When Corey Montieth died, I couldn’t help but wonder how “Glee” was going to adapt. As any Gleek can tell you, the Rachel/Finn pairing was supposed to be endgame, in fact, the very focus of the show. Creator Ryan Murphy even had the final scene written, one that would reunite Broadway star Rachel and new glee coach Finn for their happily ever after. Tragically, then, Murphy really was going to have to find a way for the show to go on without its male lead, and without a roadmap to the finish. I couldn’t resist seeing how they were going to pull it off.

NewbiesIt’s been interesting, you can’t deny that. I mean, sure, there was an entire new glee club that got pretty much thrown under the bus for being uninteresting, and the New York City plotline bounced around from one crazy week to another. (Rachel’s boyfriend is a male escort! Santana’s on Broadway! Rachel’s bored of being the lead in “Funny Girl” after a few dozen performances, despite this being her life’s ambition! And wait, we’re all back in Lima, for some very flimsy reasons!) It was downright silly, but it was fun. One of the best things about “Glee”, after all, is that it knows how to laugh at itself, with self-mocking asides and self-referential nods to the absurdity of it all.

But “Glee” was also more than itself, in some very important ways. This show unflinchingly addressed the problems and pressures that young gay men and women face, including bullying, peer pressure and the threat of physical violence. Later seasons addressed transgender rights, as well as domestic violence and hate crimes. The not-such-a-surprise double wedding of Brittany & Santana and Kurt & Blaine was really a celebration of everything “Glee” had done before to give a voice to those who are too often silenced by hate.

640_glee_finale_group_shotSo, this season I’ve watched as the remaining episodes have dwindled down to just this one, and I’ve already been misty-eyed more than once. “Glee”, flaws and all, tugs at my heart a little. It’s heavily laced with nostalgia and it delivers a whopping overdose of schmaltz, and I’ll be watching tonight with a box of tissues ready.