Would you like to know what I did last night?
Wait. First, let me set the stage: The last few weeks have been stressful and long for a number of reasons. I won't get into the details here, but uncertainty at work, in my love life, with friends' troubles, with some health issues and the toxicity of the internet, it's been rough. The icing on the crazy cake was the insane overreaction of fans regarding the uninspired reviews for Suicide Squad.
So here's what I did: I played a terrible otome game on my phone while watching Blade: Trinity and doing considerable damage to a pint of ice cream. Not one of those things suggests a high level of quality or intellect, but I did it anyway. Because I could and I wanted to.
I'm totally okay admitting that I love the hell out of Blade: Trinity. While we're on the subject, I also listen to '90s boy bands with unabashed glee, play stupid, sappy romance games, and read stupid, sappy YA novels upon occasion. If someone were to point out to me that they're not very good, I'd agree. I'm aware that, objectively, they're crap, so I don't take it personally when someone points that out. They work for me on a pure entertainment level that is determined entirely by my personal experiences and situation, though I absolutely know that they're not good.
While I have yet to see Suicide Squad (a situation I'll be remedying tomorrow night), I'll be perfectly blunt: I didn't like Batman V Superman. In fact, I thought it was a dumpster fire on multiple levels. But while I walked out of the theater utterly frustrated and let down, I could also see how some fans loved the hell out of it. Seeing DC's Holy Trinity on screen together for the first time? The countless Easter eggs? Batman going apeshit on some baddies? Hell yeah, I could totally see why others loved it from a longtime fan perspective. What's more, I was happy for them. It was a disaster from a narrative and character development standpoint, but as pure fan service, it was fantastic.
Yet, it's scary that a large portion of fans seems to have lost this ability to do just that, to separate the things they like from who they are. They don't have the ability to say, "I recognize this movie is not great quality and people are right to point that out, but that's okay. I like it, anyway," and be content with that. When I told others that loved Batman V Superman that I thought it was awful but I could see how they loved it and was glad for them, it wasn't enough to leave it at that. They felt compelled to argue, to defend the quality of the film. It left me baffled.
Because here's the thing: It's fine to like crappy things. There is no shame in admitting you love something of questionable quality, to embrace the lowbrow from time to time. Show me a person who claims they don't and I'll show you a damn liar. We all have guilty pleasures, every last one of us. What's more, we need them.
Guilty pleasures are pressure valves. In a world that seems to have gone mad most days, they are an escape, an outlet to help us achieve the vital ability to decompress and unplug. They keep us sane. There is nothing inherently wrong with entertainment purely for entertainment's sake, if that's what you want or need. We lead busy lives; our brains get overloaded. If watching something mindless or silly or cheesy is what you need to reset, so be it. You do you.
They also serve the more fundamental purpose of keeping us connected to our past, of centering us and reminding us of who we are. Nostalgia is big right now, and guilty pleasures play a large part. Have you gone back and rewatched cartoons from the '80s? They're terrible, for the most part. I mean, holy-crap-why-did-I-like-this-wow-little-kids-are-so-dumb kind of terrible. Same with many '80s movies. But I go back and watch them every so often because I need to reconnect with the kid I was and remember why I started loving the things I loved in the first place. They may not be great, and I recognize it, but they were also the movies that sparked those first few licking flames of imagination. Twenty years from now, a 20-something might look back on Batman V Superman and know that it wasn't very good, but that it was the movie they saw that got them into superheroes, or Batman, or movies for the first time.
There's something inherently magical about being able to embrace a bad film. The bad movies we like say as much about us as the good ones. They speak to our flaws, our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. And maybe that's the problem. Perhaps it's that, with the vitriol of social media and a world that seems more hostile now, fans see this admission as exposing a chink in their armor. Perhaps it's that there is such attachment to and blind brand loyalty that fans are unable to separate the worth of their character from the quality of the things they enjoy. Perhaps its this near-constant immersion in pop culture that has made fans unable to recognize that a criticism of a film they enjoy isn't a vicious attack on their person. I don't know what it is.
What I do know is that there's an entire generation that needs to start embracing guilty pleasures again and stop being embarrassed by them. There's nothing to feel guilty about. It's normal. It's human. It's not an attack on your character that one stranger, or twenty, or two thousand think a movie you love is bad. So what? If it's bad, it's bad. Embrace that shit. Own it. Know and admit that it's terrible and then love the hell out of it, anyway, fiercely and with no shame. Wrap your head and your heart around it and don't let go. Because you need that; we all need that. Your love of it is part of you, makes you who you are.
And the next time someone tells you a movie you love is bad, try this: Laugh. Laugh and say, "I know it's terrible, but I love it." I can guarantee you'll be happier when you accept we all have bad taste from time to time - yes, even you. Welcome to being a real person and comfortable with who you are. Really, where's the guilt in that?