Friday, May 7, 2010

Sparkle, Neely, Sparkle!

I'm sure there are intelligent things I could be doing-like studying, and if I'm going to instead waste time on this blog I could be writing about something intelligent, but I just feel like doing something fun (okay, I ended up analyzing everything below, albeit not very well). I was going to write about Girl Scout Camp back in the day and how much I miss it, but (a) that has potential to be sappy sappy, and (b) Carrie Brownstein (of Sleater-Kinney) just beat me to it in writing a blog post about her favorite summer camp songs and I could take it as coincidence, or as a sign that I should or should not write my post, but for the time being I'm going to not be a copy cat. Not that Carrie and I have overlapping readership or anything...I'm sure that post will come soon enough.

Anyways, hmm...pure, unadulterated fun...I know! I present to you...

Sienna's Guiltiest Pleasures

Actually, I'm sure I'll forget some of the guilty ones. And I already established that I'm bad at Top 5/Top 10 Lists (Yeah, I'm still not a together person...but I guess Rob Fleming wasn't, either...) I'm not even sure I'm going to feel like writing explanations for each one...I guess it's not really necessary. I mean, if you like something, you like something. Actually, I'm not sure how guilty/embarrassed I feel about any of these. I kind of want to re-name this "Things Sienna Likes That Other People Judge Her For, Yet She Goes On Liking Them", but that doesn't flow nicely.

I mean, sure, when other people are discussing great American literature that they're fond of and then I really want to chime in with how I *love* Valley of the Dolls I usually hold back...there are some things that truly are in bad taste for me to like. But for a lot of these I don't know why they're considered bad/tacky/low-class/whatver. As long as something's not outright offensive, what's wrong with liking it? I think the fact that we consider some things to be in bad taste when there's no real reason for it is pretty pretentious. There are plenty of things that I like for irony's sake, but lately I've been feeling bad about that. The whole irony thing is often a bunch of privileged and/or "in-crowd" people deciding to deride something that someone else either genuinely likes or, in other cases, has to purchase/wear out of necessity. I should probably cut that out.

(I still want a Three Wolf Moon shirt)

So I guess I'll start with the aforementioned Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann...I think I've read this book, with its adorable pink cover with the pill cut-outs, like 5 times. Long story short: A young woman leaves her New England hometown to go to New York City and make a name for herself, gets caught up in showbiz and becomes a drug addict. I knew I was going to love it when I read the godawful poem (Poem? I think that's what Susann was going for) in the front of the book...I like it because it sounds an awful lot like any poetry I've ever tried to write. Then..."...New York was steaming-an angry concrete animal caught unawares in an unreasonable hot spell"...and you're off! This is the book that started my trashy novel phase in high school, from Jackie Collins to such gems as Wanton Slave (which floated around my school's hallways, for some reason) and I Shocked the Sheriff. The story just sucks you in...and you read, and you read, and you read, and in the end you don't feel like you've gained anything at all, except a chance to escape and to realize that your life isn't that bad. There was also a movie made of it, which is now a camp classic (Susann allegedly walked out of the screening in disgust), but the book's the best. Reading is always more intelligent than watching a movie, right? (Go here if you want to read some of it...or just ask to borrow my copy..I'm glad to spread the love)

Next, a few musical guilty pleasures for you...I think I posted some of these on Facebook a while back so bear with me if you're a true cyber-stalker who's seen these already.

Vixen: Edge of  a Broken Heart

I really don't know why I like some 80s Hair Metal. I guess  I'm just a sucker for a good guitar riff. And female rock musicians are my favorite thing ever, hence the Vixen love, ... I mean, yeah, they're all wearing tight clothing (though I guess male Hair metal musicians dressed exactly the same...equal opportunity works in weird ways) and whining about heartbreak in most of their songs, but if you get past that they're just as talented as any 80s metal band (not saying much?) And the big hair and flashy clothes are just too awesome to pass up.

Dixie Chicks: Goodbye Earl

This was my favorite song in the 4th or 5th grade. I remember my best friend and I had learned the lyrics to like every song on MTV or VH1 (they played music? whoa) and would sing them at our school's after school program, and this was one of them. I don't know how I feel about the fact that little 10 year old me was running around singing about battling domestic violence with domestic violence. Actually, I know exactly how I feel about that, so if anything, that's why this song is a guilty pleasure. (No guilt about liking the Dixie Chicks...In fact, after sitting through Robert Altman's Nashville I sort of have a soft spot for country music...Okay, maybe not a soft spot as much as an infatuation with an element of Americana to which I've never felt much of an affinity)

Wilson Phillips: The Dream is Still Alive

I love, love, loooooove Wilson Phillips. I grew up listening to Carnie and Wendy Wilson's Christmas album every December, which I'm sure has a lot to with it (I'm planning a really aweosme post for July 25, FWIW...My Christmas Songs post was going to be for December but I don't think I can wait that long). And music from the 90s makes me very happy, as a reminder of my childhood-they were like the cool big kids that I wanted to be when I grew up (Yeah, I still want to dress like them). Plus, if you're the child of hippies you're like automatically aweosme until proven otherwise in my book (I chose this song becasue it reflects that...whee, being nostalgic for/trying to live the life of your parent's generation!). And depsite the fact that, "Hold On" aside, they're mainly known for Carnie's size (I mean, really?) (Also, I can't believe how far behind I am on her reality show...unheard of!) and for having batshit families (Carnie and Wendy Wilson are the daughters of a Beach Boy, and Chynna Phillips the daughter of a Mama & a Papa and there was weird stuff with her dad and her half sister and blah blah), they're actually quite talented...I wish I had people I could harmonize like that with!

Grateful Dead: Casey Jones
Indigo Girls: Uncle John's Band
Okay, so I actually really like the Indigo Girls, and I really like the Grateful Dead. And I really really like the Indigo Girls covering the Grateful Dead. But I don't like fitting stereotypes, and I feel like the fact that I really like the aforementioned groups show how I fit various labels to a tee, and that makes me uncomfortable. So sometimes I pretend to like things ironically so I'm not some type of sterotype, but self-derision isn't any better than deriding someone else's taste (and if I ever get that Jeep Wrangler I was eying this morning...I wouldn't know how to pass such a big purchase off as ironic; I'd just have to go with it. Same with a hippie van or some little eco-friendly car...which I guess Jeeps aren't.). Really, going out of your way to reject stereotypes is as bad a going out of your way to propogate them or push them on others; you're still affirming the existence of the stereotype.

The best part of the Indigo Girls covering "Uncle John's Band" is the "Sister, well i declare..." line and "Ain't no time to hate, sister, barely time to wait" thing they added. I was like "They would..."

The best part of "Casey Jones" is...the whole thing! After "Touch of Grey", I think this was the first Dead song I heard and after bursting out in laughter on, the "high on cocaine" line I had another "They Would" moment...So why can't I have "I would" moments in my own life?

Speaking of stereotypes, let's move on to movies. Something I am actually reluctant to say that I like, something I've never liked ironically; I've tried to dislike it but I seriously can't look away, it's like a car crash (which I think ties into the movie somehow): Basic Instinct. I mean, gay rights groups picketed the movie with signs spoling the ending : [highlight for spoiler] She's the killer [highlight for spoiler] because of its portrayal of queer women as hypersexual psychos/killers/psycho-killers. And that hasn't really changed in time (Ohai, Jenny Schecter, and...whoever the fuck actually killed her). Judging by the length of the "Psycho Lesbian" and "Depraved Bisexual" pages on TV Tropes (I advise waiting until after exams are over before you explore TV can take up your entire day/week/life), it's quite a problem. Yet I don't think therein lies my specific problem with this movie; I think my problem with it is just with the over-the-top sex and violence (often conflated) in general. Let's compare it with Mulholland Drive, one of my favorite movies and far, far, from a guilty pleasure: because I feel no guilt about liking it, and instead of bringing me pleasure it actually makes me really sad. But anyways...Mulholland Drive has lots of sex and violence, and I've seen it like 10 times and still don't really understand the plot, but from what I gather [highlight for spoiler] The female protagonist's girlfriend leaves her for a man. so the protagonist goes crazy, hires a hitman to kill the GF and then kills herself [highlight for spoiler] (I'm sure that spoiler's tempting you sorely...and even if you're planning on watching the film but have yet to see it I might acutally advise reading a few spoilers first or you'll have no clue what's going on). On paper its plot doesn't the sound much better than Basic Instinct's. But the sex and violence is much more tasteful (there's the concept of "taste" again...anyone want to delve deeper into that for me?) in Mulholland Drive, and the film's widely known as a masterpiece; the narrative and cinematography are works of art; David Lynch doesn't make exploitation films (can't really quantify what he makes, though). I think the reason I feel guilty about liking Basic Instinct is that it doesn't have artistic mertit to fall back on so it relies solely on gratuitous sex and hacking away at people with ice picks. Plus, usually I think it's a good thing when characters in movies and such just happen to be LGBT without it having to do with the overarching themes of the work, but in this case there's no real reason for Catherine Tramell to be bisexual other than to tantalize and in the context of a movie about a murderer it's kind of an awful idea. The relationship between the women in Mulholland Drive contributes to the plot and even though Diane's actions are questionable, I always want to give her a hug. But, yeah, my issue with Basic Instinct is still mainly that it's a bad movie (but it's so enthralling, still!) (and apparently better than the sequel)

(I bet this is gonna be the day that my entire family reads my blog...just as I'm leaving to go home for the summer...SWEET timing)

I really didn't want to deconstruct all my favorite things, but I'm doing just that...Hm...what's something I like, and my guilt about it comes from an obvious place...*clap*clap* Xanadu!

Starring Gene Kelly and Olivia Newton-John (and some guy who couldn't sing yet got cast in a musical and probably never made another movie). It's about this guy who paints replicas of album covers and hates his job...and then this muse visits him and he is inspired to open up a roller disco that combines elements from the dying days of disco with elements from the 1940s. And they sing about it. And there's this random Disney-esque animated sequence in the middle that makes no sense. And the special effects make me thing of We Have Lasers. I'm not making any of this up. Actually, the music is pretty awesome-Gene Kelly and ONJ are musical staples and there's tons of Electric Light Orchestra. That's the only real redeeming quality to this movie, yet I don't think that's why I really like it; I think it's just so rediculous that it's amazing.

Here's the trailer, which makes it seem like an updated Footlight Parade or some grand musical spectacle of that sort:

Expect a pt. 2 to this sometime, but for now I need to actually get stuff done today. Oh, reading week...where have you gone? What have I accomplished? LeSigh.

If anyone feels like commenting, leave some of your guilty pleasures! Analysis optional.


  1. Sorry for how long this is, BTW...I really didn't feel like studying!

  2. i think yr on to something important re: "taste" and its effects on how we experience art. it seems like we read (watch, listen, etc.) things differently when we are assured of its quality as "good" art. that is, even if it presents us with a complicated or difficult situation, we look for a way to learn from it because we assume it is not a waste of time, has value, and so on. with low art, from which we distance ourselves through ironic appreciation as you point out, we are more likely to read a troubling situation as reflecting a deficiency (of morality, intelligence, etc.) of the text itself.

    that said, even if we no longer read the "bad" art as offensive ethically, as an artwork it is still probably of low quality in some way. so, like, taste is important and reveals something real about the effectiveness of art, but it's hard to say what...

  3. Thanks for fleshing that idea out for me, js! I think you're spot on in saying that we tend to view troubling things in "good" art as things to reflect on but will quickly dismiss similar things in "bad" art as being intrinsically wrong...I think that sometimes we might even consciously look for things to pick apart in "bad" art since we're told from the get-go that there's something wrong with it.