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Thursday, August 28, 2003
Quo Vadimus points us to a great article by Tom Bissell about being your typical good-taste-urban-nerd in one area (literature) and being a total bad-taster in other areas; the article is entitled "Freddy, Jason, Megadeth and me," and what's so nice about it is the progression. Check it: first he gets in great jabs against Indie Snobs (love the half-irony in the capitalization) while also admitting the general badness of his loves (speed metal and slasher flicks) with lines like: 'Speed metal is transubstantiated human aggression played on three chords at 4,000 miles an hour by young men whose thoughts on every topic more or less provide the informal definition of "retarded."' It's a great little appreciation of the whole phenomenon, with a whole bunch of great reasons for loving certain cultural artifacts that should, by all reasons, be loved (including a justification based on a paper by a Duke professor entitled "Men, Women and Chainsaws," which is so nerdy and so good) and it carries a sense of defiance and self-righteousness against the Indie Snobs who Just Don't Get It.

But then it shifts, and this love is revealed as the obsessions of a man wholly given over to true guilty pleasures:

It could be that my love of peerless literature was forged due to a desire to remove myself from what I thought to be the unliterary environment in which I grew up, and my love of horror films and speed metal, which intensified in my early 20s, after I'd moved to New York, is related to a similarly reactive inclination. Which would of course make my motives as repulsive as those of the Indie Rock Snobs I loathe.

And aha! But this is a good thing, because fuck it, he's stuck to his guns. Still, it's definitely a guilty pleasure as I would define it: a true love for something that you no one else you know loves, where the guilt actually provides a decent bit of the enjoyment. (And let's be honest: for all the complaining he does about the problems this has caused him, he clearly feels a certain satisfaction from his elitism, too.) Moreover, it's important to note that not only does he not know anyone else who likes these things, he wouldn't even like the people who do like them. There's nothing about him going home to the Midwest and watching slasher flicks with his friends and remembering how good the Midwest is. It's clear he still doesn't like the ignorant assholes he grew up with, even if he likes the same kind of music and movies they do. He only respects this in someone like him, basically. Thus, the (wonderful!) ending:

Some time ago, near the end of a mostly inconclusive date, the young woman accompanying me pulled me into a bar and planted me on a stool, claiming the joint had a great jukebox. She was beautiful and hip-seeming, and so I sat there with a face-lift-taut smile, watching her make her selections, anticipating a doleful blast of the Cure or God knows what else.

As she walked back over to me, however, what filled the bar's Monday-night emptiness but the feedback guitar pluck (lifted from the Beatles' "I Feel Fine") of Def Leppard's "Photograph"? The lovely young woman apologetically bared her teeth, not quite smiling. "I love Def Leppard," she said with a testing uncertainty I knew all too well. Of that night I was and remain certain of one thing. This was love.

Aww. That's actually really nice. But besides that, the point is that he wasn't looking for a traditional metalhead/slasher-flick girl; he was looking for a hot hip girl who secretly loved the same things he did. A nation of two, as Kurt V. would have it. And that's pretty interesting, guilty-pleasure-wise, especially in relation to the stuff I said before about guilty cultural pleasures and guilty sexual pleasures. But that's getting a bit too sociological, of course, so I'll leave it there and simply say: go read the damn article. It's a great one.