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Athens, Ohio, United States
"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Monday, March 29, 2010

ENG 284 with Dr. Bojalad

I'm in one of those moods.

It's a mood that seems to occur exactly three times each year for the past two years. It can manifest itself as an uncontrollable desire to declare my love for everything. It can make me stop writing. It can inspire me to start writing again. It can even make me begin a blog called The Collective(ly) Unconscious.

It's that mood at the birth of each new Quarter of my college education. This time around, it has inspired me and reaffirmed that I can do just whatever I feel like doing. And what I feel like doing is preaching.

No, not the Jesus/Muhammad/Abraham gospel but the Harry/Conan/Bluth gospel (I am rather proud of that hastily thought up holy trinity, by the way).

I had a class today called "Writing About Culture" and it, to borrow from the cultural vernacular, "fucked my shit up." It wasn't so much that I was presented with new and exciting information, but rather presented with old, obvious information that I feel is underused. I know now that for the next ten weeks, I will spend four hours in a classroom in which Culture is the most important topic in the world.

My God...I needed this. Prepare for an onslaught of rushed thoughts as I leave a 200-level class exhilarated and inspired each day. Today was only the syllabus day and I still have something in mind that I want to write about inspired by this class.

The wonderful Dr. Hart began role call by going around the room and having each person declare their name and a "guilty pleasure" of theirs. The answers ranged from Lost to the Food Network to John Hughes movies. I answered True Blood, since the person called two names before me had swiped Glee away from me. This, of course, got me thinking, as any random listings of tv shows and movies is bound to do. Is there really any such thing as a "guilty pleasure?"

Chuck Klosterman has written on this topic before. And as always he can elucidate this difficult-to-comprehend concept better than I can:

People who use this term (guilty pleasure) are usually talking about why they like Joan of Arcadia, or the music of Nelly, or Patrick Swayze's Road House. This troubles me for two reasons: Labeling things like Patrick Swayze movies a guilty pleasure implies that a) people should feel bad for liking things they sincerely enjoy, and b) if these same people were not somehow coerced into watching Road House every time it's on TBS, they'd probably be reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

There just seems to be something inherently disrespectful and dismissive about the term to me. There should be no shame in any pop cultural experience. I mean that's the whole reason the entire structure we know as "pop culture" exists. Viewers are allowed to enjoy things on an intellectual level or a visceral level or both.

If I were teaching a class on "Writing About Culture," (Thankfully, I'm not and Dr. Hart seems infinitely more capable than I) I think I would walk into the classroom the first day, write "there is no such thing as a 'guilty pleasure'" on the board and spend the rest of the quarter arguing that fact.

Does this mean I would expect my hypothetical students to blindly love everything that crosses their path? Of course not. And it brings up a point from a recent episode from my third favorite show on TV right now: Community (Ten points to whoever figures out what #1 and #2 are).

God bless Jeff Winger for hating Glee. Hating something vehemently and with cause or without cause is as integral part of pop culture as loving something is. But the hypothetical students in Dr. Bojalad's ENG 284 will never, ever be allowed to utter the words "I don't understand the appeal."

Part of being a cultural scholar is understanding the appeal of everything or lack thereof. Part of being a human being is hating it anyway.

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