Kick-ass entertainment

Via Pootergeek, Stephen King on visceral enjoyment:

It’s easy — maybe too easy — to get caught up in serious discussions of good and bad, or to grade entertainment the way teachers grade school papers (as EW does, in case you missed it). Those discussions have their place, even though we know in our hearts that all such judgments — even of the humble art produced by the pop culture — are purely subjective. And as a veteran grade-grind in my youth, I have no problem with awarding A’s, B’s, and the occasional F to movies, books, and CDs (which is not to say I don’t also have reservations about such drive-by critiques). But artsy/intellectual discussions have little to do with how I felt when I saw Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects. This movie made virtually no one’s top 10 list except mine, but I’ll never forget some exuberant (and possibly drunk) moviegoer in the front row shouting: ”This movie KICKS ASS!” I felt the same way. Because it did.


I’m not talking about guilty pleasures here. Guilty pleasures aren’t even overrated; the idea is meaningless, an elitist concept invented by smarmy intellectuals with nothing better to do. I’m talking about the pure happiness that strikes like a lightning bolt out of George Strait’s blue clear sky (another sacred occasion of joy for me).

It may not come as a complete surprise to hear I agree entirely 🙂

‘This kicks ass’ is a surprisingly apt way of describing the moment the ideal song starts playing on the radio, or I realise from an expression alone that a plot is going to abruptly shift, and I never saw it coming. It’s like he says: a feeling of pure happiness. For my brain chemistry, Heroes has it. Byron. The West Wing. ‘Blue Picadilly’ by The Feeling. Neal Stephenson. George Lange’s photographs. Serenity. ‘Addicted to Love’ by Robert Palmer. Carl Sagan. Scrubs. Not that I’m a romantic or anything.

But there can be no more subjective a reaction, and I suppose that’s why critics ignore it – you can’t say whether any individual is going to react in such a way1 so it becomes irrelevant to a broad discussion. But as a result I think this kind of emotional response gets looked down upon, as if it’s somehow less worthy than an intellectual examination. Which isn’t to say that such discussions mean nothing, although I agree with SK that it’s all subjective in the end, just that they have no business suggesting such feelings of happiness are something to feel proud of/guilty about.

  1. it’s vaguely-related that Stumbling on Happiness apparently claims research results showing that others, no matter how much they differ from you, are far more effective at judging whether something will make you happy. I must read that book []