Terrible Things I Like

A Tijuana Mama does unmentionable things to my digestive system, yet I still eat it.Liking something is an emotional experience that doesn’t always sync up with a logical mindset. There are several things which my rational mind recognizes as terrible but which I personally can’t get enough of. This is an examination of some of those things.

It’s worth noting that these are not guilty pleasures. A guilty pleasure is something that you feel bad about liking (i.e., the way Americans should feel about our obsession with reality TV). I feel no guilt or shame over liking these things – I just recognize that, from any logical and sensible perspective, they are terrible.

1) Tijuana Mama Pickled Sausage

I don’t usually discuss snacks on this site, but the Tijuana Mama does a great job of illustrating what I’m talking about. This is a hot pickled sausage in a plastic wrapper that you can find at many convenience stores. You can’t open this thing inside because the brine that surrounds it will leak everywhere. I’m not allowed to eat it in the car because my wife can’t stand the stench that takes days to eradicate. It doesn’t even taste that good – you get something with the consistency of a bland hot dog and the aftertaste of freshly lit charcoal.

Yet despite how horrible these things are, I love eating them. I have no idea why – either they’re laced with some sort of methamphetamine or the ingredients trigger some sort of weird combination of endorphins in my brain. Logically, there is no reason to ever eat one of these things. I haven’t even checked the nutritional information on the back because I don’t want to get depressed. And yet, despite everything, I still deliberately seek this “food” out.

This slot might otherwise be filled by Twinkies, except that I can walk past a Twinkie and ignore it. If I see a Tijuana Mama on sale, I at least stop and consider making a purchase. That’s true even when I’m not hungry – after all, I’m not even sure these things should count as food.

Yes, I am entertained. Therein lies the problem.

Yes, I am entertained. Therein lies the problem.

2) Gladiator

Gladiator is a historical epic from the early 2000s that contains all the clichés and corny acting that any of the historical epics from that period included. Actually, calling it “historical” in any way is a real disservice to history, since the only thing that the film got remotely accurate was that there was once a Roman Empire that had gladiatorial games.

The movie is about as trite and clichéd as you can get. You’ve got the reduction of nuanced historical situations reduced to paper-thin hero and villain caricatures so the audience doesn’t have to think too hard, you’ve got the hero losing his family and embarking upon a quest for revenge that just happens to propel him to folk hero status, you’ve got an army of mooks who are willing to fight and die for the hero even after he’s been cast out and disgraced, you’ve got the female lead who was once totally in love with the manly hero and who never got over him dumping her, and you’ve got the evil villain trying to goad the hero into doing something stupid by taunting him with the deaths of his wife and child. Even the whole premise of Maximus trying to avenge his family rings hollow because they have no dialogue (well, I guess the boy says, “Papa” or something at one point) and exist in the movie only to get killed so the hero can start his quest for vengeance.

As an added bonus, you’ve got Austalian actor Russell Crowe playing a guy who is continually referred to as, “Spaniard” because nobody could be bothered to revise the goddamned script to account for the lead actor’s appearance. How is it that Spaniards in movies get represented by guys like Russell Crowe and Sean Connery when Antonio fucking Banderas, a guy who was born in Spain and who has truly amazing talent, gets stuck playing out the string in umpteen billion crappy Spy Kids sequels?

All this, of course, makes it sound like I hate the movie. I don’t. I love it. I will sit down and watch this film in all its clichéd, historically inaccurate glory. I’m pretty sure I do it because I love Russell Crowe and have thought he was an amazing actor ever since I saw him in Virtuosity (a film that would go on this list if I added a couple extra slots).

On the other hand, I hate just about every single film like this. I find Braveheart to be intolerable, except for the part where the Scots and Irish join together to kill the English. I think The Patriot is laughably bad. In reality, Gladiator is pretty much just those movies but set in a different era. I guess the world needs one film that fits this mold. And if I’ve got to choose which one film to like, I’m going to choose Russell Crowe over Mel Gibson any day of the week.

3) “Love Will Keep Us Alive” by the Eagles

I’m a multi-faceted guy. Not only do I love the bad movie with tons of violence and action movie clichés, but I also love the extremely sappy love song that mentions nothing but love and happiness.

I’m not a big fan of sentimentality. Lines like “When we’re hungry love will keep us alive” usually make me either roll my eyes or point out that, from a perspective based on fact, love will not actually fend off starvation. But “Love Will Keep us Alive” is sung by the Eagles, who have composed some of my favorite songs, and the melody is just catchy enough to get stuck in my head. So on occasion I find myself wandering through my day singing, “Lost and lonely, now you’ve given me the will to survive. And for some reason, I don’t hate that.

Iron Man just revealed his secret identity, but Thor's too stupid, Hank's too crazy, and the Wasp is too ditzy to care. Also, Tony Stark is probably drunk.

Iron Man just revealed his secret identity, but Thor’s too stupid, Hank’s too crazy, and the Wasp is too ditzy to care. Also, Tony Stark is probably drunk.

4) Silver Age Comics

There are some individual issues that I can defend, but overall I have to admit that most Silver Age comics are terrible. They’re racist, sexist, poorly plotted, and usually only saved by the fact that guys like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko provided excellent art. Yet I love them precisely because they’re so awful.

One of my favorite examples of an enjoyably bad Silver Age comic is “The Leap Year Menace,” which establishes that Hal Jordan will to accidentally destroy a city before he confronts the idea of marriage to Carol Ferris. One of my other favorite examples is Avengers #3.

In Avengers #3, the Avengers have still not revealed their secret identities to each other. In a search for the Hulk, Iron Man uses a new transistor-powered projection unit (because all of Iron Man’s tech was based on the marvel of transistors), claiming that it was built for him by his employer Anthony Stark. The projection unit fails to locate the Hulk, but Iron Man boasts, “Anyway, I had a chance to test my image projector!” So three issues in, he’s just blown his secret identity – or he would have, if anybody in the room was smart enough to pick up on it.

The Silver Age was full of idiots. Spider-Man decided one day that he would join the Fantastic Four, and his way of trying to impress them was to break into their house and start beating them up. Then he quit when he found out that the job didn’t pay. Great responsibility indeed.

The Silver Age existed before most of these heroes were the icons they are today, and I find that appealing. Despite the sloppiness of the stories, there’s something very endearing about the world being protected by a bunch of people who can’t get out of their own way but try to do the right thing anyway.


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