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Guilty Pleasures and Guilty Feelings: GCB (by Sam)




I think the phrase “guilty pleasure” gets tossed around a lot, so much so that now it means “I pretend to ironically like such and such a show because it makes me feel better about the fact that I actually like it.” But I honestly feel guilty that I enjoy watching GCB, that I laugh out loud at Kristen Chenoweth, that I view each of the show’s plot points as a logical progression from the previous one, that I turn off my capacity for critical thinking and just enjoy. I mean, take my other guilty pleasures: True Blood, Teen Wolf, Skins. I can tell you why I love each (Sookie is so sassy and Eric is so gross and hot! It’s puberty and sexual realization in a werewolf metaphor! They make bad decisions but they really care about each other!) and I can tell you why each is trashy and trite. But when asked what I think about GCB, I can list a litany of things that I hate about it—it’s misogynistic, it’s formulaic, it’s one-dimensional—with only a few things I like—it’s funny and the men are hot. And yet, I keep watching! WHY?? Is this what it’s like to enjoy television without ruining everything by deconstructing it? What a terrifying world we live in! No, but really. I’ve spent as many weeks as the show has been on thinking about what I’m going to write about this show. I have a Word document full of half started paragraphs about how anti-woman the show is, about how Texas is apparently filled with painfully fit men that all have the same tan color-tone with varying levels of hairiness, and about how the show challenges the hypocrisy in Christianity without challenging Christianity itself. I even tried to compare it to Mad Men, friends. It went something like this:

 “Man Men is also condemned as being horribly sexist, that it romanticizes a horribly oppressive time for women and minorities. But Mad Men is inspired in its representation of women because it never at any point implies that any of the female characters could break out of the horribly constricting constructions that society places them in if they’d just try harder. Even in the forth season, when Peggy is talking to the hippie guy about African-Americans and she says, ‘Maybe if they worked as hard as I did, they’d be where I am’ (I’m paraphrasing), it emphasizes not how far Peggy has come from her hard work, but how far she hasn’t. Despite the fact that her brains and gumption have gotten her this position in the firm, she is still asked to get the men their drinks, she is still judged by the size of her breasts and the shape of her legs, she is still referred to with the pointedly sexist language of “frigid bitch.” By portraying complex, strong, intelligent female characters painfully constrained by unconscionable gender roles, being infantilized and exploited, it doesn’t glorify the system that put them in those roles; rather, it forces the viewer to ask, ‘What kind of sick world do we live in if even women that incredible are seen as weak, stupid, or somehow unworthy of respect?’ If we transfer that lens to a show like GCB, can’t we see these misogynistic creations as symptomatic of a world that created the Real Housewives and…ummm…pity them?” 

See how that didn’t quite work out? The fact of the matter is that every time I sit down to write something thoughtful or even just funny about GCB the insipid subject matter leaves me with nothing. I can talk about how Kristen Chenoweth is hilarious as always, or how I think Annie Potts plays a fantastic matriarch (though now I’m thinking about Reba and liking it more). But then I’m just ignoring the terrible misogyny running rampant throughout the show. But the worst part is, I ignore that very thing every time I tune in. It’s soulless, mindless entertainment without the redemptive catch-all of irony. So I’m not going to encourage you to watch it. Just know that, if you don’t, I won’t judge.

 If this is what having a real guilty pleasure is like, I gotta say, it’s pretty rough.

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