I want you to think back and remember a verb you once used with no irony or self-judgment: enjoy.
Here are things I used to enjoy: Star Wars. Burritos. Pinups, burlesque, and other pretty girls in minimal outfits. Comic book movies. Billy Joel. Pizza. Hard rock. Ender's Game. Music videos. Indiana Jones. Battlestar Galactica--the 2004 version, natch. Wine coolers. Standup comedy. I still enjoy all those things now, but in each case, I've been told my affections are silly, perhaps even misguided. Well, maybe the killjoy crowd does have a point or two. It's hard to knock Jar Jar without noticing what an effeminate prat C-3PO was from an adult perspective, so maybe all six of those movies were stupid. They are stupid. But I enjoy them. I've watched each of them dozens of times and I'm probably nowhere close to finished. I like Citizen Kane and The Godfather, too, but not as much as The Empire Strikes Back or Aliens. Pop culture talked me out of loving some of my favorites for a while, but now I've reached an age where I just want to be happy and love the things I love.
I don't care how much you hated Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I really don't. You thought that monkey scene was stupid? So did I. I physically cringed. You embraced the phrase "nuked the fridge?" Can you think of a better way to survive a 20-megaton bomb blast? You thought the aliens came out of left field? I submit to you: magic rocks. A wooden cup that makes you live forever if you drink out of it. A fancy gold box God uses as an apartment. Okay, you hated those things. Y'know what? Good for you. Aren't you smart? It won't affect my enjoyment one little bit. You go, Dr. Henry Jones...Junior.
I also want you to know that while I do think it's great women have breasts and look pretty and smell like vanilla sometimes, I also recognize they have minds and desires of their own. I consider them every bit as valuable as myself, and I can't imagine why anyone would think anything else. My unabashed heterosexuality does not impede my political or moral judgment. I support equal rights for every American citizen and wonder why it's even debatable in 2013. It saddens me that some young women feel their best way to get ahead in life is to get naked on the Internet, but that's their choice and I'm not gonna lie, nude women are beautiful. I'm not somehow unaware of that just because I'm a feminist.
I know pizza is bad for me. I've paid for my transgressions vis-à-vis the mozzarella arts with a thicker midsection, higher cholesterol levels, and countless nights interrupted by heartburn. I still like it. I try to enjoy it in moderation these days, but your definition of moderation and my definition of moderation are probably two different things.
I don't care what you love, as long as it doesn't hurt another unwilling person. If you like getting high on a Friday night and watching reruns of Futurama, then knock yourself all the way out. If you think the Transformers franchise is on a par with the collected works of Sidney Lumet, then Godspeed, my robot-loving friend. You have at it. I don't understand this Gen-X insistence on crapping on the things we used to love. Sadly, it's a cancer we've passed on to Generation Y. It must be killed now before it hardens into a permanent part of the American psyche.
If you'd asked guys of my generation two years ago who their favorite young movie directors are, among the top three picks would be J. J. Abrams. We loved that guy. We loved his show Lost till we decided it was cooler to act like we were over it. We loved his revival of Star Trek so much we couldn't even pretend we were too hip to like it. And then...he was given the reins of Star Wars. Suddenly we couldn't dump on him fast enough. And that doesn't hurt him, it hurts us.
Last night, I've come to understand, a 20-year-old woman ground on a 36-year-old man for the MTV Video Music Awards, an evening of light entertainment with a title not only redundant but also oxymoronic and on the wrong channel. Be that as it may, the man in question is famous for a song about how a particular woman is "the hottest bitch in this place," meaning sexually attractive. The young woman is famous for having a dad who wore a mullet and for singing a song about how dancing to pop songs is popular across the USA. Together, the two are often seen on a channel devoted to older men capitalizing on the looks (and sometimes talents) of younger people. I didn't see the act, being otherwise engaged at the time (I was watching Breaking Bad like an adult), but I gather from EVERYTHING I LOOK AT THIS MORNING that she wore a pair of shorts so tight they somehow bifurcated her entire midsection. The Internet has gone crazy. This lowbrow dance number was the top story on CNN.com this morning. The top story! It was more important than anything else that happened yesterday anywhere else on the planet! Take a step back, Mumbai and Damascus!
Now, when I was close to this woman's age, we made more sensible choices. We went to nightclubs in timeless fashions like jeans with suspenders or blazers pulled up to our elbows. We ground on each other's midsections like intelligent people, to a song called "Rump Shaker," by a group whose name was spelled Wreckx-N-Effect. Now, even I can't bring myself to reproduce the lyrics to "Rump Shaker" here, but I invite you to Google them for yourself. That song was all the rage in dance clubs in 1992, when I was 24 years old, and it's about a man telling a woman he simply wants to penetrate her in, shall we say, the back 40. Most of the women I knew loved that song, even after they noticed its lyrics. I wasn't fond of it myself, but I did enjoy the consequences of DJs playing it in dance clubs: namely, women would back into me and pretty much do exactly what Hannah Montana did to Growing Pains Jr. last night.
I've seen the dance act called, not just embarrassing, but an all-out career-ender. I've seen it called a minstrel show. That's right, it destroyed equal rights for black people, who apparently have an ethnic monopoly on simulated rear entry. And what all these people are forgetting is it took place on MTV, where Beavis and Butt-Head are now regarded as elder statesmen.
Set aside the question of why Miley Cyrus is said to be acting "slutty" and Robin Thicke isn't. Set aside the repercussions of moving your lower back that fact. (You're only given one spine, kids. Use it wisely.) The real question is, why can't we just admit that sometimes pop music is sexy and fun and ridiculous and all of that is perfectly okay? She's of legal age. Let her dance in a teddy bear hat. Who gives a rat's ass in latex panties? (Fun fact: I couldn't wear those. I'm allergic. The result might be a party in the USA, but not in my pants.)
So just enjoy what you freaking enjoy. Quit trying to act above it all or contextualize it or make it more politically correct or pretend it has apocalyptic impact. Just enjoy it. Recognize Star Wars was a movie for nine-year-olds, and so were all its sequels and prequels. If seeing a Star Wars movie or TV show or even that godawful holiday special makes you feel young again, great. If it doesn't, no big deal. If you like singing along with the radio, sing. Don't get embarrassed if that hipster on his recumbent bike sees you jamming along with "Sweet Cherry Pie." Of course it's a terrible song. So what? It won't change the course of modern feminism. It doesn't mean you consider women equivalent to a tasty dessert. It just means it's Monday and you needed a pick-me-up and that's what came on the stupid oldies rock station you like because it reminds you of easier times.
From now on, I intend to quit second-guessing the things I enjoy. I encourage you to do the same. If Zack Snyder wants to cast Ben Affleck as Batman, let him do it and stop all the faux-entitled whining. It's his franchise now. He may very well have a good reason, same as Tim Burton did for casting Beetlejuice and Christopher Nolan did for casting that guy who played Snowy Bowles on Sweat. He may not. Will it ruin your enjoyment of Batman if Zack Snyder turns out a bad movie? My DC-enraptured friend, may I gently remind you of pretty much every other Batman movie ever made?
For the love of God (and by God I mean Steven Spielberg), can we please remember what it felt like to unironically enjoy things? Would it really be so damn difficult? I plan to be first in line for Star Wars, Episode VII, and in the meantime, how long as it been since you listened to The Bangles' Greatest Hits? Well, mister, that's too long.