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Topic: Guilty Pleasure
Film: Spice World (1997)

Guilty Pleasure essay

29 October 2009


Halloween 1997: I slipped into a black shoulderless mini-dress, one of my mother’s relics from the 80’s, spray-dyed my hair neon orange, and slid into a well-worn pair of platform sandals. I was Ginger Spice, perennial spreader of pseudo-feminism and proud bearer of the Union Jack. My two best friends were Posh and Baby, draped in the gaudy, shimmering dresses their mother had hand-sewn the week before, and together we ambled door to door through our town’s only neighborhood, wobbling in our impractically high heels.

By the time I reached 7 years of age, my life had fallen into orbit around the spunky British girl band, becoming yet another crazed cog in the Spice Girls machine. I knew all the songs by heart, could tick off ridiculous amounts of trivia about the Girls’ personal lives, and my friends and I, the aforementioned Posh and Baby, frequently put on impromptu dance shows in their living room. Their mother videotaped these routines to use as bribes later in life.

Spice World was the fuel to our rapidly spreading fire; the same fire that was happily converting albums, lunch boxes, and Barbie dolls into a noxious plume of smoke. As a brand, the Spice Girls were a veritable force of nature. It seemed there was nothing they wouldn’t slap their likeness on for a paycheck, and so it was inevitable that they would eventually turn to film.

The movie itself is the Girls’ attempt at A Hard Day’s Night-like farce, and it basically makes no sense. In the span of 90 minutes, the Girls enlist in the Army, encounter extraterrestrials, engage in a high-speed double-decker bus chase, rescue a child from drowning in a freak boating accident, and deliver a baby. Meatloaf, who has the rare ability to pop up in anything from The Rocky Horror Picture Show to Fight Club to Ghost Hunters and still somehow make sense, is the Girls’ bus driver, which I thought was kind of awesome. Tying the tatters of the narrative together are two half-baked plots; one involving a bitter tabloid tycoon intent on ruining the band’s reputation, and the other about George Wendt’s obsessive compulsive desire to make a Spice Girls movie.

The result is a party mix of What The Hell. There is literally something in this movie for everyone. Are you into science fiction? Well, the Girls discover an alien spacecraft while stumbling through the woods in the middle of the night looking for a place to urinate. Scary Spice even gets groped by one, so that’s one for the pervs as well. Are you into musicals? Many of the band’s most popular songs are featured in the film, along with enough choreographed dancing to warrant a spin off reality show on MTV. It’s almost as if Spice World’s writers threw every possible event that could happen on the table, no matter how unlikely, just to see what stuck.

Because of this, Spice World is a must-see for connoisseurs of truly awful cinema and one of my favorite movies ever. The movie reeks of late 90’s cheese; the pancake make-up, sticky bass lines, ridiculous wardrobe, and redundant synthesizers take me back to the hours I spent sitting on my trampoline with my friends, discussing inconsequential kid things. The late 90’s were a magical time for me, full of Pokemon, Gameboy Colors,  and bad pop music. Even the fashion in the film makes me smile, because really, was there any other period in history where it was totally okay to wear a skintight leopard print jumpsuit and 6-inch platform sneakers in public?

Spice World represents a universe that doesn’t exist for me anymore: it’s stupid, blithe, and shameless. I desperately miss being totally irresponsible, but those days have been replaced with a litany of Important Decisions I must make that will affect me for the Rest Of My Life. The movie doesn’t ask you to consider any weighty issues or confront any moral taboos, it doesn’t reveal the horrors of superstardom, and there is nothing unpleasant or controversial in the film. Spice World is an escapist film through and through, and aspires to be nothing but entertaining.

The film also serves as a binding agent for my core group of friends. It seems impossible to grow up as intertwined as we did and find a way to eradicate the others from your life, but I can feel it slowly happening with us. Sometimes when a conversation flatlines, I can see the silence stretch out into the future and am acutely aware of how time and experience have molded us into three distinct beings, the only overlaps occurring in the past when we were more open and malleable. We have no common interests, and if we all lived in the same place again, we would not run in the same circles. We’re three completely separate beings with completely separate lives, and the only thing we still agree on is that this awful movie about a band that we all loved ten years ago is one of the best worst movies of all time.

My love of this movie speaks volumes of my fear of the future. Spice World is a time capsule from 1997, when my life was significantly simpler. Even my relationships were less complicated, involving more meaningful experiences and less awkward silences. Right now I'm in a precarious position, perched right on the edge of adulthood, and so I often find myself reaching for the safety of the past. As my friendships deteriorate, I long to return to a time when they were thriving, when the world seemed rampant with possibilities instead of uncomfortable and slightly claustrophobic. Spice World is a faithful diversion for me, the first DVD I grab when I feel overwhelmed. When I watch it, I can feel all the anxiety inside me atrophy, and I cheerfully succumb to the ridiculous storyline and brainless dialogue, relieved. Unable to deal with the uncertain future, Spice World provides a welcome diversion from my fear of what will come by implanting me in a world of things that have already happened, a comforting if occasionally painful distraction.

Professor's comments:

This is one of the best Guilty Pleasure essays I've read since the inception of the assignment. You're an adroit, witty, and honest writer. Excellent work.

Also, still on the 30DS, I think I'm on day... 17? I can see the difference, especially in endurance.

I have a phone interview with the recruiter for Big Stone sometime in the next week. I hope I get it, I need a life-changing experience.
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