I enjoy a wide range of books, tv shows, and films. I also enjoy a wide variety of different types of food. Often the way we consume media is similar to the way we eat. There are days when we want to eat a fine gourmet meal or watch or read something deep and important. But there are also days when we’re tired or stressed and just want to stop at Burger King or watch a stupid movie. It isn’t the most nutritious food there is or the most intellectually stimulating entertainment to choose from, but it’s comforting and easy, and there are days when we need that. That’s why I call these types of books, shows, and films ‘junk food media’.
It’s not as if these works never deal with tough themes or have sadder moments. It’s just that they don’t make up the main bulk of the story, and there are always plenty of uplifting moments to get you through them.
These are my personal favourite junk food pieces of pop culture which never fail to cheer me up when I’m in a bad mood:
Not only is Sakura an adorable and perpetually cheerful little ball of funshine, the town she and her friends live in is essentially a utopia. The cast have an endless supply of lovely clothes, eat delicious dinners every night, and live in houses which are almost unaffordable in real-life Japan. Even most of the problems which Sakura faces are a mere apocalypse of mild peril (the threat in one episode was that their cakes were too sweet). Sakura and company do still go through the many perils of growing up and feeling their first heartbreak. The episodes dealing with Sakura’s dead mother are especially tear-jerking. Yet even while watching these moments, you always know they’re going to make it through, which is why the series is so endearing even over 20 years after its debut.
Yes, it’s basically the law that I have to include this on my list when I live in Finland. But there’s a reason why the show is so insanely popular in the country. Moominvalley is a throwback to a more rustic, relaxing time of countryside living. That and the cast of fun, quirky characters makes any variation of this massive franchise fun to watch. Again, there are sadder moments. The scene where Snufkin leaves for the winter could easily be symbolic of losing a loved one or having a friend move away (the author, Tove Jansson, seemingly based it upon her best friend fleeing the Nazis). My particular favourite is the UK-produced new version, mostly because it has prominent British comedians amongst the English cast, including Matt Berry as the voice of Moominpapa.
Maybe it’s because the show is ‘lifestyle porn’. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen it so many times that it is comfortable and familiar. Or maybe it just is that good. Whatever the reason, watching Friends feels like having coffee and cake in Central Perk. As much as I love the darker comedy of British shows or the more subtle humour of modern sit-coms, I will always have a soft spot for these cosy, found family, laugh-out-loud comedies.
It’s a children’s film about bees suing the human race for using their honey, and is apparently full of political symbolism. And a woman leaves her boyfriend for a bee. I have no idea if the writers intended for this film to be taken seriously or if they knew how absurd their premise was and made it silly on purpose, knowing that nobody would ever take it seriously. Either way, the film is unapologetically stupid, nonsensical, and completely lacking in morals and I couldn’t love it more.
Mystery Science Theatre 3000
One of the reasons I love Bee Movie so much is that it’s so bad that it lends itself to making jokes about it as you watch – also known as ‘riffing’. MST3K invented this concept and is still going strong with it 30 years later (in fact, the show is only slightly older than I am). Not only is it hilarious to hear riffs on terrible old movies, but the skits by the hosts and bots are insanely fun. It almost feels as if you’d like to hang out on the Satellite of Love. Well, almost…
What are your favourite pieces of ‘junk food media’ that never fail to cheer you up on a bad day? Tell me in the comments below!