At the beginning of that take, I acknowledged that the book is really, really bad.
We all know that the book is really, really bad.
Guys, it's a freakin' pulp dime novel... grown from a Twilight fanfic, of all things. Of course it's bad. What were you expecting?
Still, comments like these poured in:
• "The fact that it got popular proves that we're not only a seriously twisted populace, but we're seriously stupid, too. Sad." @Fathoms77
• "I was lucky enough to come across a tasteful comic written by somebody who actually practices and understands the human psyche." @BaileyisDarcy
• "I'm so sorry that this sort of junk even has a market. How low our society has fallen... what a pity." (Anonymous)
Again, I'm not disputing that this particular book is bad. In fact, this particular book is bad in ways that are actually pernicious -- normalizing stalking if the stalker happens to be rich enough, foisting grave misunderstandings of D/s sex on readers, etc. Yep. On board with all that.
What I AM disputing, though, is this wholesale condemnation of anything and everything mindless.
I mean, the above commenters -- along with many, many others like them (they were just the lucky ones whose comments I found first) -- almost seem to think that everything we do, even in our downtime, has to be "stimulating" or "intellectually rewarding" or "culturally enriching" or "educational" or ... some other adjective with at least 4 syllables.
And I'm here to say that it ain't so.
The value of "mindless entertainment" is precisely that it is mindless.
It's the brain's equivalent of taking a rest day from the gym.
Without rest days, you'll eventually get weaker and weaker, until you injure yourself.
Similarly, "mental rest" -- which mindless, lowbrow entertainment can induce, in a way that "high culture" and "intellectual stimulation" absolutely can't -- has a way of kick-starting all sorts of weird, wonderful, and restorative processes in our brains.
In fact, neurologists have discovered, our brains have an entire system of neurons, dubbed the "default mode network" (DMN), that is ONLY activated when we daydream, "space out", or otherwise just stop thinking so hard.
The DMN is what integrates new learning with older learning. It's what subconsciously compares our current situation with our short- and long-term goals, pushing our motivation more in line with reality. It's what creates "fluency" and "flow" and "smoothness" and larger intuitive concepts, out of a bunch of separately acquired individual pieces of learning -- it's what allows us to understand that five hundred different examples of being an asshole are all, indeed, being an asshole. It's what lets us recognize what haters are, and what lets us brush 'em off.
The DMN even teaches us to make major life decisions better than we could by reasoning them out explicitly.
Oh, and, for all of you Protestant-work-ethic types who think élite talent and expertise come from working your ass off nonstop... nope. Truly élite performers and top experts typically practice only up to 4 hours a day -- of which only 1 hour is normally at peak concentration. The rest of the work is done by the "mindless" DNM, while those amazing prodigies are fucking around, reading cheap dime novels, gossiping about stupid drama, or even listening to Carly Rae Jepsen (whose stuff some critics have tried to make highbrow -- really guys, don't, thanks, it's okay).
And last but not least, the DNM seems to be the birthplace of literally ALL creativity. (How many creative people do YOU know who do "stimulating" things all day long?)
And... NONE of that can happen if we don't stop thinking first.
And for a LOT of us -- those of us with racing minds, and multi-channel thoughts, and ever-present consciences and concerns and busy lives and lots and lots of friends with all the same -- the only way to stop thinking is ... well, to tune into something like Kim talking about designer baby clothes.
The next time you're reading or watching or listening to utter and complete junk, that you KNOW is utter and complete junk, and someone tells you just how much it's utter and complete junk?
Just smile at them.
It's good for you.