The Twinkie Defense

TwinkiesI’ve been thinking a lot about vitamins and Twinkies this week, and it’s not just because I’ve started on a new diet.

First there was the Women’s Literary Festival, where “chica-lit” author Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez used a vitamin-filled Twinkie analogy to describe her books. Her brightly covered book jackets tease with titles like The Dirty Girls Social Club and Playing With Boys, evoking late night cable visions of Manolo Blahniks and Cosmopolitan-drinking single gals, but apparently there’s some actual nutrition to go along with the fictional junk food that she’s serving.

Then there was the Academy Awards, where Letters From Iwo Jima was nominated for best picture, even though I’m betting most people would rather parade around in Borat’s lime green banana sling bathing suit than sit through a two and a half hour movie about World War II.

Given the depressing state of the headlines, and the stressful lives that most of us lead, I would rather spend my hard-earned $100 evening at the movies with a laugh out loud comedy (a Twinkie) than a Film with a capital “F,” (a vitamin) that requires me to stop munching on popcorn and think.

I consider myself a relatively intelligent person. I can carry on a conversation about world events, I read books (and not just the ones for my book club), and I balance my diet of People and Star with Newsweek and the New York Times. I even watch PBS when I have to, but when it comes to entertainment, I prefer to actually be entertained.

I can’t possibly be alone on this.

Look at the movie box office figures. Maybe it’ll do blockbuster business in Japan, but here in the United States, Letters From Iwo Jima made just under $13 million dollars. To give you some perspective, that’s about 33 times less than the domestic gross of Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and five times less than Jackass 2 made.

That $13 million figure is also the amount that Borat himself, Sacha Baron Cohen, will reportedly get up front from Universal Studios for his next movie, Bruno, where he’ll portray a gay Austrian fashion show presenter with a Nazi streak. Sounds like a Twinkie to me. Or does it? Could there actually be some vitamin fortification to be found in something that’s bound to be flat out funny?

Borat, for instance, was really a vitamin: I learned not to wrestle naked fat men at insurance conventions.

Keep in mind, Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare are now required reading for anyone who wants to graduate from high school, but both were considered Twinkies in their day. Come to think of it, so was Jane Austen, and that was long before Emma begat Clueless. Like, oh my god, totally, I’m so sure.

Then there are all of those comic goofballs that guys seem to worship, like the Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers. To me they’re not really Twinkies, but more like those pink coconut Sno Balls that I can’t stand but I know some people adore. But I’ve heard the word “genius” applied to Groucho by people I respect, more than once. So are they vitamins or Twinkies, or a little bit of both?

After quizzing everyone I know about this for the past 73 hours, I’ve come up with a theory: the Twinkies that stick with you are really vitamins in disguise.

If I were to make a list of my all time favorite books and movies, they would all be entertaining, first and foremost, but there would also be some vitamin-fortification to make them stick in my mind all these years. Think about When Harry Met Sally. Sure we all remember Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm in the deli and “I’ll have what she’s having,” but along with a ton of laughs, the movie also had some real insights about relationships. So did Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Sure Thing, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, The Breakfast Club, and, come to think of it, just about all of my other favorite movies. They’re all vitamin-fortified Twinkies–and none of them won an Academy Award for best picture.

All of which is my brilliant way of arguing that we should watch Desperate Housewives tonight, hubby. Who knows–it could be next century’s Shakespeare.

Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound

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