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Allan Emerson's Blog

Today is Guilty Pleasures Day: Stuff I can’t resist reading …

My favorite headlines from supermarket tabloids:

1) Famed Psychic’s Head Explodes
2) Baby Born with Wooden Leg
3) Talking House Cat Stuns Scientists
4) Titanic Survivor Found Clinging to Iceberg

Advice columns:

I have to find out what the advice-seeker should do when “My mother is having my boyfriend’s baby” or when “Brother’s new wife stole my car.”

Online ads with the word weird in them:

“Lose 10 pounds by eating this one weird food”

“Improve your memory with these three weird techniques”

(There’s an interesting article on the reason for the popularity of the word weird in these ads here.)
I know this stuff is all BS, but I’m always amazed by the writers’ ingenuity at tweaking my curiosity. Aside from people like me who are entertained by the bizarreness of the material, I wonder who reads these stories and what they make of them. And even more interesting, how do the writers keep coming up with them?

Take the Titanic Survivor Found Clinging to Iceberg story for instance. If you were planning on writing this, wouldn’t you have thought people would doubt that anyone could have survived for over 100 years on an iceberg?

Do most of the people who buy the tabloid do so only to enjoy the ridiculousness of the story, or do they perhaps imagine the Titanic sank only yesterday? Well, I know at least some people buy them for the first reason. Confession time: I bought all four of the tabloids with the headlines listed above. I couldn’t resist them. They had, I thought, achieved an inspired absurdity.

The advice columns intrigue me too. After the passing of the two giants in the field, twin sisters Abigail van Buren (Dear Abby) and Ann Landers, the genre seemed to fade for a while. Lately I’ve noticed a resurgence, with problems far more eyebrow-raising than Ann or Abby ever contemplated. Today’s columnists deal with problems like what to do when your kids find your nude photos (Dear Prudence), or how to deal with a husband who’s trying to kill you (Daily Mail advice column—U.K.).

How about you—what catches your eye and makes you buy, even when you know what you’re buying is rubbish? What’s the most bizarre thing you’ve read?

I show up here every Tuesday and I hope you will too. And please hit the Comment button and let me know what you think about the topic of the day.
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