Vi kender alle fornemmelsen og oplevelsen og situationen og “tilstanden” i en litterær debat hvor modparten rejser et enormt væltet ur og vender det direkte imod os uden selv at være vendt imod os. Den foregående sætnings billede skal selvfølgelig forstås billedligt, selvfølgelig da. Men hvis det foregår i et plenum med flere hundrede tilhørere bliver denne eksistentielle og kærlige manøvre lidt cheesy og energikrævende og opstyltet. Af præcis denne grund har jeg sat mig for at klarlægge for Den Anden Avis’ læsere hvad dette cheesy betyder. Jeg har altså undersøgt sagen og er kommet frem til at det er et ord der er rigt i dets betydningsindhold.
This is an important word and nobody has it right yet. What it means is: Trying too hard, unsubtle, and inauthentic.
Specifically that which is unsubtle or inauthentic in its way of trying to elicit a certain response from a viewer, listener, audience, etc. Celine Dion is cheesy because her lyrics, timbre, key changes, and swelling orchestral accompaniment telegraph ‘i want you to be moved’ instead of moving you. Gold chains on an exposed hairy chest are cheesy because they shout out: “I have money and I am manly” instead of impressing a woman in a more subtle way, or allowing a woman to form her own judgments. The excessive showing off suggests he’s compensating for what he does not have–i.e., he’s actually poor, insecure, or short with an inferiority complex. Cliches are often cheesy because they are an obvious and artless way of making a point. A movie might be cheesy if it contains ‘on the nose’ dialogue, like “I can’t live without you” or “You had me at hello.”
In common use, and when not referring to things in fact tasting of or otherwise related to cheese, the word cheesy has a helpful and particular meaning not easily expressed in other ways. This is best demonstrated by trying to explain cheesiness to someone from a culture where the concept is completely unfamiliar. Possibly it’s the American hard-to-translate idea, our modest but peculiar cultural contribution, joining the Swedish “lagom,” the Danish “hygge,” the Portugese “saudade,” and the German “Weltschmerz”. If the theory that such concepts tend to be a reflection of national character are true, it does give one a moment’s pause; perhaps cheesiness is an oddly suitable characteristic to represent so rich yet superficial a culture. But we digress.
The word’s essential meaning is a lack of the authenticity, subtlety, or realism characteristic to honest expression, especially when exhibiting qualities that nonetheless attract, even inadvertently. Often applied to artistic works, it is not simply a description of style, but also concerns the motivations of the creator. While people associate it with all that is banal or sentimental, over-used, campy, kitschy, or tasteless, it is not really a synonym for any of these things. It is usually considered derogatory, with an undercurrent of appreciation. Whether something is cheesy can be somewhat subjective, but usually it’s pretty clear. Consider:
Bad TV shows or documentaries of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s are cheesy now, because of their deliberate oversimplifications of life — ones that can seem hypocritical or humorous by modern standards.
Thomas Kinkade’s paintings are cheesy because they are “chocolate box art” — sentimental attempts to evoke feelings, but formulaic, without substance.
Celine Dion’s music is cheesy because it is largely conventional and blatantly obvious in its attempts pull (or yank) at the heart strings (with varying success, it seems).
“I ain’t got time to bleed” and “You had me at hello” are cheesy movie quotes, because they are overdone and unbelievable, though still memorable.
“Plastics” and “Go ahead, make my day” are famous, but not cheesy because they are creative and ring true — that is, in the context of the original films, and not derivatives.
Borat is tasteless and campy (and several other things too), but not cheesy, because the film is so deliberate about it, and does have its own painful kind of nuance. The same applies to South Park or The Simpsons.
Some might even call a classic work like Casablanca cheesy — but not so much to pan the artistry of the film, and rather as an observation that scenes or quotes from the movie are either unrealistic, or have by repetition since become so hackneyed they would be cheesy if anyone else used them now.
Finally, to complicate matters, the obsession with cheese has of course led to parody cheese. Lolcats, deliberately tasteless halloween costumes, and Team America might be a good examples. Technically, this is pretend cheesiness, however, not the real thing — though it could, perversely, also be cheesy if it is done poorly enough, or become cheesy in time, with over-familiarity. (Lolcats may be getting dangerously close. Perhaps, God forbid, Trey Parker’s and Sacha Baron Cohen’s postmodern meta-mockery will also become so familiar as to move to this category as well in coming years. Who knows.)