It actually just struck me the other day that I may be able to consider myself a “writer.” I mean, I do get paid to write stuff. I think that’s probably a major consideration when determining whether you’re a writer or not. I had always just kind of considered myself a guy who thought of stuff and typed some of it out.

As such, I try to stay as in touch with popular culture as I can. While that means viewing some of the most horrid, contemptible trash humanity can endure, it helps me keep tabs on exactly how low we can go as a society (that’s my excuse). And lest you think I’m being snooty to lower myself to the level of the common people, I have to admit some of it is pretty funny, too.

This brings me to my discussion of the epic “Bret Michaels: Rock of Love” currently showing on Vh1. The premise is flawless – get 25 strippers together in one house to fight (both literally and figuratively) for the affections of a balding, washed up ’80s rock star. Add in healthy doses of alcohol, hairspray, penicillin, and tattoos, and you get explosively bad television. After each viewing, I feel like I need to wipe off the film these filthy women leave on my television. Honestly – if you bombed this house, you’d be eradicating herpes.

In a sense, it’s not any different that most of the other dating competitions on TV – mostly because the premise is a complete fraud. Women don’t compete for men. It’s just the way the world works. Generally, women tolerate men as much as they have to, until they realize that they have found one they can tolerate more than the others.

Secondly, none of these women are legitimately looking for love. They are competing for something even more important in today’s culture – screen time. When Bret cuts these women loose at the end of every episode, they’re not upset that they’re losing the chance to sleep with a bald has-been. They’re crying because their reign of eternal skankdom has been cut short.

Plus, it’s not like Bret Michaels couldn’t call any of these petri dishes after the show wraps up and have them any way he wanted. It’s all just such a crock. (This week Bret clearly accepted a “favor” from a ditzy blonde, then dumped her at the end of the show saying he wasn’t looking for “a party girl.”)

Third, these shows are so well established now, each woman knows exactly what she needs to do to get as much camera attention as possible. Each stripper knows her role – there’s always “ditzy stripper,” “conniving stripper,” “drunk stripper,” and so on. They characters couldn’t be scripted any more tightly. And the producers clearly keep the craziest and filthiest ones on the show as long as possible just to create more Springer-esque catfights. Honestly, we don’t need universal health care – 90% of the world’s diseases can probably found and quarantined in that house’s hot tub.

So when the show started, I had a choice. I could watch and probably enjoy the abject horror of it all, or I could boycott based on how heinous it was likely to be. It’s exactly like fast food – you know it’s unhealthy before you start consuming it, and you hate yourself when you’re done. But taking it all in is magnificent at the time.

I am going to continue to watch, and continue to be ashamed I am doing so. There is a legitimate shot that my IQ will have dropped 50 points by the series finale. But I will forge on, as any serious popular culture observer would be expected to do. Just don’t tell anybody.