Ever since my childhood, there has always been a subtle emphasis on reading the classics. Many reasons are propounded - viz. reading them improves ones' mind, enhances the vocabulary, gives one a historical perspective etc. So much so that, those who read ordinary fiction as opposed to classics, were looked down upon. This is true for all literatures / languages.
During my adolescence I did read most of the classics. Some of them were part of the syllabus at school. But I've also been an avid reader of fiction, especially romantic fiction. I remember my dad reprimanding me during my teenage years for wasting my time on such novels. As with all teenagers, I was a rebel and did exactly what I was forbidden to do :)
To this day, I still enjoy romantic fiction even though I read serious subjects like philosophy and self-improvement too. Infact, even my mother enjoys them! She says that she loves to read about the different places, the cuisines, the cultures that are found in these romantic novels. One gets to travel to faraway places and enjoy the pleasures vicariously through their vivid descriptions and interesting conversation. I totally subscribe to this too - there is so much to learn even from such 'trashy' novels.
One of my all-time favorite books is by the queen of romantic fiction - Jane Austen. I thoroughly enjoy her book - Pride and Prejudice everytime I read it. The characters are so well-etched and their emotions described with such lucidity! Its about a romance between a gentleman's daughter with a rich, and seemingly snobbish, young man based in the backdrop of old-time Britain. Most people find this book boring - many of my friends, and even my hubby, are always asking me what I like about it. The very fact that, in the era of arranged matches in those times, a young lady actually turns down an eligible bachelor's proposal the first time round, and then proceeds to fall in love with him, when chances of him proposing again to her are next to nothing, was enough to hold my interest till the end. Also, a love match during the times when girls did not go to school, and did not work and so did not have any opportunity to find love, was a novelty. Besides, the conversations are the strength of this novel. The speech where the hero proposes to her, and the heroine's utterly civil rejection of his offer, is a highlight of the book.
Recently, in a novel that I was reading, a mother soothes her daughter by saying - 'A man usually says what's on his mind, he does not bother to be polite". This was regarding a young man in the daughter's life and spoken in the context of a man-woman conversation. On reflection, I found it to be extremely accurate. Diplomacy and tact are really woman's weapons, most men speak their mind - at least most men of my acquaintance. They learn to be tactful only after marriage! Another novel had this gem - "If a man understands a woman well, then there is some % of femininity in his character and vice versa." This too is so true and profound. If there is a man who understands women, he is bound to be a bit sensitive and maybe less macho. Women tend to ignore such men and go after the brawny, heartless ones. Ditto for men - they tend to steer clear of the intelligent, discerning and ambitious women and then regret their choice of the frivolous, flighty females they married!
I've come to realise that it doesn't matter what you read, or watch; it is what you are able to take away from it that makes a difference. If you only get a romantic thrill from a romantic novel then it is bound to be transient, but if its a piece of knowledge then the book was not 'trashy'.