The phrase “guilty pleasure” gets thrown around a lot, whether it’s about loving America’s Next Top Model, a Ke$ha song, or eating at Taco Bell. P-Mag even has a slew of posts tagged with it. However, when it comes to the things that entertain us or otherwise make us happy, I say that there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Nope. It’s time to re-frame our thinking. It’s time to own our interests.
Now, before we get into it, I know there are always exceptions and people who like to point out exceptions. So before you get all, “But what if you were on a specific diet and you ate something you weren’t supposed to and it could mean [insert health ramifications here]?” or “What if you found yourself bobbing your head to a Chris Brown song and then felt really, really badly about it?” I’m talking in a general sense here, not very specific specifics. This is about no longer feeling embarrassed that you’re “not cool enough” for liking what you do.
Every creative subculture has its snobs. Hell, there are even subcultures within snobbery. We know this. There are “snout-to-tail” foodies, militant vegans, and extreme locavores. There are vinyl-only listeners, classical purists, and indie enthusiasts who are suspicious of widespread success. Pick your form of entertainment, and there’s some killjoy waiting to tell you what’s “lame.”
There’s nothing wrong with having strong interests or even being obsessive about something; it’s the judgment I am annoyed with. We’re all guilty of it. I give my mom a hard time because she’ll say things like, “I like clever-funny, not stupid-funny,” but she also watches Big Brother. Am I judging the entertainment value of Big Brother? Yes. But what I should really be doing is reminding myself that just because it’s not MY thing doesn’t mean it can’t be anyone else’s thing. There’s nothing wrong with distraction TV. I mean, I get sucked into Storage Wars and Pawn Stars for reasons even I don’t fully understand.
When was the last time someone tried to give you a hard time about something you like? When was the last time you felt like you needed to “justify” enjoying something? Maybe instead of expending so much energy feeling bad about one or more of our interests, we should address the underlying issue of confidence instead. With so many forces out there putting out this message of “unworthiness,” doing away with the idea of guilty pleasures is a good place to start pushing back.
It’s not just about our casual interests – I’m referring also to owning the things we truly love. My favorite band in the history of ever, ever is Oasis, and even more specifically, Noel Gallagher. Oh, people try to give me shit about it. I’ve heard it all – that they “rip off” other musicians, that they’re too cocky, that they’re too insulting, that they haven’t done anything “good” since the mid-90s – and I don’t much care. I will never be ashamed of loving all of their albums, and you better believe that if your complaint with them is misinformed, I will attempt to correct any factual errors. (Attributing quotes to the wrong Gallagher brother is a common one.) I may get somewhat annoyed when people who know very little about the music act like their opinion is superior, but I’m not angry or embarrassed. Your enjoyment does not affect my enjoyment.
Similarly, I am probably in the indie-rock-enjoying minority when I say that I really, really do not get the fascination with Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend. They are not my bag at all. And even though I’ve made jokes like “Arcade Fire sounds like hipster church revival music,” I mean that they sound like that to me. So go on and own your love for them. That’s cool. But ohmigod, do not try and make me see the light. Believe me, I’ve tried to give them a fair shake, but neither band is for me. It’s the same reason why I do not begrudge your love for Farmville or Daily Horoscopes on Facebook, but I will still get annoyed when Facebook’s buggy software won’t actually “Hide all” from those type of updates when I tell it to.
So who’s with me? Do away with the Guilty Pleasure Closet! What are you willing to say you love – or hell, even just mildly enjoy – and you don’t care who knows it? I’m in your corner.