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Guilty Pleasures

Coleman Collins | Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I think, in this day and age, everyone is pretty familiar with the concept of a guilty pleasure. BUT, in case you’re not (parents sheltered you heavily, you live a monk’s lifestyle devoid of popular culture – these things happen), a guilty pleasure is something that you enjoy, but for whatever reason do not want anyone knowing you enjoy. This something is most often a piece of popular culture, such as a song or band or movie or book or Broadway show (or Broadway shows in general).

It seems to me as if guilty pleasures, more often than not, tend to be the same things among certain groups of people. English majors and their ilk would call Twilight and Harry Potter their guilty pleasures; music snobs would give you big, probably female, pop acts like Taylor Swift, film snobs would spout out mainstream comedies like Zoolander and Anchorman, or else action flicks, like Die Hard and Die Hard: With a Vengeance, anyone who watches a lot of television will tell you every MTV/VH1 dating show (Rock of Love, Rock of Love 2, Rock of Love Bus, Daisy of Love, Tough Love, I Love New York, I Love New York 2, ad infinitum), and so on. I think you get the picture.

Here’s my question – what makes these things different from the things that you just normally love? As a student of pop culture, I can see why Sufjan Stevens and Kelly Clarkson are different, but still love both, and for different reasons. Why is it that I’m told I should feel guilty for loving “Since U Been Gone,” but not for loving “Chicago”?

I think the answer has something to do with the concept of ‘legitimacy’ or some notion of ‘quality.’ You’re supposed to like the respectable, well made things, not ones that were made solely for mass appeal. But here’s the thing – me liking Tomb Raider has nothing to do with it being a good movie (and everything to do with animated statues, explosions, and the area between Angelina Jolie’s neck and bellybutton), me liking it is not unfairly putting it on par with The Shawshank Redemption because I also like that movie, and it is not something I should feel guilty for.

Here’s the thing. Everyone has guilty pleasures. Anyone who tells you that they don’t is too guilty about them, and is exactly the person I’m trying to reach. My plan is simple: stop feeling guilty about the things you like! You obviously like them for a reason, so who cares if it isn’t because they meet some made-up quality standard.

Embrace your guilty pleasures, and quit worrying that you’ll be less cool or less respected because you think the fight scenes in Face/Off are awesome. Right now, I want you to turn to the person next to you, and say “I love [insert formerly guilty pleasure], and I’m not ashamed of it!” and really mean it.

I mean really mean it.

It’s 2009. I think it’s due time to stop being ashamed of the things we care about.