“Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull. ”
-George Orwell, 1984
I like True Blood. I really do. Even after the show jumped the shark in the fifth season by adding Vampire Christopher Meloni I still 100% unironically derive great pleasure from this show. Here’s the rub: I don’t know why. The sexy bits aren’t really my jam; Anna Paquin is a mom now. I’m not even in love with the show’s characters in the same way that I am with other shows I write about. Yet, every Monday night, I get caught up on my stories. Recently, in an attempt to explain to somebody why I still watch True Blood, the words “Guilty Pleasure” crossed my lips. Why? Why was that my go-to explanation? Why did I feel the need to explain myself in the first place. I know I’m not alone in this. We tend to use “Guilty Pleasure” when we
A) Can’t fully articulate the reasons for liking something
B) Are embarrassed for liking it in the first place.
For the sake of this piece I’m going to keep things within confines of TV and Movies. My definition of guilty pleasure is as follows: (n)The cognitive dissonance that comes with liking something whose quality or stylistic choices you would otherwise find distasteful.
I take issue with context surrounding “Guilty Pleasure.” What about the above makes us guilty? Guilt implies that we’ve done something wrong, or, at the very least, that we feel we’ve done something wrong. It also suggests the absurd notion that others get to pass judgment on us for our pastimes. Should I be ashamed that I watch True Blood? No. Should Whovians be allowed to gather in a public place. Absolutely. Liking something you feel silly about liking isn’t wrong by any stretch of the imagination. Life is too short to let the shame surrounding something as innocuous as a television show (or its fanbase) to get in the way of your happiness. The world is a very busy place and you should use your free time however you want. If that means marathoning Teen Wolf for the sole purpose of look at nice abs, then more power to you.
While “guilty” is a very damning word, the other half, “pleasure”, also plays a role in making “guilty pleasure” a cultural touchstone that holds us back as individuals. The use of “pleasure” when referring to watching trashy TV cheapens things we actually find truly pleasurable. Like the overuse of the word “epic” in modern vernacular, using pleasure within the context of “guilty” pleasure” muddies the waters and weakens the affect of the word. It also suggests that there are some pleasures that we don’t have to feel guilty about. Can you think of something you really really like that you have never once called a guilty pleasure?
Listen, it’s totally okay to like something and not be able to express why. Take successful relationships for an example. How often do happy couples say things like “we just work” and “we just know” in reference to why they like each other? I’m not saying you should take your DVR out to community dinner theatre.  What I am saying is that you don’t have to be able to explain everything; not to yourself and definitely not to other people. As humans, we have a need to control and explain every emotion, event and experience in a desperate attempt to created structure out of nothing. Not being in control can be a good thing. Roller coasters are much better when you let go of the safety bars. I’m driven by some pretty dumb and crippling compulsions at times so it’s nice to say “eat shit” to my head demons when I can.
This isn’t a call to action, and maybe it was never really about trying to figure out why I like True Blood. It’s a request that you know yourself and take pride in who you are. If you feel the need to call everything or nothing a “guilty pleasure” that’s totally fine. As long as you don’t let the word brand you as a weirdo. Everyone’s weird. We all have guilty pleasures and society would be a much better place if you just started calling them “the things I do when I’m not at work.” The alternative is more conversations about the weather.
 Who apparently uses the massive dad-abs he hides under his golf shirt to bench the entire cast of SVU.
 Of twins. It’s over. Victory. Stephen Moyer.
 Because I am an old man. Who wants a butterscotch? Mind your manners and I’ll tell you about what it was like to own a flip phone.
 And discuss what Peter Capaldi might smell like in person. My guess is cigarettes and blood.
 Pet Lovers, you are not exempt.
 That’s a thing couples do, right? Chicken Kiev with a side of Sondheim?
 No amount of scientific or philosophical conjecture can stop you from pooping after you die.
3 thoughts on “[Citation Needed]: A Cross-Examination Of Guilty Pleasures.”
Oh thank you! I was trying to figure out why I still watch the show despite the fact that it usually leaves me shaking my head. I love the roller coaster analogy. Also, it’s nice to hear somebody reinforce that it’s okay to like something weird and crazy without worrying it’s because you’re weird and crazy yourself.
I once interviewed Michael Sragow, who was at the time the main film critic for the Baltimore Sun. He said that he didn’t believe in the concept of “guilty” pleasure, because if you like something you like something and there shouldn’t be guilt involved. Similar mentality.