I was recently asked what I consider to be my biggest guilty pleasure. To the shock and confusion of everyone else at the party, I said that I really don’t have one. My thinking was that I haven’t felt guilty about liking anything since I was the last person to grow out of sleeping with a stuffed animal in elementary school. (Unless you count stand-up comedy specials made by sex offenders, but that’s a tangent for another day.) I said I found the whole concept of guilty pleasures ridiculous, because I don’t feel bad about partaking in activities that give me genuine enjoyment.
This sparked a debate about what actually constitutes a guilty pleasure, that ultimately went nowhere because everyone in the conversation was drunk. But I looked it up (just now while writing this article) and here’s the dictionary definition: “something, such as a movie, television program, or piece of music, that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard.”
In retrospect, that changes my answer.
First of all, “not generally held in high regard” is kind of all-encompassing at this point. We’re a society of cynical assholes with a compulsive need to shit all over everything that anyone likes. Pop music, for example, is literally named after the fact that it’s popular. And there’s nothing more expected when discussing music than to hear multiple people state derisively that they don’t listen to pop music, and anyone that willingly subjects their ears to a Top 40 radio station is a loser. I could name a movie right now that I think is universally beloved (Armageddon? Young Frankenstein? Almost anything starring Jack Black?), and someone would comment disagreeing with me. You just can’t win with that as a metric. Everything you like could technically be considered a guilty pleasure.
Which brings me to the second thing: I don’t have a guilty pleasure because literally everything I like is a guilty pleasure. Guys, I have terrible taste. Movies, music, television, boys, books….I’m hard-pressed to defend a single one of my favorite things on its own merit, because I am a person that enjoys trash. Ask me how many times I’ve seen the movie Bewitched starring Nicole Kidman- it’s definitely more than once and even I don’t pretend that my massive crush on Nicole Kidman justifies that. Ask me how many Anne Rice novels I’ve read, while not even being able to hide behind the excuse of a vampire fetish. I like what I like, and I freely admit that most of it is irredeemable crap.
That said, now that I’m really thinking critically about the subject, my guilty pleasure is definitely the Netflix Original Series Lost in Space. I burned through the entire new season in record time, while complaining every ten minutes that this was the most bullshit contrived dramatic scenario since the thing that happened ten minutes prior. And while I’ll happily admit that it’s trash, I’m definitely not going to apologize for loving it.
And that’s fine, I think. I don’t see why anyone should be under an obligation to defend their enjoyment of something. If you’re going to argue that something is objectively good, then yeah, be prepared to show your work. But if you’re just talking about whether or not something made you happy? You do you, boo. It’s time to take the guilt out of guilty pleasures and just start living our best lives.