Love What You Love: Some Thoughts on Guilty Pleasures

We all have our guilty pleasures.

For some people, it’s Nicholas Sparks novels. For others, it’s romantic comedies. From the high school melodramas of ABC Family to the sexiest scenes on Scandal, everyone has a secret indulgence programmed on their DVRs, sitting on their bookshelves, or waiting for them on Netflix. We can claim to have the most discerning taste when it comes to media. But each of us—no matter how astute we pretend to be—has a guilty pleasure.

What’s my guilty pleasure? Reality TV.

Yes, I love the competitive reality shows that actually do earn some critical acclaim. I obsess over So You Think You Can Dance every summer. I thoroughly enjoy The Voice and used to thoroughly enjoy American Idol as well back when it was in its heyday (which has long since passed). Top Chef is one of my favorite shows on television.

But I also love the “trashy” stuff. I will watch any Real Housewives series (except Atlanta and Miami), including the marathons Bravo is so fond of airing. I will also watch basically anything else Bravo throws at me—from Most Eligible Dallas to Don’t Be Tardy. I religiously watch Dancing with the Stars every season for reasons beyond the sparkly costumes and shirtless male dancers; I actually like the performances. And I adore The Bachelorette.

Yes, you heard that correctly: I adore The Bachelorette. I watched and re-watched Meredith’s season back when I could only do that on a VHS tape. I cried when Ashley married J.P. last year. I fell in love with Jef probably even more than Emily did. And I watched the season premiere last night ready to spend my summer Mondays with Desiree and her suitors. Monday nights are one of my favorite nights of the week in the summer. I curl up on the couch, open some Starbucks ice cream (preferably Java Chip Frappuccino), and watch one lucky girl be romanced by a bevy of beautiful gentlemen.

I don’t want you to think that I believe I’m watching great television. I know The Bachelorette and The Real Housewives of New Jersey aren’t exactly comparable with Game of Thrones or Parks and Recreation. But that doesn’t mean I have to look at everything on TV the same way. I like some shows because they make me think; I like others because they allow me to turn my brain off for a little while.

And I’m not so sure I should feel guilty about that.

Why should we feel the need to add “guilty” to some of our pleasures? Does everything that makes us feel happy, relaxed, or emotionally invested have to be critically-acclaimed? Can’t we just like something because we like it, because it’s fun?

Yes, I consider The Great Gatsby my favorite book, but Bridget Jones’s Diary is also high on my list. Yes, I love watching Casablanca and The Empire Strikes Back, but I also love The Wedding Planner and Tangled. My iPod has Mumford and Sons on it, but it also has One Direction. And I don’t feel particularly guilty about loving any of those things.

The media we enjoy—whether it’s reality TV, romantic comedies, sappy county songs, or anything else—should be celebrated, not hidden away in case someone judges us for loving what we love. If something makes you happy, it shouldn’t be a guilty pleasure; it should just be a pleasure.

Grab your ice cream, your wine, or your chocolate. Open your romance novel, turn on E!, or grab your DVD of Dirty Dancing. Let’s all take some time this summer to enjoy media that makes us happy—critics be damned.

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12 thoughts on “Love What You Love: Some Thoughts on Guilty Pleasures

  1. Agreed!! But I think Bravo should have gotten even more play and special mention because you forgot Millionaire Matchmaker and Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D LIst.
    P.S. Kim Zolziak for life!!! ❤
    P.S.S. I love how you put Casablanca and Empire Strikes Back in the same category of "serious movies."

    • If I made a list of everything you and I watch on Bravo, this post would have been a novel. 😉

      PS: That scene with Kim driving to the Falcons game and swearing at drivers while praying is funnier than 99% of what’s on network TV right now.

      PSS: I said this last night, but I’ll say it again: The Empire Strikes back is a critically-acclaimed masterpiece of science fiction. 😉

  2. I’ve been thinking about this all day! I don’t usually label things as “guilty pleasures” but some things that came to mind are liking the Glee Cast version of songs like “Don’t Stop Believing” and “River Deep Mountain High” – I know that the originals are “better” but I enjoy the Glee versions more! And songs like “Call Me Maybe” and “22” – especially since I relate more to the parody “32” and I’m closer to 42! And fangirling like a teenager over New Girl. Oh, and fan fiction – I would be embarrassed if anyone knew how much New Girl fan fiction I read (especially the “mature” stuff!). Watching New Girl isn’t a guilty pleasure, because it’s brilliant, but re-watching it a lot might be 🙂 I also recently recognized that I’m a sucker for a good romance, which isn’t how I thought of myself – even watching a reality show on Discovery about a gun shop, I ended up getting hooked into the little romance that was going on! My main guilty pleasure is thinking of my favorite TV couple together (currently Nick and Jess, but there have been others) – I am glad no one knows how often I think about fictional people falling in love. I have a tendency to be a little obsessive! But they are very pleasant to think about and they make me smile.
    I agree with you that we should just like what we like! I heard a story about Buddhist monks at an amusement park – everyone thought they would be all dour and meditative, but they were laughing and screaming on the rides like little kids – because it’s fun! I want to have more fun and stop being so self conscious.

    • First of all, I love that story about the monks at the amusement park. That’s such a great reminder to never take things too seriously—especially things that are supposed to be fun. And I just have to say I love your taste in music—every song you listed is on my iPod and probably on my “Most Played” playlist! The Glee version of “River Deep, Mountain High” is so good I actually used it a few years ago for a routine at the dance studio where I’m a teacher!

  3. First, you disservice the excellent Tangled by lumping it with The Wedding Planner, but perhaps that speaks more to my love of Flynn Ryder’s retort of “nuance” to Rapunzel’s correction that her pet is a chameleon.

    Guilty pleasures are what I think of as media cotton candy. There is no expectation of substance, merely escapism. In the words of our shared favorite Rick Castle, my DVR could probably put yours to shame.

    I am guilty of most of the reality shows you chronicled and I have come to the conclusion that Reality TV has replaced Soap Operas. For me Soaps were my guilty pleasure for many many years. Night and Daytime. I grew up on hefty servings of Days of Our Lives, As the World Turns and the short lived Santa Barbara. My nighttime diet consisted of the holy trinity that was Dallas, Dynasty and Knots Landing. Escapism is great and that’s the reason we have guilty pleasures. Whether it’s trashy magazines, TMZ, Reality TV or Chick Lit all provide a gateway to suspend our reality, morality and common sense if just for a little while.

    Now please excuse me, I need to catch up on Secret Life of the American Teenager before next week’s series finale.

    • I never thought about reality TV replacing soap operas, but I think you’re right! And I love that you love Tangled too. I’m working on a post about my favorite Disney movies right now, actually, and I think you’ll be pleased with where it ends up on my list. 😉

  4. I love this post so much. I enjoy a lot of things that most people would consider “guilty pleasures”, especially when it comes to movies and music. I used to feel bad about my music tastes (which definitely lean closer to One Direction than Mumford and Sons) but at some point, I just stopped caring what other people think about my media preferences. I completely agree with you, we should like what we like and not be ashamed of it.

    • Yay for more people who like pop music! Sometimes I tell people that I have One Direction on my Ipod because of the dance classes I teach, but I should just admit it: It’s definitely just for me to rock out to in my car or at the gym. 😉

  5. I love this post! I’ve never been a fan of the term “guilty pleasure”, so I completely agree that we should just love what we love and not feel bad about it!

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