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.