I’ve always been confused by the concept of “The Guilty Pleasure.” It just seems wrong to me that we should feel shame for liking something. (Note: I’m far more confused by the concept of “Ironic Enjoyment,” but it’s a more hateful confusion and I could go on for days about it and would probably just end up yelling a lot and hurling insults and foaming at the mouth and that’s just no way to win the affections of my readers. So let’s just ignore that for the time being.)
There are a number of things that I love for which my friends give me a world of shit for enjoying. Namely the Backstreet Boys and the fact that I have seen them in concert not once, not twice, but three times. And I’ve made no secret of my intense and borderline creepy love for the films The Crush and Fear. I also love Britney Spears, fan-made “shipper vids” (if you don’t know what any of that means, congrats, you’re not a huge giant nerd), flossing (no, seriously, I really love it far more than is necessary or appropriate), the song “Broken” by Lindsay Haun (it’s from a pro-war made-for-TV movie starring Toby Keith), and the “Pure Moods”-esque period of 90s music which includes songs like “Return to Innocence” by Enigma and “In the House Of Stone and Light” by Martin Page. These are all things I love, and love proudly, knowing full well the derision I’ll receive from my peers. I feel no guilt for these things, but a rather sunshiney joy.
On the other end of the guilt spectrum, there is a small handful of things I actually hate myself for liking. Most of it can be found on VH1 Celeb-reality (damn you, Bret Michaels, with your flaxen hair and penchant for strippers). The rest generally consists of mostly celebrity gossip blogs and McDonalds hamburgers. These delights are a weakness, and I’ll never give them up (ooh, which reminds me, throw Rick Astley on the no-guilt-love pile). But I’ll own up and admit to my infatuation with these things. I don’t care if you know that I tune into VH1 every Sunday to watch the eyebrow-less Daisy kiss Bret with her fish lips, or that I scan Lainey Gossip ten times a day and obsess over Blind Items like my life depends on it, or that I can devour those goddamn hamburgers five at a time in under eight minutes. Now, of course, when I admit to these things, I can often be found yelling excitedly and making a devil horn gesture with my hand, which is the classic “I’m quite embarrassed and overcompensating” manner of expressing guilty love. But I’ll still admit it. I love nothing in secret (note: this is because I am one part honest and two parts annoying as all get out).
All that aside, here’s a question: what about the gray area of guilty pleasures? What about the things that about which I’m not sure if I’m supposed to feel guilty? How am I supposed to ready myself for the coming Guilt War if I don’t realize something is shameful? Is it okay to admit that I love Jimmy Eat World, for example? Or that I’ve seen Foreigner in concert and loved it and would see absolutely them again, multiple times? And what about songs that were socially acceptable and okay to like before they appeared during a tender moment on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy? How about liking the Counting Crows? I mean “American Girls” is really good. Can I admit that “Let Love In” by the Goo Goo Dolls is the single most played song on my iPod and I’d honestly rather listen to that over anything by Neutral Milk Hotel?
Okay yeah fine, I’ll give you that one. Maybe. I don’t know. I mean I love Neutral Milk and all, but “Let Love In” is SUCH a good song. It’s a very tricky area.
I just don’t know, people. I mean, is it so wrong to love these things? Don’t we have a deep nostalgic love for the movies and TV shows of our childhood that upon later adult viewings aren’t as great as we remember? And don’t we all love the songs on our various “GIT CRUNK!!1!” mixes? (Note: Mine is not called that. Mine is called “Foux de fafa.”) Don’t we all watch some sort of painful reality TV show and love how much we hate it? What it comes down to is that we feel guilty for liking anything mainstream, and that’s never okay. Don’t let the man get you down! Own your love, people. Own it I say!
* takes a deep breath *
Look, what I’m trying to say here is that the new Backstreet Boys album is really good, okay?
Courtney Enlow is a writer living in Chicago and working as a corporate shill to pay the bills. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.