Monday, March 1, 2010

Taking the Shame Out of Guilty Pleasures

Why are there some things we have to apologize for liking? Songs, bands, movies, television shows, books; it seems there is a whole category of pop culture based around making those who consume it feel ashamed of it. Guilty pleasures. I'm sure everyone reading this has one. I'm sure I have more than my fair share. But lately I'm just wondering: what's the point of feeling guilty?

Maybe it's because of my newly mature 23-year-old mind, but I'm starting to think that wasting time worrying about how the world feels about my taste in music, movies and literature is pointless. It seems ironic now that there seems to be just as much power pushing us to like the Top 40 pop singles as there is shaming us if we do. There is precious little middle ground of popular artists who have enough "cred" to be considered worthy of your iPod. I wonder what gets VH1 more ratings: the insane celebrity love shows, or the talking head shows which mock them? There's really no winning. Either you become part of the millions who like the popular, derided as lemmings, or you become the cynic with taste that isn't really allowed to like anything.

And when it comes down to it, what are we ashamed of? Food is the only arena of the guilty pleasure where the base act is necessary to life. We must eat. And so eating a HoHo instead of an apple can rightly bring on some shame just because you could have taken in nutrients that weren't invented in a laboratory (but if it's not a daily habit, there's no need to obsess). But when it comes to the food for our eyes and ears, it's all kind of superfluous. No one starves when they don't read, watch television or listen to music. And so whether you read Jane Austen or Danielle Steel, there's no quantitative difference, and there's nothing physically unhealthy about it. At least you're reading! Sure, PBS documentaries can give your brain synapses a work out, especially when compared to Survivor, but it's still you sitting down and watching television. There are levels of something being a "waste of time," but they aren't hard and fast and they don't lend you a heck of a lot of moral superiority. We're all still lazy, selfish no-good bums when compared to Mother Teresa and wonderful human beings when compared to Adolf Hitler. Everything in between is mostly grandstanding.

The bottom line is this: we all need something to take our minds off of things. We all deserve to indulge in the entertainment of our choice. And no one deserves to feel bad about it.

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