Arts & Entertainment

Commentary: Innocent Until Proven Guilty Pleasures

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While “The Bachelor,” Katy Perry‘s entire discography and CW shows are often considered guilty pleasures, there’s no reason to actually be “guilty.” Why feel guilty about something you like? No one should have to justify preferring their favorite Hallmark movie over a critically acclaimed show.

Just what makes me guilty? I didn’t murder someone when I listened to 165 hours of Britney Spears music in 2019. Rather, I had a blast. (Stream “Break the Ice” off of her magnum opus, “Blackout.”)

I’d much rather spend a few hours watching the chaotic, salacious drama of this season’s “The Bachelor” dumpster fire than watch Martin Scorcese’ beige “The Irishman.” And I’m not guilty about it.

If we’re being honest, the term “guilty pleasures” only applies to stereotypically feminine products. No one’s going to call male-skewing shows such as “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” a guilty pleasure. It’s not high-brow but it’s fun. The same goes for products deemed  “guilty pleasures.”

Worse, there’s the man who spends eight hours on Reddit repeating “Rick and Morty” quotes ad nauseam. Well, he might have the “hot take” that The CW’s “Jane the Virgin” is just an okay guilty pleasure.

We need exciting and fun music and shows that don’t take themselves too seriously. They provide balance to dramatic heavy hitters, build party soundtracks and often lend comfort. Most people probably agree with that, even if they choose to pretend music stopped being good when they turned 25.

Half of these are the same people who legitimately think the depiction of a societal outcast in “Joker” was a triumph in cinema because it finally represented struggles of straight, white men. Right. 

Just because stereotypical products for women include soap operas and bubblegum-pop doesn’t mean we should devalue this artistry. “Grey’s Anatomy” isn’t written any worse than a Marvel movie. Its audience is primarily women, so people respect it less. That’s a strong claim, but I don’t believe it comes out of inherent sexism. Society has ingrained in our minds we shouldn’t view “Grey’s Anatomy” as a quality show, regardless of the content.

The bros who went and liked “Sonic the Hedgehog” aren’t guilty because they have no reason to be! It’s trashy fun, but that’s all the better sometimes.

So, if you enjoy watching “Pretty Little Liars” or bopping to Britney Spears, then go ahead! As if we all don’t jam to “Toxic” and “Oops!… I Did it Again” whenever they’re played at wedding receptions. There’s no shame in having taste.

Instead of thinking “Oops!…” when you find yourself enjoying a guilty pleasure, leave those insecurities at the door. We like what we like and have to justify that to no one (well, within reason… I can’t justify people who watched “Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Lap,” even ironically. You should feel guilty about that.)

We need to ease up and realize quality is subjective. Obviously, the Emmys aren’t going to nominate teen dramas like “The OC” and “Gossip Girl” for major awards. I won’t start a coup against the entire committee for these injustices, though. What these shows offer is unabashed excitement, escapism and sensationalism.

Would I rather watch Blair Waldorf and Serena Vanderwoodsen have a power struggle on the steps of the Met in clothing more expensive than most houses or slog through an artistic HBO drama with episodes that are 20 minutes too long? The answer is easy.

Now, this isn’t me saying we should dismiss critically acclaimed and serious television. I don’t want to bring that entertainment down a notch — I simply want to lift the status of guilty pleasures. I want people to put respect on the things they enjoy and realize there are many levels to what makes something good.

Whether it’s streaming the “Victorious” soundtracks or watching “The Real Housewives of New York City,” keep your head high and enjoy what you enjoy. They may be guilty pleasures but I don’t feel guilty and neither should you.

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