Guilty Pleasures

(From The Campus Lantern – April 4, 2013)

We all have a guilty pleasure, whether it’s a band, a certain food, or a television show. But why must we call them “guilty pleasures?” According to, the definition of the word “guilty” is “having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law.” The word has both an extremely negative definition and connotation. The definition of the word “pleasure,” according to, is “enjoyment or satisfaction derived from what is to one’s liking.” Something that is a pleasure is enjoyable to us. So how did these two words ever become bonding together into a popular phrase?

What I think is that it’s all about image. If something is a guilty pleasure, it is most likely something that is looked down upon in society. Musical rtists who are guilty pleasures are usually in the spotlight. You’re more likely to hear someone say Britney Spears (someone who is constantly being hounded by paparazzi) is their guilty pleasure, as opposed to a local band that plays basement shows to its 20 existing fans. Britney Spears is extremely mainstream, and I feel like people want to be individuals – different from everyone else – and they want to feel like they’re not just following what everyone else is doing. To like mainstream artists is to conform, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – besides, who says you can’t like both pop music and underground music?

Television shows that are considered guilty pleasures usually have characters whose lives are more interesting than the simple everyday lives of the viewers. I’ve seen so many instances in which someone called the television network Bravo (that plays shows such as the Millionaire Matchmaker, Project Runway, and all of the Real Housewives series) their guilty pleasure, but no one would ever consider something like the local access channel to be one. In my opinion, we feel guilty watching those gaudy television shows because we know that real life isn’t just parties, drama, and gossiping.

There has been more than one instance when I was at the dining hall with my friends and when we finished our meals, someone went and got a brownie. You bet they mentioned that brownies are there guilty pleasure, but you didn’t hear them saying how the vegetables they just ate with their dinner were something to be ashamed of. I get why someone would feel bad about eating a brownie, but you’re not going to gain five pounds just by having one bite.

When asked what music they enjoy, I know people who will try and mention the most underground, unknown band that they listen to. Why can’t people admit that they listen to One Direction and Justin Bieber? Why are some people so ashamed to admit that they watch shows such as Jersey Shore and Glee? Why do some people consider chocolate cake or ice cream their guilty pleasures? If you enjoy these things, then you shouldn’t be scared to admit it – calling something a “guilty pleasure” implies shame. If you want to listen to pop music, watch scripted television shows, or eat dessert, go right ahead.


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