Violet’s Sparkle: Thoughts on Guilty Pleasures
If you’ve ever heard me talk about kpop, specifically the sugary bubblegum songs I like, you’ve probably heard me use this term: “guilty pleasure”.
I’ve definitely heard it a lot from other people, too.
Whenever people do mention them, I notice a sense of embarrassment and sheepishness– like they really didn’t want to mention that thing anyway, and they kinda wanna change the topic.
But what makes them something to be embarrassed over? Isn’t it just another interest or like that person has? What makes a guilty pleasure different, and why would someone be embarrassed about one?
What exactly is a guilty pleasure, anyway?
Silly question, one I’m sure you’re aware of, but let’s take a minute for kicks and whistles.
Oxford defines a guilty pleasure as, “Something, such as a film, television programme, or piece of music, that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard.”
If we glance at another spot online, we get something similar: “Something that you shouldn’t like, but like anyway.”
…Why generally is that? Why shouldn’t we like these things?
I’ve always used the term to describe music or shows or books I felt embarrassed to like… for example, the sugary kpop that I listen to. I listen to some pretty sugary, bubblegum-y music.
[ Funny enough, I am right now 👀 ]
If we go off the definitions, we use the terms “guilty pleasure” to describe something that we feel inclined not to like, but still like it anyway.
Before I go further, it’s best to mention that there are about a trillion different kinds of guilty pleasures.
It’s like an umbrella, actually.
“Guilty pleasures” can be anything from an extra scoop of ice cream, having interests you feel bad for having, sleeping longer than you should, binging netflix (whoops!), enjoying dorky TV shows, etc.
For the sake of this post, I’m pretty much talking about the interest ones: things like listening to cheesy music, watching dorky TV shows, liking things you feel like you shouldn’t.
Food guilty pleasures, and other guilty pleasures like sleeping in far too long, wearing PJs all day, etc etc are very much different, wouldn’t you say? They have their own side of the umbrella.
Guilty pleasure interests are a whole ‘nother beast.
And when I think of them, I think back to conversations I’ve had with friends: mentioning guilty pleasures, but then immediately feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable at mentioning them and regretting. Why?
Apparently, there’s some magical quality in guilty pleasure interests and likes that makes us feel embarrassed and guilty for liking them.
I personally still can’t wrap my head around it.
So… why not try to figure it out?
[ *strokes chin thoughtfully* ]
Let’s approach it methodically.
Do all of our guilty pleasures have anything that unites them?
For starters, let’s rule out something like food from this analysis: I’m not sure if we can compare liking an extra scoop of ice cream with liking, say, a peppy song.
That’s just the thing, too. Food “guilty pleasures” I can understand and wrap my head around, because we all generally know the fact that extra sugar isn’t the healthiest for our bodies.
And people feeling guilty about something like that is definitely something I can understand: because it’s scientific fact that having more than necessary of any food, especially sugar, isn’t as healthy.
[ But does that stop us from eating extra sugar in general? No. I could never give up my Reese’s ]
The real question, however: is there actually any science behind the interest ones?
We can agree on scientific fact with the food part, right? Yeah.
But the more I think about what we identify as guilty pleasures, interests that we feel silly to mention having, the more I come to the same conclusion: there isn’t science.
There’s no reason we should feel guilty, no valid reason for us to feel guilty about these things– at least, no reasons backed up by science.
[ Violet, your analysis went *poof flop* ]
…so what’s the logical reason behind us feeling guilty?
Why do we feel guilty?
This is where I excitedly sit down, rub my hands together, and stroke my chin.
[ *more thoughtful chin stroking* ]
Let’s pretend that you like a song that plays on the radio lately, and you secretly find it catchy– but you say nothing when the station is changed, because you don’t want to mention that you like it.
Is there actually anything wrong with you liking the song?
Nope, there isn’t.
By wanting to listen to it, you’re doing something normal, because the song was meant for people to listen to it. You’re not doing anything wrong by liking that music.
[ It’s not like you’re stealing large quantities of chocolate and nibbling on it in your room against your better judgement ]
And that’s just the thing I want to touch on.
There’s nothing wrong with liking a popular song. Or a not-so-popular song. Or a certain youtuber. Or whatever you want. There really is nothing wrong, at all, with liking something like a TV show or a song.
We just usually hesitate to like something, for example a dorky song, because of peer reactions.
It’s that scenario again: the person in those shoes, who likes a song on the radio but watches someone in the family change the station and says nothing about wanting to keep hearing it. Even though they really want to hear it.
Having been in those shoes before, I can definitely remember why: the embarrassment.
I didn’t want peer reactions. I didn’t want to feel embarrassed for liking something, because other people in my family didn’t necessarily think the most of that music– and I didn’t want to feel foolish.
[ Truth be told, I’m better about that now. And a lot of my embarrassment, personally, may have also been self-manufactured. But you get my gist! ]
I’m going go out on a limb and say that I think we feel guilty for liking things often because of peer reactions.
For example, someone I knew once. I mentioned how I liked Dan & Phil (which I most definitely do), and he absolutely laughed at me. Preceded by a noise of disgust and, “ew Dan and Phil!”
I remember spending about 10 minutes trying to explain to him, “hey, they’re good role models and they’re really funny– don’t judge me for liking something just because they don’t appeal to you”.
[ Which actually turned into me finding out he just thought the fans of Dan & Phil were obnoxious and annoying, which honestly just makes me want to roll my eyes more than a year later ]
It’s not the first time I’ve faced that, either: I’ve had other interests that people around me have gotten one glance at before they made me feel bad for liking them.
Bubblegum kpop, definitely– and I can understand that an interest I have that doesn’t appeal to someone else, but I don’t really like the judgement flung onto people just because someone else didn’t like that one thing.
[ And I don’t think anyone likes that, either ]
It’s just all about the peer reactions.
Humans tend to seek recognition and acceptance from others. And it’s natural. Deep down, I think often we as humans want to be accepted for the interests we have, and stuff like that.
So when we get adverse reactions… we shy away from liking the things we like.
Or, alternatively, we begin to call them guilty pleasures. Because we feel shame and guilt for liking them.
Which is no fun at all. And there we come full circle.
Society drills a lot into us. I’ve talked about that before, especially with what’s defined as acceptable “success”.
At some point, certain kinds of things have been criticised enough in general that we feel guilty for liking certain things before we’ve even gotten any reactions.
Like dorky music, or silly TV shows, or something that’s “popular”.
So we call them guilty pleasures. Then we feel shamed for liking things even when no one has actually shamed us.
If I have anything to say about that… it’s that we shouldn’t.
We shouldn’t have to feel shame.
We shouldn’t have to feel guilty or less than or stupid for liking a certain TV show, or a certain youtuber, or a certain song, or a certain book.
You might like a certain song, but I’m not going to judge you for that. You might like a certain TV show, but I’m not going to judge you for it either.
You should be able to like the interests you do, and be happy about that. They make you happy, and that’s awesome.
Besides, what bad is liking a certain song doing? It’s doing nothing bad at all! It makes you happy, so why wouldn’t you listen to it?
The only negatives are worrying about judgement from others, which I think can be a very, very human thing to do. It’s valid to worry about. (I worry about it, too.)
But as someone who’s dealt with lots of judgement for her interests from the people around her, even people she cares about deeply, I want to say this:
You, my friend, should follow the interests that make you happy. If that means watching a certain TV show, go watch it. If that means listening to a certain artist, go listen to them.
When we box away some of our interests as “guilty pleasures”, we not only feel worse about ever liking them, but we shut away a part of ourselves.
Because there’s nothing wrong with liking some things that others don’t. It can just be hard to ignore peer reactions when they can be so adverse. I know that one well.
In conclusion ✧:･ﾟ✧:･ﾟ
Society drills it into us that we should feel foolish or shameful for having some of the interests we do. Whether that’s a goofy song, a dramatic TV show, or a popular movie.
But there’s actually nothing wrong with liking any of it. They make us happy, after all.
We just become worried about peer reactions, because they can be so negative and people can treat us really gross just for, say, liking certain music.
I think that you should like what you like. If it means this, or that, or something else, you should follow your interests. They make you happy! Follow them.
You, and anyone else, should not have to feel shameful for liking some things. There’s no win, there– it’s a lose-lose scenario, because you feel bad about liking something that otherwise would have just been a happy interest, and no one wins in making you feel that way.
There are going to be endless people in this world who don’t like the things we do, and want to tell us about it. As someone with quirky tastes, I experience it a lot.
But what I can tell you is that, in the words of a TV show I used to love, only you can be you, and you should like what you like.
Go enjoy that TV show, or that movie, or that one song. You deserve it!
As people, we deserve to have things in our lives that fill us up, not bring us down.
This is why I don’t use the term “guilty pleasure” to describe anything I like. I just say, “this is a song I like” and stand a little taller.
[ And pretend I’m not hurt when I get disgust from peers. But I like the song, and that’s all that matters ]
And if people don’t like the same stuff? If we all liked the same stuff… we’d be robots!
Think about it: if we all had the same interests and same thoughts… there would be no such thing as diverse thinking. And there would only be certain interests to follow, while others would go nonexistent.
If people don’t like what you like, and have enough within them to walk over and tell you, it’s their loss.
Because the hobbies you have, the music you listen to, the TV shows you follow, and the movies you watch are all awesome. It doesn’t have to matter what they think, no matter what they say, because their judgement doesn’t have to be enough to stop you from loving what you love.
You should love what you love. It makes you happy, and you deserve to be happy and have good things!
Don’t forget that : )