"Guilty Pleasure." According to my cursory Google search, it's a term that refers to "lowbrow" or "otherwise embarrassing tastes," and the irrational fear we feel about being discovered engaging in them and it dates all the way back to 1907 (Sidebar, 1907 guilty pleasures: Ping pong? Scott Joplin? "Anne of Green Gables"?). That means that for more than a century, and most likely well beyond that, we as humans have felt oddly compelled to compartmentalize our cultural and aesthetic affections into two categories:
First, there's the Art with a capital "A," the cultural capital that we're inherently proud to indulge in (innocent pleasures, I guess?), usually because it's perceived as "respectable" or "significant" or "not the life-blood of 13-year-old girls" and therefore we don't have to feel bad for unabashedly loving it. "I am so deeply moved by this new Lars Van Trier flick," "My mind has been so totally expanded by this Radiohead record," or "David Foster Wallace's words completely changed my life" are all things we might shout from our proverbial rooftops, proudly post on Twitter, or share on an awkward OKCupid date to portray a (super false) sophistication and seal the deal.
Then there's the other shit. The secret shit. The shit that we all stealthily revel in, but try to keep super on the DL. These are our "guilty pleasures." "I own the entire Harold & Kumar DVD box set," "I listened to the Taylor Swift album 17 times this week and cried like an ailing infant with each and every spin" or "I can't come out tonight because I'm a 26-year-old male who is currently knee-deep in the Twilight series," we tell only our closest confidants while wearing our snuggies and staring intently at them for reassurance, banging our heads against a wall in shame because we know it will never come.
These "guilty pleasures" are all-too-often tied to culture items that have been embraced by a mainstream audience and get erroneously filed away as "guilty pleasures" solely for their popularity, ironic considering that the majority of people finding pleasure in it makes it "bad." I'm a DJ, so I see this cultural self-loathing transpire all the time with music. The bro who, only after nine whisky and cokes, comes up to me with a look of utter shame to request Selena Gomez "Come & Get It" (Don't feel bad, broski! We all like it. That's why its a big song!) or the Sea Punk girl on my twitter timeline who yesterday felt the need to say, "fuck it, I'm not going to pretend. I love the new Miley Cyrus song."
Cuz you know what? Good for you, Sea Punk girl! Love away, the Miley song is excellent and is totally possible to love even though it's technically just a party anthem and she was once a Disney Channel star! Here's the thing: I long-ago freed myself from this differentiation between acceptable pleasures and "guilty" ones because frankly, its ridiculous and often completely misguided and I really think you should too! In fact, I'm here today as a distinguished judge in the Court of Pop Culture to exonerate all of you from the "guilt" of your guilty pleasures. Congratulations, you are not being convicted so stop with the guilt complex, already!
These pleasures, whether it be Miley or Taylor, Mac Miller or Macklemore, Catfish: The TV Show, The Food Network, the Iron Man movies, and the like are "pleasurable" to you for a reason: they accomplish what they set out to do. It's a chemical brain reaction that you have no control over! They are maybe a different "good" than say, The Tree of Life or Kendrick Lamar or Ulysses (in certain people's opinions), but they are highly redeemable none-the-less and you should, in my humble opinion, embrace that and stop beating yourself up. Pleasure is pleasure, am I right?
Additionally, those passing judgement on what pleasures are guilty and which are not must ask themselves: "Where is the line?" Is Passion Pit a high-brow pleasure or a low-brow one? What about Bruno Mars? Or the Harry Potter series? Or "Girls?" When do we have to start feeling guilty for liking something? Who is even making these rules?
Of course, some shit is just bad, like Flo-Rida or the Transformers movies. Try not to like that. But otherwise, everything else is fair game and we should all stop judging each other and ourselves. The same guy who might be ragging on you for owning the entire Britney Spears discography got super crunk to 2 Chainz in the club last weekend (trust me, I saw it) and doesn't have a leg to stand on. None of us do. So go forth, be yourself, don't ever feel bad about the shit you like and seriously go cop the new Miley single, it's highly pleasurable.