Guilty Pleasures

By | Sunday, September 25, 2011 Leave a Comment
You've heard the phrase "guilty pleasures", haven't you? It's generally meant to refer to something that you enjoy, but feel some sense of embarrassment or shame enjoying it. A pleasure that you feel guilty for enjoying.

Generally, the idea is somewhat socially conditioned. That is, the mores of society dictate what you should and shouldn't freely enjoy, and one's guilt stems from going against those conventions. Maybe it's something your society on the whole has disparaged (i.e. comic books in the 1950s) or maybe it's just something your parents specifically disapproved of (i.e. "that noise you call music") or maybe something in between. Regardless of what group it comes from, whatever you feel as guilt is basically an internalization of your culture's norms. That's why, for example, comic books weren't seen being read in public here in the U.S. for many years, while it remained easy to spot manga readers on a crowded train in Japan; it was a difference in the social acceptance of the medium between the two countries.

Now maybe it's because I had plenty of "character-building" moments in school or maybe it's because my brain is wired differently or maybe it's because I'm a godless heathen, but I don't accept what somebody else says I should or shouldn't enjoy. As long as I'm not negatively impacting anybody else, it shouldn't matter what I take pleasure in. And as long as you're not negatively impacting me, I shouldn't care what you take pleasure in. I couldn't care less what you read or watch or listen to, and I couldn't care less what you think of what I read or watch or listen to.

If you're actually on my blog page while you're reading this, check out that list of comics I read along the right side of the page. Yeah, I list "cool" stuff like Girl Genius and Templar, AZ, but I also list some frequently maligned or dismissed comics like Heathcliff and Frank & Ernest. I read those online. It's not like I happen to read them as I'm flipping through a newspaper; I made a specific decision to pull those comics into my digital feed reader. And I have no qualms telling you that, at least at some level, I enjoy reading those strips. I don't enjoy them as much as a lot of others on that list, but I enjoy them enough to spend some of my decreasingly available time reading them every day.

But do I consider them guilty pleasures? Absolutely not!

I enjoy them on their own merits and your judgement of me for that is irrelevant. I'm confident enough in my own tastes that I don't need anyone's permission or approval or validation.

I think there is a place for guilt in society. If you screw something up and you KNOW you screw it up, guilt is there to make sure you remember not to screw it up again later. But feeling guilty for doing something you enjoy and aren't screwing up? No, thanks. If I enjoy something, I'm not going to deliberately hamper that enjoyment by feeling guilty about enjoying it.

They're your own feelings; they're your own personal tastes. Own them.
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