“Guilty pleasures” started out as quite a fun and refreshing concept. I liked the idea of looking beyond what was deemed cool, or critically worthy, or culturally relevant, and exploring lesser valued avenues for entertainment. A film needn’t be Citizen Kane to be worthwhile. There was good music beyond the indie ghetto.
There was something liberating about “coming out” and acknowledging that you enjoyed stuff outside the commonly accepted canon. You could listen to and enjoy “Baby One More Time” without being sneered at.
Yet, it seems like as time has gone on, the whole concept has changed considerably. Guilty Pleasures is now a trademarked enterprise. What started out as a fun radio show has become an entertainment behemoth. The X-Factor had a whole week themed around the concept. It is now, perhaps, just another genre, at least musically, rather than a stand against accepted thought.
It also seems more and more like an ironic pose. This is not about seeking out lesser known music/films/TV/etc or reappraising music/films/TV/etc that have been widely dismissed as disposable/vapid/crap etc.
And the pleasures just don’t seem so guilty anymore. These aren’t hidden joys, or reactions against common convention. They are mainstream. They are shared. There’s nothing to be guilty about anymore.
Maybe that’s a good thing – that we are all more open-minded, willing to cast our net wider, to keep our inner snob in check. But, I suspect that it is a more a fashion, rather than a deeply held love or enjoyment from unexpected quarters. It seems like the pleasure it missing just as much as the guilt is.
However, I’m probably just working on my own set of particular prejudices. Maybe the whole idea of “guilty pleasures” was bound up in my own inverted snobbery and contrarianism. Perhaps now it is bound up in the mainstream I don’t want any part of it?
Or…maybe I’m just miserably over-thinking something that doesn’t really warrant it. And perhaps I should answer Tim’s question and get on with listing a few of my own guilty pleasures.
I love the old Sinatra/Martin/Darin swing stuff, and initially I hated the idea of some slick young guy working that act. But, I’ve grown to love him. Every interview I’ve seen with him he’s been funny, thoughtful and able to not take himself too seriously. His stagecraft is phenomenal. It is not easy to hold a whole stadium in the palm of your hand, but he makes it look effortless. He’s a much better singer than many give him credit for – his phrasing, dynamics, breathing all spot on. His own songs are catchy, fun and make me smile. Plus, I have a tiny man crush on him. I admit it. I am aware that this choice has probably blown any musical taste credibility I may have had out of the window.
There is a whole epic post lingering in the back of my head about my lifelong love of professional wrestling. I barely watch it now, but I still go back to it every now and then. I think it is really overlooked as an artform. Seriously. While a lot of the modern stuff is rubbish, there are some matches I’ve seen that have been compelling and emotional theatre. I hate that so many wrestlers have died so young, which is probably what has turned me off following it so closely in recent years. But I do love the stories it has told, and I love the idea of a grey area between sport and ‘entertainment’.
My favourite film is Singin’ In The Rain. This is very much the accepted choice of musical, as it is pretty meta and clever and all that. But I even enjoy the bad musicals. Gene Kelly is one of my all-time heroes. I don’t think anything is as wonderfully escapist as an old 1950s MGM musical on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Maybe this should have gone in my comfort food post. Pot Noodles are a bit of an ironic, student-y choice for many. Their advertising completely plays up to that image. But I actually truly and genuinely love them. I’ve even convinced myself that they aren’t that bad for me. Given half a chance, home alone, the Pot Noodle is my go-to lunch. My absolute favourite was an incredibly spicy flavour from a “Pots of the World” range, which I think they stopped in about 1999. I seem to remember my Friday night routine during my mid-teens often involving Friends, Frasier and Pot Noodle. I was a pretty rock’n’roll teenager, you know. I still miss those Pots of the World, although the “Bombay Bad Boy” falvour is a fine substitute.