The phrase “guilty pleasure” gets thrown around so casually that it’s almost lost its meaning. Which is kind of a good thing, since the idea of a “guilty pleasure” is so wrong. There are no such thing as guilty pleasures. There are just things we enjoy but feel like we’re supposed to feel bad about for some reason. We tend to use the term to describe art and content we’re not sure is “sophisticated” enough to bring up at a dinner party, or when we eat food that we know isn’t the healthiest.
But what’s so bad about doing something you enjoy if no one else is getting hurt?
You know who agrees with us? Shonda Rhimes, and Shonda Rhimes knows everything. The creator of shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder, said that she hates when someone calls her work a “guilty pleasure.”
“I would never say that about someone’s show. I think it’s a very insulting thing to say about someone’s show. Calling a show a “guilty pleasure” is like saying “I’m embarrassed to say I watch it but I can’t stop.” That’s not a compliment. That is not a compliment! Then don’t watch it, don’t watch it, please.”
The same could be said of that 2AM piece of cheesecake you sneak in the kitchen or reading young adult novels as a grownup. Why are you being so rude to cheesecake and good writing? Stop dismissing the things you love just because somewhere along the way, you were taught that you have to feel bad about them. Just own it.
Here are some more reasons to stop saying something is a guilty pleasure.
1You’re not being real with yourself.
When you tell yourself that you’re enjoying something, but only in a sneaky or ironic way, you’re not keeping it real. It’s OK to be embarrassed sometimes — everyone is. But your tastes are your tastes, and it’s just fine to be into whatever random thing you’re into. If you’re so busy pretending to enjoy things you’re ashamed of, you’re missing out on all the glorious time you could spend actually doing what you want to do. Be yourself!
2You might be offending someone.
You definitely don’t want to offend Shonda Rhimes, so wear your TGIT badge with pride. But aside from the content creators (or cook, or store, or whatever your “guilty pleasure” is), you might be putting someone down IRL without even knowing it. It all depends, of course, but saying that pop music is a “guilty pleasure” might really turn your Taylor Swift-loving Tinder date off, which would really suck if what you truly mean is that you love pop music but are insecure about admitting it — you just offended someone about a thing you actually have in common!
3You deserve some fun!
Sometimes, we call things a “guilty pleasure” because we’ve been socialized to assume we don’t deserve any fun. Or that activities, like shopping, are “silly” or “girly” or some other adjective that sounds sexist sometimes. Curling up on the couch for a TV marathon of a non-critically acclaimed show or hitting up the sale rack in a department store isn’t illegal. You are guilty of nothing except indulging in some self-care.
4“Guilty pleasures” are usually awesome.
Is it just us or are most of the things that get described as “guilty pleasures” actually quite awesome? Fun party songs, hilarious reality TV, and processed snacks are all good things. As long as you’re happy, have fun!
5You don’t have to be “cool.”
Sometimes we call things “guilty pleasures” so we fit in with what other people are into, Which is total BS. If anyone judges you or bullies you because of the music or books you like, you need new friends. Dave Grohl said on Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast, ” If you f*cking like something, like it. That’s what’s wrong with our generation: that residual punk rock guilt, like, “You’re not supposed to like that. That’s not f*cking cool.” He used Britney as an example, adding, “Don’t f*cking think it’s not cool to like Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” It is cool to like Britney Spears’ “Toxic!”
When both Shonda Rhimes and Dave Grohl are in agreement, you know they have a point.