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Wednesday, July 21, 2004
There's been some talk recently about "guilty pleasures"--see Mark's and Simon's take on the issue.  Because I'm a hugely egotistical prick, I might as well repost what I wrote about that issue about a year ago, because, eh, I think I have a different take.

The idea of guilty pleasure is a stupid, Catholic, one, but so, I often feel, is loudly declaring that you don't have guilty pleasures. Because, let's face it, you probably do. Mine include Tori Amos and Eurovision-y europop, mainly because I don't know anyone else with decent musical taste who non-guiltily likes these things. (I still listen to 'em, though.) The problem with the concept of the guilty pleasure is less the "guilty" part and more what's defined as a guilty pleasure. The term is used by people with "good taste" to describe anything mainstream which they, horror of horrors, like. But this presumes that anything mainstream is bad, or falls within "bad taste," and I think that's just not true. Just because something is liked by a lot of other people, or not liked by the Wire, doesn't make it a guilty pleasure. The point of guilty pleasures is that you just like them, they're pure pleasure, and you don't think about it too much (viz. the above strategy of listening to the song without thinking about the horrendously politically incorrect lyrics). But there's lots of pop stuff that you should think about, that is well-crafted and interesting and wonderful.
So what should we call a guilty pleasure? ("GP" for short.) Well, GPs are fun in their own special way--aside from the "no thinking" part, you enjoy GPs alone. There's no one else you know and respect who will admit to liking it, so you have to do it "in secret," and this has a certain adulterous excitement that makes it, well, pleasurable. That's why "guilty" pleasure--because guilt can be pleasurable, too. All the lapsed Catholics (or the male submissives wearing panties and garters) will tell you that. But it's different from a regular pleasure...With a GP, you enjoy it by keeping it to yourself, your own little discovery among the trash; with a regular pleasure, you want to share it with everyone else (i.e. pop's inclusivity).