September 17, 2015

No More Guilty Pleasures

Swallowed In The Sea

In a post about the recent TERF war dividing Freethought Blogs (FtB) and leading to the departure of at least one of their bloggers, Joe (Canadian Atheist) wrote something on an unrelated topic that stuck in my head and that I find far more interesting than anything having to do with the TERF war, FtB, or even the great rift:
Now, it’s not that I don’t have my guilty pleasures, my taste in music for instance, is crap. I have always liked crappy pop songs, and I probably don’t want to hear x band’s first album… before they went mainstream…
Aren't guilty pleasures fascinating? Why do we feel guilty about some of the things we enjoy (e.g., music, reality TV, video games)? Why do we tell ourselves that we shouldn't like? And even stranger, why do we put pressure on ourselves to like things we do not like merely because others insist they are better than what we like or that we should like them instead?

English: Celebrity Apprentice star Dennis Rodm...
Celebrity Apprentice star Dennis Rodman and Donald Trump (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There have certainly been TV shows that I have watched (and even enjoyed at least to some degree) that I have been somewhat embarrassed to admit watching. Want a specific example? One called Celebrity Apprentice starring the next U.S. president comes to mind. I am well aware that the show was appallingly bad; that was part of the appeal. It was like the train wreck I knew I shouldn't have been watching but couldn't seem to look away. Because I knew it was bad and that others would be surprised and possibly even disappointed to learn that I watched it, I didn't go around advertising that I watched it. It was a guilty pleasure that I preferred to keep to myself.

When it comes to music, some would say that almost every band I like and even my favorite genre of music (i.e., metal) is a guilty pleasure. I'm not sure this is accurate since I do not actually feel guilty about listening to it or enjoying it. I'm told again and again that I should feel ashamed for liking it at my age, but I don't. Unlike bad reality TV, I guess it is just too much a part of who I am.

The flip side of guilty pleasures is even stranger. There have been countless TV shows (e.g., Breaking Bad) and bands (e.g., Queens of the Stone Age) that others have raved about so much that I genuinely tried to like them before realizing that I was unable to do so. The same has been true for films, genres of music, and all sorts of other things. Someone insists that such and such is objectively outstanding, I give it a try and don't like it one bit, and I am judged to be deficient in taste, culture, or some other ephemeral quality. And then I'm expected to feel guilty for liking what I like instead of what I am expected to like.

If we like something - if it genuinely brings us pleasure without harming anyone else - why should we feel guilty about it? And if we don't like something, why should we be ashamed of ourselves for not liking it as much as others do? Joe tells us that his taste in music is "crap," but how can it be wrong for him to like what he likes? And why should he be expected to feel guilty about it?

I plan to keep my guilty pleasures but let go of the guilt. If I want to watch crap reality TV, I recognize that I have at least two perfectly valid reasons for doing so. First, I might have had a shitty day and want to briefly escape my reality by immersing myself in meaningless garbage for awhile. Second, I often find something interesting about the amplified conflict and vivid examples of personality disorders such shows offer. Believe it or not, I've found it helpful to use some of the characters on these shows as examples of personality disorders when I am teaching students about this type of pathology.

As for the music, I don't care what others think of the bands I like. I am going to keep enjoying the music I like. And while I will continue to try new bands recommended to me by others, life is far too short to waste it on trying to make myself like bands or genres that I don't like.

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