In Defense of “Guilty Pleasures”

I’ve been thinking about this term a lot: guilty pleasure.

guilt·y pleas·ure

noun

something, such as a movie, television program, or piece of music, that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard

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Now, before we get too far into this, I should mention that I’m going to use the Shadowhunters universe as an example in this post. If you haven’t read it, don’t worry! If you don’t want to read it, don’t worry! There are no specifics, and I’m not going to be prattling on about why I love it. It’s just one of my “guilty pleasures,” and I think it’s the best example out there.

So, guilty pleasure.

Recently, I was marathoning the last season of Shadowhunters. I live with my family still, so I was out in the open where anyone might stumble by, and my sister sat down on the couch for a bit. After a while, she asked, “You know this is shitty television, right?” She gave me this look like if you say it’s the best thing you’ve ever watched we’re going to have a problem, and my automatic response was, “Oh yeah, of course I do. It’s awful, but I love it.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. Much like The Magicians, Shadowhunters has questionable CGI, interesting dialogue, and not always the best acting. I’m always confused about the fact that Shadowhunters wasn’t produced by Syfy. Hey, maybe if it was, it wouldn’t have been cancelled because it would have been better than it already was.

But, before we get too far, I want to take you back a little, all the way to 2007 and the very first taste of this world that we got.

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LOOK AT HOW BAD THAT COVER IS

My friend bought me this book because it sounded right up my alley (it is), but, being a snob, I thanked him for it and then quietly put it on a shelf where no one could see it. I was not going to be caught with a book that had a half-naked man on the cover. Nope. I didn’t read those kind of books.

This book started to collect dust on my shelf. I forgot all about it until 2013, and something very interesting happened.

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Is this movie bad? So bad. Did I go see it in theaters anyway? Um, duh. Because, see, here’s the thing. Jamie Campbell Bower was slated to play the main male lead, and I was once a big fan of his. (I’m not not a fan anymore, but I used to consume as much of his media as I could.) When the trailer came out, I thought it didn’t look as stupid as the cover made me think, and I was excited about seeing Jamie in something, so I decided to give it a whirl. I cracked open the dusty, never-before-opened spine of City of Bones, and ohhhhhhhh boy.

By 2013, all but the last book had been published. So, I did the only reasonable thing. The movie was slated to come out in August, so in January, I started reading. Sorry, December. I’m looking back at my Goodreads, and this is going to be hilarious, so I’m going to list it out for you:

  • City of Bones: read 12/1-12/17
  • City of Ashes: read 12/18-12/29
  • City of Glass: read 12/30-1/3
  • City of Fallen Angels: read 1/4-1/8
  • City of Lost Souls: read 1/8-1/13

jfc that’s nuts

If you know me now, you know that I read series very slowly. Usually I read them with two-three months in between each book. It’s not something I actively do, it just happens that way. But after reading City of Bones, I immediately went out and bought every single book in the series. Because of that, my middle three books are all paperbacks, and it’s very annoying. I binge-read the first five books in the series over the course of a month and a half. To really show how ridiculous that is, this is 3100 pages. I’m currently struggling to finish my 2500 for NEWTs!

I just finished rereading the original series, which tacks on another 700+ pages, over the course of a year and a half because, despite enjoying the original series thoroughly, I never got into the other trilogies. But I owned two of the short story collections, and the show made me fall in love with the world all over again, so I decided I was going to dive back into the universe.

Why?

Because I don’t care if it’s bad.

Every time someone asks me what it’s about, I say, “Think about every single mythical creature you’ve ever heard of. Vampires, werewolves, faeries, mermaids, demons, angels, demon hunters. Take all of them, and then shove a lot of romance into their world, and you’ve got the most over dramatic and too long series in the world.” Because yeah, the books are definitely way longer than they need to be. So many scenes could be pared down or just removed, but honestly? I’m glad they’re all there.

It’s never going to stand out in any categories. Objectively, I know it’s not all that good. But I don’t really give a shit if it’s good or not. It has likeable characters, an interesting plot, a lot of drama, and so much romance, I find myself sighing wistfully at everything. I don’t have to think all that much while I’m reading, and it’s super predictable, but sometimes, you just need that kind of story.

I love this series so much. I love the really poorly done movie. I love the vaguely okay TV show.

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I love the awful opening credits. I love the walking slow in all black. I LOVE ISABELLE LIGHTWOOD!!!

Is it good? Probably not. Do I care? Not even a little bit.

Because here’s the thing.

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I don’t think guilty pleasures are wrong. Or bad? I don’t think you should feel wrong/bad about enjoying something that other people might not like. I have this general vibe where I just don’t give a shit what critics say. Is The Magicians ridiculous? Yes. Is Pacific Rim full of plot holes? Yes. Is Tom Hiddleston right? Yes.

Guilty pleasures are fun. They make us feel happy. And the only wrong/bad part about guilty pleasures is when someone else tries to rain on your parade by saying that your crappy TV show/book/movie/what-have-you is crappy. We know it is. But so what? If we’re deriving enjoyment out of it, who cares if it’s poorly done? Is it hurting you if I like the Shadowhunters universe? Not even a little bit.

So maybe next time someone gives you crap for liking your “guilty pleasure,” tell them to sod off.

If you enjoyed this and actually like Shadowhunters, I also wrote about why I love Clary Fray so much! (Spoiler: it’s because she’s the best.)

What are your guilty pleasures?

Posted by

Mary RYT 200 Tibetan Buddhism Gryffindor Part-time witch, full-time novelist. Lover of words, planets, dragons, and mountains.

5 thoughts on “In Defense of “Guilty Pleasures”

  1. Love this post! I don’t agree with the concept of guilty pleasures because there should be no association of shame involved with something that is fun to read! Like so what if it’s not a high brow award winner, if it brings you joy then that’s all that matters. (I like to have this discussion when I talk about my love for the twilight series lol!)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Awesome post 😁! I’ve actually been trying to steer clear from calling things my guilty pleasure. Those things I call guilty pleasures, like reality TV or cliche YA vampire books, are harmless, so what’s wrong about liking them? Maybe it hurts people to see me “waste” my time on a bad show, but some random critic’s rating isn’t going to stop me from finding joy in it. Imagine how homogenous and stale entertainment would be if it was all catered to critics’ “refined” tastes lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, yes, yes! If we only consumed media that “professional” people enjoyed, it would be so boring. What’s the point if you’re not having fun? And who cares if that fun is sometimes mindless!

      Liked by 1 person

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