Calling Guest Writers: What’s Your Guiltiest Pleasure?

Welcome to the first of a new guest writer series we’re launching! As you may already know from our editor’s letter earlier in the month, we’re looking to feature more voices this semester. To help kick start this, we’re going to have monthly prompts where readers can submit as guest writers and we’ll compile a few highlights from the submissions to be published the start of next month. Send your submissions to our new e-mail [email protected]

The first prompt: What’s your guiltiest pleasure and what’s behind the guilt you feel?

I’ll start: I’m a first-generation immigrant who can’t stop watching 90 Day Fiancé.

I should hate the light it paints the immigration process in, I should be writing to have it cancelled. A large part of me does feel that way and has drafted essays on how toxic the show is. But this other part of me can’t turn it off. This other part of me has favorite stars (Anfisa all day, every day) and favorite train wrecks (Nicole and Azan will be the end of me) from the show. I’ve sucked friends (fellow immigrants included) into being addicted to the show.

I feel this way about a lot of TLC shows. Objectively, I know they’re bad for me, bad for pop culture at large, god awful for representation. But they have this way of finding this deeply uncomfortable stuff – mothers who smother, what it’s like to live at 600 pounds, widows addicted to eating their husband’s ashes – and turning it into something disgustingly captivating. Like watching a tragedy unfold, it’s so hard to look away. Watching these shows feels like picking at an old scab. It’s so gross, it hurts to do, but I still go ahead and pick and peel and ruin the old wound anyways.

TLC is also just this weird pocket of reality T.V. Yeah, I could watch more polished shows about twin brothers pulling off flawless home renovations or yet another white bachelor find love. But they’re never as satisfying or viscerally captivating as watching a private investigator, after catching liars and cheaters all day at work, fly to Tunisia to her own hopeless romance. So many of the people on the show just make no sense. The Trump supporter who laments how hard immigration is for her boyfriend, in-laws that don’t want drama but also insert themselves at every turn, and like, just a bunch of people who hate each other but stay married.

I’m now so addicted I watch past stars watch the show. There’s just something about how ridiculous it is, how hopeless everyone is, that resonates. But I’m trying to wane myself off, the guilt behind this guilty pleasure is just too strong to ignore. It’ll just take a while for me to stop picking this scab.