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Why I Don’t Believe In “Guilty Pleasure” Media

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

For the fourth summer in a row, my sister and I devoted five nights a week to watching singles from around the country try to find love on Love Island USA. Starting this Thursday, we’ll be keeping up with the drama-filled lives of the KarJenners every week in season two of The Kardashians. And don’t even get me started on cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies! From wild reality TV to the most cliché rom-coms, I’m a sucker for what you might call “guilty pleasure” media — but I don’t feel guilty at all.

A guilty pleasure generally refers to a piece of media, such as a film, television show, or song, that you might enjoy even though it may not be well-liked or respected by others. The idea is that because you like watching something that mainstream pop culture dictates is uncool or low quality, you feel a little guilty about it. Is it that deep? Of course not — everyone likes what they like, and that’s great! However, I want to point out what society typically considers to be a “guilty pleasure.”

A few shows that people would typically consider guilty pleasures might be reality dating shows, like Love Island or The Bachelor. Some uber-cheesy romantic comedies could also make this list, as well as drama-packed reality TV shows like The Real Housewives franchise and The Kardashians. I love watching media like this, guilty pleasure or not. However, there is something about all of these shows and movies that unifies them: they all target a primarily female viewership.

Anna Schultz-Girls Smiling Hanging Out With Dog
Anna Schultz / Her Campus

I think it’s important to consider that maybe these pieces of media aren’t actually guilty pleasures — maybe they’re just movies and shows that lots of women love! There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get lost in a silly movie or trashy TV show, despite what mainstream pop culture might be telling you, and there’s certainly nothing to feel guilty about. Media that doesn’t require much brain power can be the most entertaining to watch, and it can be a great way to bring people together for some lighthearted quality time.

I’ll be the first to admit that certain pieces of traditional “guilty pleasure” media aren’t the most mentally stimulating, but that isn’t true of all secretly loved movies and shows. Take the classic cheesy rom-com: boy meets girl, they fall in love, their love is tested but ultimately saved by a corny speech, and they live happily ever after. Maybe there isn’t much going on at the surface level, but once you get past the cliché dialogue and well-loved tropes, these movies are about human connection and possibility. What’s so bad about that? We could all use some more love!

Media is made for people to consume and enjoy. Documentaries, action films, and classic sitcoms are great, but so is Love Island. I tell people I watch The Kardashians without a hint of shame, and I’ll keep watching To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before until Netflix goes down. I encourage you to take back your favorite guilty pleasure movie or TV show and watch it with pride! Life is too short to pretend you don’t like Glee or The Bachelorette.

So, if you need to find me on a Thursday night for the next ten weeks, I’ll be in front of the TV watching The Kardashians with my roommates. Not only can I not wait to see what craziness the KarJenners will get into this season (guilt-free, of course), but I’m also looking forward to spending time with my friends at the end of a busy week. Media is just media — love what you love!

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Emily Day

U Mass Amherst '24

Emily is a senior at UMass Amherst majoring in Business Management and Communication and pursuing a minor in Spanish. In her free time, she can be found hanging out with friends, dancing on the UMass Tap Team, or reading a new book.