Quit Calling Things 'Guilty Pleasures'

Jennifer Szalai: Drop the artifice; you're not impressing anyone
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2013 1:45 PM CST

(Newser) – If you want to feel guilty, fine. If you want to feel pleasure, more power to you. But if you want to toss around the phrase "guilty pleasure," then Jennifer Szalai requests that you resist the urge. In a New Yorker essay about how much she hates the term, Szalai traces its popular emergence back to the culture wars of the 1990s and argues that it "exudes a false note, a mix of self-consciousness and self-congratulation." Would you be telling the world about your "guilty pleasures" if you genuinely felt guilty about them?

The message you're sending is more like this: "You’re most comfortable in the élite precincts of high art, but you’re not so much of a snob that you can’t be at one with the people," writes Szalai. "So you confess your remorse whenever you deign to watch Scandal, implying that the rest of your time is spent reading Proust." Enough already. "Forget the pretense and get over yourself." Click for the full column. (Read more culture stories.)

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