“What’s your guilty pleasure?” I was once asked during a job interview a few years back.
Without even thinking about it, I said, “Watching the The Walking Dead.”
The Walking Dead is a post-apocalyptic horror television series that depicts a world overrun by zombies. What I like about this series are the relationships that are developed between the main characters, the riveting story lines, and the amazing makeup that renders the zombies believable.
My interviewer smiled a crooked smile, and then turned his focus to the document in front of him.
During the brief silence that followed, I wondered why he’d asked me such a question. What did my response say about me? Would I stand a better chance if I had said I like to eat Rocky Road ice cream while reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets?
After the interview, I adjourned to a coffeeshop for a drink. Of course, all I could think about were those stupid zombies.
I have never felt guilty about watching The Walking Dead. I don’t care what people think about my viewing habits. And if some cultural snob doesn’t feel I’m fit to take on a job just because I watch zombies attacking innocent people, and living people retaliating by blowing the already dead brains of the attackers to smithereens, I’d rather not work with them.
My current colleagues know I’m a big fan of the TV series. They know I sometimes watch the latest episode while having breakfast and getting ready for work. They’ve seen me watching it in the kitchen at the staff dining table, while eating my lunch.
During a coffee break at work once, I announced that I would know how to deal with a zombie if one ever happened to stumble into our office.
“You’ll be in safe hands,” I said, possibly sounding a bit proud.
My colleagues laughed.
“You do realise zombies are not real?” one of them said.
“Of course, I do. But just in case. You never know what might happen.”
Just the mere concept of classifying an activity as a guilty pleasure (something, such as a film, television programme, or piece of music that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard) seems incredibly elitist and pompous. It tells me that some activities are considered good and some are considered bad or not so good.
It’s like saying that highbrow activities (like reading the classics, watching indie foreign-language movies, and listening to Mozart) are valued more than so-called lowbrow activities, such as reading “chick lit”, watching Adam Sandler movies, and listening to Justin Bieber.
So, who gets to decide what is culturally good for us and what isn’t?
When I was at school, I thoroughly enjoyed a number of books that were prescribed reading. Equally, there was probably a similar number of books that I didn’t enjoy at all.
For example, I loved Animal Farm by George Orwell, but reading Moby Dick was like trying to swim through a sea of treacle. I did give Moby Dick a second chance, about 30 years after the first reading, but it read like a boring series of whaling essays strung together. I do remember a member of the crew was called Starbuck – but that’s only because his name is similar to that of a popular coffee franchise.
I also enjoyed Orwell’s novel 1984, but a recent stage version left me feeling cold – I preferred Kinky Boots, a lively Cindi Lauper musical that came out at about the same time.
I love some classical music, but a lot of it sounds bloated and pompous, as if the composer set out to show everyone how clever he was by throwing everything, including the musical equivalent of the kitchen sink, into his work. I would rather stick pins in my eyes than sit through four hours of that.
I think children should be exposed to all sorts of prose, music and art without giving them the impression that any one is better than the other. We should be allowed to make up our own mind as to what has merit and what doesn’t. It’s the exposure that’s important, not other people’s opinions.
As long as we’re not breaking any laws, we shouldn’t feel guilty about our pleasures. We need to get rid of the term “guilty pleasures” and just call them what they are: Pleasures.
I’m off to watch a few zombies now.
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