Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augie questions guilty pleasures

There are a lot of pleasures in life: walking through a forest, receiving a promotion and celebrating an anniversary. Yet some pleasures are met with confusion and disdain. The phrase “guilty pleasures” means something different to each of the individuals in this story. Usually, the main idea of guilty pleasures is that a person acts on an activity they deem to be pleasurable but those around them find it out of the loop of their lifestyle.
The collection of norms for each person to follow is the main idea of junior Jenna Meir’s thought process of the meaning of guilty pleasures.
Meir believes that the idea of a guilty pleasure conflicts with the person’s perceived identity and that in today’s society, these identities are fit into a limited number of options. One example Meir gave of society’s dictation on what is okay and what is awkward included a big burly man not usually listening to Ke$ha.
Yet, Meir can think of her own life and pinpoint activities she does that contrast with what people expect of her. One activity is her love of heavy metal music, which Meir finds to be a surprise to many people.
“My initial thought is locked into trashy pop music,” Meir said. “That is what a guilty pleasure is, it’s at odds with your identity and you need to explain it away somehow. For me, I mostly listen to metal with screaming and most people socially find that to be weirder than trashy pop music.”
Meir thinks that guilty pleasures are blown out of proportion and that people should not look down on others based on their idea of what pleasure is.
“Not giving a [expletive] is easier said than done, but it is worth doing,” Meir said. “From a social perspective, if someone likes something that it is out of character for them, then basically that is what a guilty pleasure is. You know maybe it doesn’t have to be met with weirdness and awkwardness.”  
First-year student Amy Nicholson believes that guilty pleasures can make people go immense measures to achieve their pleasure. Immense measures could be the time she snuck out of her house during high school at 2 a.m. to drive to McDonald’s and order a chocolate chip cookie. That’s right, Nicholson’s guilty pleasure is McDonald’s chocolate chip cookies.
“That’s the thing, I rave about them and I feel embarrassed every time since people are like those are just McDonald’s cookies but I live for those cookies,” Nicholson said. Nicholson mentions that people judge her because the cookies are cheap, from McDonald’s and are not healthy for her.
“We build up social norms of what people should like and shouldn’t like,” Nicholson said. McDonald’s fries and chocolate chip cookies have been a staple order for Nicholson since she was seven and while she continues to enjoy her “Happy meal,” she indulges in another common notion of what a guilty pleasure can be… reality TV.
“I feel bad about doing this, but last week I found myself watching the Bachelor,” Nicholson said.
Tim Muir, professor of biology, doesn’t feel guilty about his pleasure in watching reality TV, but he recognizes that they can be pretty dumb.
“I enjoy watching some silly and mindless TV shows — usually on Netflix,” Muir said. “Some of my recently watched series are Skin Wars, a show about competitive body painting hosted by RuPaul and Rebecca Romijn, Carver Kings, a show about the high art of chainsaw carving and Find It, Fix It, and Flog It, a British show about fixing up or re-purposing old items for a profit. The shows are all a little bit dumb; I love them for it.”
Though Muir recognizes that he could be doing something else with his time he is not embarrassed about watching them. Muir’s pleasure in reality TV came after his first child was born nine years ago. At that time in his life, both he and his wife could not do anything outside the house without obtaining a babysitter. Today, in order to stay on top of the kids and enjoy time together Muir and his wife stay inside, hence the reality TV.
Each person has their own activity that can be looked down upon if they allow it but Professor Michael Wolf, of the geology department, avoids doing anything guiltily in the first place.
“Sorry to say (but maybe it’s a good thing)… I don’t buy into “guilty” pleasures,” Wolf said. “I try to lower my stress levels by not doing things that would make me feel guilty!”
Wolf’s idea of guilty pleasures into a different understanding compared to Professor Robert Wengronowitz’s, sociology department, idea of guilty pleasures.
“I hope most people don’t actually feel guilty over doing things they enjoy,” Wengronowitz said. “At the same time, I’d like people to feel guilt for things they probably haven’t thought about much at all.” Wengronowitz goes on to say that individuals should not continue watching the world go by without any civic response to their politics and institutions.
“Eating a giant spoonful of Nutella sandwiched between peanut butter and almond butter–just enjoy every moment of that salty sweetness–but letting your senator (or minister at your church or coach on your team or administrator at your school) do things that you don’t approve of and sitting there silently, that’s shameful,” Wengronowitz said.
Now Wengronowitz’s response to the notion of guilty pleasures is rather different than Nicholson’s response of chocolate chip cookies, yet it all comes down to each person’s identity and how they are expected to act in society.
To continue with the variety of thoughts on guilty pleasures Professor Rowen Schussheim-Anderson’s, chair of the art department, first response is “pure bliss”.  Schussheim-Anderson does not see any of her pleasures as guilty.
“No one can guilt trip you unless you let them.  I don’t see indulging oneself on occasion as negative,” Schussheim-Anderson said. “It’s healthy and smart.”
Schussheim-Anderson thinks that we have guilty pleasures because society “has so many expectations and norms as to what is right and wrong, what we are supposed to or not supposed to be doing.”
In writing this story multiple psychology professors were asked to talk about the guilty pleasure phenomenon, yet all didn’t think they were the best person to discuss such a topic. Now, it makes more sense as to why this occurred because every individual interviewed saw it in a different light. The idea of it stemming from society pushing back on a person’s identity can be seen in multiple responses, but what it meant for them as an individual was unique.

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Augie questions guilty pleasures