The 8 Stages of a Guilty Pleasure

Comedy Lists
The 8 Stages of a Guilty Pleasure

The Guilty Pleasure is a devilish seductress. It’s hard to distinguish a Guilty Pleasure at first, as they come in many forms. Whether it arrives in song or on screen, phone app or in gift wrap, the Guilty Pleasure strikes without warning and is merciless in its ways. It will suck hours, days, even months of your life away as you trundle along, unaware of what is really happening. It slinks into your life ever so coyly, but if it latches on it is nigh impossible to wrest yourself from its clutches.

Though seemingly harmless at first, the infection soon works its way into the host’s brain and immediately takes root. From there, it does quick work of killing both the respect of your peers and respect for yourself. Soon, you become an outcast from your friend group, a pariah, poisonous to any social status that comes near. Soon, all you’ll have left is the Guilty Pleasure to keep you company, and trust me, it is a cold companion.

All is not lost, however. This is merely the worst case scenario. Though the personal toil that a Guilty Pleasure will take on its victim is large, the Guilty Pleasure is just like any other parasite and it has a distinct birth-life-death cycle it follows. The only weapon in this fight against the humiliating effects of the Guilty Pleasure is knowledge, so read on, know what you’re up against, learn how to fight it, and may the gods have mercy on your soul.

1. The Stumble Upon

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Things start out so innocently. Oh how foolishly naïve you are. It happens without warning, in the car, on the couch, at the office. Suddenly, a little something catches your attention. A good beat, a funny joke, a beguiling headline. It starts small, but pulls your focus. You turn up the volume and a small twinkle creeps across your lip. You thoughtlessly click on the link, and a full smile appears. Then, as your head inexorably bops along to the rhythm, you say the most dangerous three words in the English language:

“What is this!?”

All at once, two hours of your life are gone and you’re grinning like an idiot. The Guilty Pleasure has you in its spiny clutches. Unfortunately, if you’ve found yourself here, you’re just going to have to ride out the sickness. There is light at the end of the tunnel though, so don’t give up hope, but first you gotta go through a whole lotta darkness before you get there.

2. The Honey Moon Period

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Relish this time. Oh how you ought to relish it. This is that blissful grain of hourglass sand where you can see nothing wrong. Your Spotify playlists start to be overcome by a single track and your Hulu queue gathers dust as you binge watch your new prize. No criticism enters your mind, no nagging doubts, just pure, unadulterated enjoyment of the Guilty Pleasure. At this point, there isn’t even any guilt, just raw pleasure. That’s what’s so insidious about the Beast; the idea that something so fun could bring such shame is so far from your mind that you wouldn’t even entertain the thought. This time can last mere moments, or last for the rest of your life—it all depends on how quickly you move on to step three.

3. The Innocent Share

Entry 3.jpgThis image is taken from SCA’s international report Hygiene Matters 2010. For more info, please visit

“Oh man, you have to hear this!”

It’s a phrase that reverberates around the world, translated through every language, and dangerous in all. They loved your suggestion of Homeland, so they would absolutely love this! What’s so painful is how well intended this gesture is. All you want to do share the bliss. And who better to share it with than your good friend Rodney? I mean, sure he can be judgmental about things, but he has good taste, so he’ll definitely like this new song.

4. The Reverse Road to Damascus

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There is a tale in the Christian faith in which, amid his travels, Saul was struck by a revelation, the scales fell from his eyes, and he saw God. This is kinda like that, but the opposite. Your revelation is less about God and more about how truly embarrassing it is for you to like that book you’re reading. Like. Really embarrassing. Whether it be your hipstery work friend or a compelling online think piece, suddenly the scales fall from your eyes and the cheesy acting or problematic lyrics creep out from the depths and you see the guilt of your pleasure in the stark daylight. In that moment, all hope seems lost. But be strong. You’re already halfway through.

5. The Guilt Trip

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The Guilty Pleasure is an iconic example of Ying and Yang, as there can be no high without an accompanying low. This is the phase in which you are at your worst. The emperor has no clothes and you see how foolish you’ve been. Of course there were plot holes when you first watched, of course you knew that it was in Young Adults section when you picked it up, but back then things like that didn’t matter! Whatever, it doesn’t matter as long as you’re having fun! Alas, you have eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, you can’t unsee the flaws and things will never be the same.

6. The Reassertion of Your Principles

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Though low you may be, remember that you are not the sum of your mistakes. While you may feel dumb for liking a Guilty Pleasure, there is an inner complexity to you that defies this choice. You are not merely a watcher of terrible reality shows. You also loved Breaking Bad! You are a multifaceted consumer of art and love all genres of music, not just Top 40 Pop songs! You can climb out of this guilt hole that YouTube commenters have put you in. This is where you halt the Guilty Pleasure’s march. This is where you shall hold the line! All you have to do is turn inward and find the strength to break free of the Guilty Pleasure; trust me, you’ve had it in you all along.

7. The Declared Death

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Now, while you have this new found courage, declare to the world that you don’t like that thing! Send the Guilty Pleasure back into the darkness by shouting from the rooftops of Facebook how dumb it is! By reblogging that insightful meme mocking its flaws, the Guilty Pleasure grows weaker! Tweet at other people who share your new found opinion, agree with their criticism, and kill the Guilty Pleasure!

Now, bask in the return to your old self by bringing up all the things that your co-workers could be watching instead. And this time, you know there isn’t anything weird or wrong about it; you checked what Reddit had to say before allowing yourself to like this next big hit. Way to learn from your mistakes. You’ll never ever be sucked into a Guilty Pleasure again!

8. The Quiet Defiance

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Except when alone in the car and it comes on the radio. Then come on, you gotta blast that. It’s just so damn catchy. You’re only human.

Cameron Petti is a Chicago-land native. He’s currently attempting to survive off of freelance theatre work, and hasn’t had to eat too much cat food to achieve this goal. Check out how happy and full of life Cameron is on tumblr and twitter.

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