Guilty Pleasures and Political Correctness


Words and phrases are limitless. They always have well defined general meanings yet they have unlimited number of specific personal meanings for different people. Take “guilty pleasure”, it has some well defined meaning which can easily be found if one would Google. Most of the times I am not keen on the well defined meaning of this phrase because I know what the phrase specifically means to me personally.

For me “guilty pleasure” is some food/beverage/book/ TV show which is my comfort food/beverage/ book/TV show but looked down by some people. But most importantly looked down by the millennial bloggers of Buzzfeed or some such clickbait loving websites. Add that to few active participants of various forums in Internet too. I never have the chance to know the bloggers and participants personally yet I care a lot about their opinion. I mean a lot compared to my own mother. I don’t feel as much devastatingly guilty while skipping a day to call up my mom as for enjoying murder mysteries (because millennial blogger writes “it’s far removed from reality. The characters are like paper cut outs. And why all characters are white?”).

Food bloggers and the active food-snob participants may think instant coffee made in microwave is just bollocks but then it is just perfect for a lazy a** night owl. But the night owl would never confess online of having microwaved instant coffee. We all have such guilty secrets be it microwaved instant coffee, or opposite of authentic Chinese food in the road side stall, or using television as the babysitter just to take a midday nap, or Revenge.

Yes ABC’s Revenge used to be my guilty secret. Intellectual critics ripped it apart saying it is nothing but a night time soap opera. But I was too much sucked into the twists and turns of the show to care about the intellectual critics. And then there was of course Nolan. How could you not love Nolan Ross! Too bad it ended only after four seasons and the ending was too much conventional and predictable to my liking. However while it lasted it was a glorious guilty open secret.

One guilty pleasure ends another starts. My next guilty pleasure was Downton Abbey. It started as a critic’s favourite and instantly became a phenomenon in popular culture. Who can forget in Psych Shawn Spencer’s impressions of the show’s characters and in Modern Family Manny’s this show watching marathon! But after a couple of seasons critics said it became only a period soap opera. (what’s it with me and soap-opera-ishes!)

I used to generally Tivo Downton Abbey and watch at midday when home was practically empty and chores are over. I was feeling like I were taking a walk in the idyllic afternoon of a British county. May be that explains the pleasure part of Downton Abbey.

What glorious scenes one would see while on an idyllic afternoon walk through a British countryside! The tea time gossip, the gardens, the snoopy spinster, the mysterious murder, the house party guests trying to steal a pig or a cook, the social climber force-socialising her daughters with rich bachelor, the kids on holidays stumbling on a mystery, the wizard observing the muggles and most importantly the army of perfect domestic helps taking care of everything.

Everything British is so comforting yet guilty pleasures because in my idyllic walk I would not dream of steering towards the sweat factories, the orphanage of Oliver Twist, the quarters of working class and anything to do with modern times. And then my comfort zone lies from the late nineteenth century to early twentieth century of Britain, the Britain which also ruled our country. The loot from our country played a big part in creating that idyllic life of their countryside.

I know I am not being a responsible viewer/reader yet I can’t help enjoying those hence they are my guilty pleasures. I know I will be shamed for this but sometimes don’t you feel like just surrendering to pleasure and keep everything blank or just intrigued by the puzzle while going blank on lines like ‘You will be surprised how much that class “can remember” if you interrogate them’ which obviously imply the working class makes up stories or basically lie. I am ashamed to admit Agatha Christie wrote lines to this effect a lot.

But I want to say here to the all post-post-modern liberals we are all not privileged to be born with full tutorials in political correctness, which they are supposedly born with. We – as in me, Agatha Christie and few others; goof up here and there but Agatha Christie would never write about liquidation of working class or robbing them of their fair wage. In fact her latter books are full of regrets about the fast vanishing class of dignified and well trained servants. Oh oops sorry did she use the wrong word? Should she have used the term domestic help?

But in her time servant was the word used. In fact she used the word “gay” a lot as was its usage in her time. A book or a cinema or a show created in a particular time can reflect everything of their time since time travelling has not yet invented how would the creators know which words or jokes would become offensive in future? For instance critics have been lately slamming Friends, another guilty pleasure of mine, a lot. Why all characters are white? Okay that’s bad if the makers had consciously made a decision of all white cast. Then there are uproars about lesbian and trans jokes. Okay there were few jokes here and there but based only on the jokes criticising the whole series would be unfair and absurd. Didn’t the series always show Ross as a jerk whenever he acted out and refused to let go of his lesbian wife? Didn’t Ross and his friends fully support and in fact plan the whole wedding of Susan and Carol? Didn’t the series showed a healthy stable gay relationship? Chandler made amends with his trans father with full support from his future wife Monica, although the father in question had damaged his son by making him witness his orgies before the son was even seven.

Now suppose a piece made in present time but about older period like Mad Men or Downton Abbey then as a viewer what does one want, authenticity or political correctness? In Downton Abbey one of the “domestic staff” Mr. Barrow was gay and it was in open. Everyone including the master of the house embraced his sexuality. But what are the chances of this thing really happening in the England of 1920s where homosexuality was a criminal offence. Maybe homosexuals belonging to rich and mighty led an open secret life but could a footman get away with it? I don’t think that would have been possible because remember Oscar Wilde? Even his position could not save him. Had the show been authentic Mr. Barrow would have been prosecuted at least he would have got fired without any reference. But then the political correctness vigilantes slash critics would have cried “off with Downton’s head”.

Then aren’t these political correctness vigilantes creating their own idyllic past where their own standards were practised as opposed to real past?

Who defines what is politically correct? Everyone gets offended by something or other. Everyone has few personal problems which are not jokes for them. My daughter has serious case of food allergies yet I don’t take offense on the fructose intolerant jokes from Veep. However I take offense when in almost all shows in kids’ channels have plots centred around crushes and love lives of kids as young as 7 years. What will my daughter learn? Having a boyfriend or girl friend is the life goal? I take offense when these channels air advertisements of unhealthy snacks and candies every five minutes. And I take offense when after a mishap instead of mourning, people show their political correctness. I become outright depressed seeing lines like “such and such celebrity’s gifts to her husband will give you new relationship goals”. We all are struggling and asking “are we there yet” but everyone has a different “there”. Others especially the celebrities can’t and shouldn’t give us “goals”. There are much more depressing scenes and words all around.

Pure pleasures in this world are so rare that we feel guilty yet go easy on judging ownself a little for that few harmless goofs. But of course “harmless” is the key to everything or it will be like “My guilty pleasure is going to my estate and hunting the homeless people I meet on Craigslist”.

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