The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Guilt-free pleasures and shameless dislikes

with 46 comments


Do you feel guilty about something in your life?

I do. There’s plenty to choose from. I feel guilty of not being a mother as good as my daughters deserve or a daughter as good as my mother deserves. I’m guilty of not donating as much of my time and money to good causes as I probably should. And more than anything else I’m guilty on wasting my precious life on doing stupid, pointless things leading to nowhere, such as whining over the amount of guilt I feel.

And that’s how it comes that I have decided to stop using the phrase “guilty pleasure”. I’ve got enough of guilt as it is in my life without feeling bad and apologizing for my taste of movies.

A movie that gives me pleasure is a movie that I like. Period. No guilt whatsoever.

What is that “guilty” label we’re so quick to slap on really about?

Isn’t it just a coward attempt to show off to other cinephiles? We’re so anxious not to reveal ourselves having a “poor” taste for movie that we need to point out to everyone else that we know that you’re not supposed to like the film and that we’re not doing it “for real”. As long as we excuse ourselves we know we’ll get away with it, not risking our reputation as connoisseurs.

I call this bullshit. It really is. As is all obsession with the canon. I think it’s even dangerous, hampering our ability to develop a taste of our own and a healthy relationship the art form.

Stop apologizing
And while we’re at it, there’s one more thing I would like to discuss. As much as we should scrap the guilt when we watch movies we like, I think we need to stop feeling guilty when it turns out that we don’t like movies that are considered “masterpieces”. So what if a gazillion of film critics through film history have sung the praise of a certain movie? If you don’t like it, you don’t like it and you have every right to feel that way and be taken seriously as long as you have approached the film with open eyes, giving it a fair chance.

I’m the first one to admit that I’ve done this myself in the past, apologized for not falling all over for a movie that most critics like. But no more! I want to quit doing that altogether.

If I make a top list, it should include movies that I love, not movies that other people love. If it includes a film that got bad reviews or if it doesn’t include a film that is considered a “classic”, it doesn’t make my list useless and laughable.  Actually if you ask me, it’s rather the contrary. I get suspicious whenever I see film bloggers making top lists that look as if they’ve been copied and pasted from the mandatory watching in a film studies course. It makes me wonder if they actually like any of those films at all or if they just have come up with the list they assume will give them the highest amount of approval from peers.

It’s about attitude
When I thought about making a post about guilty pleasures, the first image that got into my mind was the one where Meryl Streep is jumping in the bed in Mamma Mia!

It wasn’t because I feel any Mamma Mia guilt, because I don’t. It’ brings me laughter and puts me in a good mood when nothing else can, which makes it to a must-have remedy in my movie medical emergency kit.

I thought of the picture because of the motive. It shows someone who is playful, happy and has let go of all the prestige, just taking pleasure in the moment, ditching all  worries over what other people might think about her.

She has the attitude that I also want to have when I watch and write about movies: full of joy, ready to jump at whatever I find pleasure in.

Let’s make our plesures guilt-free! Let’s not be ashamed about our dislikes!


This post is a part of a blogathon run by the Swedish film blogging network Filmspanarna. The theme was “guilty pleasure”.

Here’s a list of links to the rest of the participants. Deny Everything is in English, the others are in Swedish (but Google translate is your friend as always.)

Allvarligt talat – Kevin Costner
Deny Everything – The Net
Except fear – Exploitation movies
Fripps filmrevyer – Miscellaneous films
Fiffis filmtajm – Sunes sommar
Flickorna – The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Flmr filmblogg
 – Weekend at Bernie’s
Har du inte sett den?
Jojjenito – Mamma Mia!
Rörliga bilder och tryckta ord – Stargate
Svart Noir  – American Reunion
Syndare i Filmparadiset Three Amigos et al

Written by Jessica

July 10, 2012 at 7:00 am

46 Responses

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  1. I have a few guilt-free pleasures, haha, and there are a lot of popular movies I dislike. I love that you like Mamma Mia because Mark Kermode’s positive review of that film made me smile. I actually don’t think it’s that bad, and I enjoyed it too.


    July 10, 2012 at 7:56 am

    • Glad to hear you like Mamma Mia too and that you’re not ashamed to say it loud and clear! I would love to see you talk a bit about those movies too at some point. Go ahead and show us some new sides of your taste for movies, something we may not know or expect!


      July 10, 2012 at 9:02 am

  2. Based on the plot of Mama Mia, my older daughter has dubbed the film “Who’s My Baby Daddy?”


    July 10, 2012 at 9:08 am

  3. I run into this in gaming a lot, Honestly though, when I use it it’s rarely used to describe something I actually feel guilt for, but as a shorthand for something I enjoy for reasons I shouldn’t, or that were very unintended. When I like Superman 64, because it’s a terribly coded game, and the glitches and how poorly designed it is can make me laugh. I could say “Superman 64 is a game I enjoy for the wrong reasons” or I can shorten it to be “Superman 64 is a guilty pleasure.” Not because guilt is actually associated with it, but you couldn’t in good conscience recommend it to anybody for what it is.

    The Mario Bros. movie is a guilty pleasure, it has nothing to do with Mario Bros other than the names of a few things, the plot, script, effects are laughable, literally laughable to the point I’ll watch it to laugh at it. Could I recommend it? No, because I’m laughing and enjoying how -bad- it really is. Others might not be able to pull schadenfreude like joy from it the way I can.

    That’s what I think of when I think guilty pleasure anyway, and the way I use it in my writing. Perhaps that’s incorrect, it’s not because I wish to impress anybody, or because I feel bad for enjoying the thing, but more, one I would be afraid to write about, or recommend because the source of my enjoyment in it is derived from something that shouldn’t necessarily be enjoyed. Hopefully that makes sense, and that’s my two cents on the topic, over and out!

    • It makes sense Holly and thanks for commenting! I return to the question though: you say that you enjoy it “for the wrong reasons” – says who? Who is it that decides what not necessarily should be enjoyed? Let’s get out of the Matrix and make our own choices!


      July 10, 2012 at 9:55 am

      • Well luckily in gaming there are things that can be rated specifically on a more technical sense, 2+2=4, broken game logic, bugs, and crashes, are bad programming. Because certain ones, certain memories, or some very…interesting, results can happen, it shouldn’t be promoted. Brain damage can theoretically cause Savant Syndrome, going around bashing people’s heads in, or promoting them to do so is still a bad idea.

        I’m certain there are technical aspects in Film that can be rated the same way, though I make no claims to knowing what those could be. The technical approach to games is probably one reason I can appreciate it. The logic of the games so to speak.

  4. Ha great article Jess. I have one big pleasure in film that I am almost proud of, I have gone so far in my guilty side with it that I wear it as a badge now… Fired Up!! Such a silly comedy about cheer leading that I could watch everyday and still laugh throughout.

    Have you seen it? It is bad, but I love it!!

    • Cheers Scott! I’ve never heard of that. But if you like it you might also like Bring it on! starring Kirsten Dunst. One of my daughters did cheerleading for a while so I’ve watched it a couple of times and it was fun.


      July 10, 2012 at 10:02 am

  5. I totally agree with your sentiments here. I don’t think anyone needs to apologize or feel guilty for their film tastes. But sometimes it’s hard not wondering ‘what the heck is wrong with me?’ when I see a critically acclaimed masterpiece and don’t see anything great about it.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    July 10, 2012 at 10:44 am

    • There’s nothing wrong wtih you at all and I’m convinced that there are a lot of others out there who feel the same way. They’re just struck by this weird guilt and don’t dare to say the meaning of their heart.


      July 10, 2012 at 10:51 am

  6. I think that Mama Mia is a true guilty pleasure for the whole cast in the film. I think that Meryl Streep and Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan did this just for the pleasure of having fun and do something completely different even though it can be somewhat embarrasing to sing and dance in public like that.
    I think we all should embrace guilty pleasures a bit more and not focus so much on the word guilty but the word pleasure. We owe that to our lives, a bit more of Dancing Queen 🙂


    July 10, 2012 at 11:21 am

    • Absolutely! I always walk around with it in my iPhone, ready to cheer me up if when life feels just too grey.

      Have you watched any of the extra material for Mamma Mia? Watching that really reinforced the impression that the actors enoyed every second of the making of this film.


      July 10, 2012 at 11:23 am

      • I haven’t seen that but I sure will do it now 🙂


        July 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    • Hmm, I don’t know about Brosnan there. He looks uncomfortable even in interviews. 😉


      July 10, 2012 at 11:54 am

  7. Interesting thoughts. The pressure of positive reviews by film experts are always there. But I really agree, there should be no reason at all to feel guilty about which movies you like, or dislike. It’s the same with all elitist hobbies, like art, wine tasting, books, antiques etc.


    July 10, 2012 at 11:34 am

    • Yes, I have no idea of where this self-imposed pressure comes from. I think it might be connected to some need to “belong to a group”. Like you were supposed to like the artist X, Y or Z at school in order to be considered “cool”.


      July 10, 2012 at 11:36 am

  8. I completely agree. I hate the phrase guilty pleasure. If I like a movie, I like a movie. I don’t feel guilty about it.

    Dave Enkosky

    July 10, 2012 at 11:48 am

    • I don’t exactly hate the phrase. Some of the confessions of the other participants in thsi blogathon are pretty amusing and written with a glimpse in the eye. But in the larger picture I think the attitude of apologizing for our taste for movies leads us wrong. We should stand up for our likes and dislikes, no regrets.


      July 10, 2012 at 11:51 am

  9. Good points, also about the opposite that you shouldn’t like a classic movie just because everyone else does. I think I’ve manage to go beyond that and actually like what I like as well as not liking what I don’t like.

    Oh, so funny that I wrote about Mamma Mia! 🙂

    Hmm, but I see a tendency here, Jesscia. It was the same in “the movie I wished I didn’t see”-theme. You manage to not write about a particular movie (eventhough you mention Mamma Mia! here). It’s like you’re making excuses here. 😉


    July 10, 2012 at 11:53 am

    • Hehe, ain’t I clever finding a way out without humiliating myself? Honestly I did for a second consider writing about a favorite from the 80s, Can’t buy me love. But then I started to rewatch it to refresh my memory and I found that I didn’t feel any shame at all. It’s hard to write about guilt when you don’t feel it, so I decided to go for something different.


      July 10, 2012 at 11:57 am

  10. A most excellent post.

    The same is true in books too of course. I cannot stand the view that “genre” authors are somehow inferior to others. In that context though, I have always assumed that a great deal of the dislike towards an author like Terry Pratchett is they are wildly successfully, especially financially, and perhaps a certain amount of envy comes into play on the part of more “establishment” critics and authors.

    I do not know the film situation as well – but thinking about some of the reactions to “Avatar” and “Titanic” I am entirely sure the same dynamic is at play.

    This post also got me thinking though of something about being Aspergic. If I have time (if my daughter lets me 🙂 ), I’ll try and get that down into words later today.


    July 10, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    • I definitely think there is. Admittedly I’m not completely unsensitive to it either. I think I’m a little bit harsher on a movie that has a mega budget, expecting it to deliver something equivalent to the cost, while my attitude towards a low-budget movie will be more forgiving. I will look to what they made of the resources they had. It’s not envy I think, it’s rather wanting to take side with the underdog. For good or for bad? I don’t know.

      Looking forward to see what the post inspired you to!


      July 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm

  11. Great article Jessica. I was just talking to a friend yesterday about a few of my “guilty pleasure” films and reading this I’ve realised I really shouldn’t be feeling any sort of guilt by watching and liking them! It’s that whole thing of it hurting your “film cred” if you enjoy something that has been critically mauled.

    Also, Tree of Life, the critical darling? Did not get it. Just the way it is!


    July 10, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    • Thanks Jania! Never mind the film cred! What’s it for, really? Who are we think we’re kidding? The one that has the highest cred in my eyes is the one that obviously thinks for him/herself.

      Tree of Life: as opposed to many others I loved the cosmic parts, with dios and everything. It was big and gorgeous and tickled my sense of wonder. The other parts… I didn’t quite get, especially towards the end with the beach episode. I had no idea of what that was about. Still I gave it a 4/5, thanks to my love for space and beautiful classical music. Don’t blame you for not getting it at all though.


      July 10, 2012 at 12:55 pm

  12. A bit surprising that you were the only one to, this decisively, mark your distance to the concept of guilty pleasure. I thought for sure that more of us would travel down that road. But it was very amusing that you and Jojjenito picked the exact same movie 😀

    But I don’t agree with you on the preassure to like what everybody else likes. Maybe that is true for professional reviewers and their sometimes puzzling inability to call bull shit on new pretentious crap? But on the other hand, I feel that is almost have become more high brow to say that classic movies like Taxi Driver or Citizen Kane are highly overrated than claim that you like them.


    July 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    • Hm. I think it depends on what blogs you read or what forums you dwell in? I think I can sense a lot of anxious efforts to comply to what’s considered to be the “correct” views on movies. But maybe I’m overly suspicious.


      July 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm

  13. I love Mamma Mia (and I freely admit that I will happily sing along to any ABBA songs that I know)! Great post!


    July 10, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    • Cheers Ruth! Those songs really hold up, don’t they?


      July 10, 2012 at 2:23 pm

  14. Finally, somebody unafraid to tell it like it should be. I agree wholeheartedly, Jess. I truly do. My top five films I love include Armageddon, Moulin Rouge, Starship Troopers, Twister and Transformers. The fact that two of those are directed by Michael Bay should give you an indication of the despair I feel anytime I read a bad review of them…. Why can’t we just be honest with each other and admit we like something without pandering to “the mob”…..

    My latest guilty pleasure, for the record, is The Expendables. Man, I love that movie…..

    Rodney Twelftree

    July 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    • I’m afraid I haven’t seen most of those movies but I’m glad that there is someone like you who has and who doesn’t shy away from saying that you loved them. Diversity is a good thing, not only among films but also among film buffs! So here’s to you Rodney for having a place in your heart for movies that might have a bit of a shabby reputation. Cheers!


      July 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm

  15. Another great post, Jessica. I agree with almost everything, but this part gives me pause: “I get suspicious whenever I see film bloggers making top lists that look as if they’ve been copied and pasted from the mandatory watching in a film studies course. It makes me wonder if they actually like any of those films at all or if they just have come up with the list they assume will give them the highest amount of approval from peers.”

    It’s a slippery business to be second-guessing other people’s motivations. Films don’t get to be canonical because one guy said so and everyone else followed along just to look hip. They get to be canonical by having strong, appealing, insightful, masterful qualities. You don’t have to like a so-called “classic” and you don’t have to feel guilty about it, either. There are perfectly valid reasons for disliking ANY movie. But don’t assume that because you don’t like it means that someone who claims to like it is just faking it.

    Granted, I’m sure there are a few people out there who are “fudging” their top lists out of some kind of cinephile anxiety to impress their peers (and on the flipside, a few who savagely tear down “classics” just to look edgy and rebellious). But I say innocent until proven guilty.

    I, too, quite enjoy CAN’T BUY ME LOVE.


    July 10, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    • I have the feeling that we’ve talked about this before, haven’t we Martin? Anyway, I like your good faith in other people. I feel that I’m the cynical one in this case, having those suspicouns. We’re innocent until proved otherwise, aren’t we?

      Yay for another lover of Can’t buy me love! I might get to rewatch it and write about it soon. I feel that I owe it to it. That dance! It’s one of my favorites!


      July 10, 2012 at 5:45 pm

  16. There’s nothing wrong with liking Mamma Mia! except for Pierce Brosnan’s singing.

    Steven Flores

    July 10, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    • Hehe, I admit he’s not the strongest of singers. But somehow that’s a bit of the charm with it. His appearance is so stiff and awkward… and yet he goes along with it, being an inspirational source for everyone who ever has had doubt about his or her singing abilities.


      July 10, 2012 at 9:21 pm

  17. I think in some ways I always used the term “guilty pleasure” as a shorthand. Like a way of saying, yes, I know this movie has flaws, I’m aware, but I still love it. But you’re right, Jessica. We shouldn’t feel guilt about loving the movies we love. We shouldn’t! Elizabethtown is one of my favorite movies ever, eye rolls and sighs when I tell people that be damned!


    July 11, 2012 at 1:49 am

    • Go you Nick! Say it loud and clear! The times of guilt and shame are over.


      July 11, 2012 at 7:46 am

  18. The Net! Weekend at Bernie’s! I appreciate those films for what they are, and always have a good time watching them. I can’t say the same for films that got modest to heavy critical acclaim like Meek’s Cutoff and Chronicle and Prometheus. Oh yeah, and Manhattan and The Graduate are both overrated. And Vertigo didn’t hit me emotionally. And don’t get me started on Where the Wild Things Are.

    Okay, I’m done. I may or may not go back to using phrases like “I’ll withhold judgement until I get to see it a second time” or “I understand what it was going for, but I just can’t appreciate it at this point in my life.” Thanks for the honesty, anyway.

    George Watches Things

    July 12, 2012 at 9:42 am

    • Was Prometheus critically acclaimed? If anything I’d say it got a bit of a bashing. I liked it though. And I don’t feel guilty about it even if there may be peope out there who think I should. 🙂 I also loved Chronicle, it’s in my top 10 of this year so far. I’m with you about Vertigo. It didn’t capture me the way it has captured many others.

      Anyway. Our views on movies may differ or be the same but we’re on the same page about stop apologizing for them.


      July 12, 2012 at 9:46 am

      • Prometheus got a rather good Rotten Tomatoes score. Also, I was excited for it, and it let me down.

        Indeed, and that’s all that matters.

        George Watches Things

        July 12, 2012 at 9:50 am

  19. Awesome post, Jessica! A great analysis of some dumb attitudes we sometimes have towards cinema. I agree with pretty much everything. Let’s just enjoy what we enjoy and be happy. Live and let live. Everyone is a different being with a different personality; we should all like different movies.


    July 13, 2012 at 3:35 am

    • Thanks Fernando! I’m afraid that I’m as guilty as everyone else of worryting and apologizing when I don’t like a classic movie that generally is considered a masterpiece. But the first step towards a change is to become aware of it.


      July 13, 2012 at 6:59 am

  20. Hah, I love Abba and I’m not afraid to admit it. Sure, people look strange at work when I tell them I like Abba but they’re the ones missing out on some great music.


    July 16, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    • Say it loud and be proud! Cheers from one Abba fan to another!


      July 21, 2012 at 10:57 am

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