The first in a series on what we’re (almost) too ashamed to admit we love, starting with “The Bachelor” and professional wrestling
You are blushing. That warm feeling of blood rushing up to your cheeks, inhibiting your comfort zone. This is not a blush of that comes from flattery, nor of complete shame. This is one that comes from subtle embarrassment; the subtle embarrassment when someone asks you your favorite TV shows, or movies, or bands. You tell them something acceptable, something that they would be okay with hearing. “Oh, I love the classics like David Bowie or the Beatles,” or maybe “Pulp Fiction,” even “Seinfeld” or “Friends.” And you may like these “acceptable” forms of media. They are art. But you have other favorites, favorites that might cause a snicker from your companion. You do not want to tell them that you like these shows or movies or bands. These are guilty pleasures.
I am well attuned to this kind of deceit. Around unfamiliar company I do not have the courage to admit my all-time favorite television show. This is their first impression of me. This is my reputation. But anyone who knows me well knows my love of the medical drama; it’s a borderline obsession. I have seen every single aired episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” multiple times. I would get together with friends in high school every Thursday night to watch it live while feasting on Diet Coke and Cheez-Its. Sometimes we would play the “Grey’s Anatomy” trivia game before we watched.
Some of my friends and family will make fun of me for this. “It is too dramatic and unrealistic,” they say. But, perhaps that is the main reason I love watching it. It is so ridiculous that it is entertaining. Not that I would ever admit this to strangers; only to the Internet.
DePaul senior Katherine Boukidis does not feel any shame about her favorite guilty pleasure, “The Bachelor,” the reality TV show about competitive dating. Every Monday during the season, Boukidis and her two roommates gather in the living roommate of their apartment surrounded by snacks: large pizza with pineapple, chips and salsa, maybe some cookies or a pie. They wash all this down with hot tea or water. Watching “The Bachelor” is an event and they watch it together. And then go to sleep after with food babies from “snacking too hard.”
“You cannot find TV this ridiculous elsewhere,” says Boukidis during a commercial break. “Actually, that’s not true. We live in America.” A chorus of laughter follows up her almost-deadpan delivery from her surrounding roommates.
As a dedicated fan of “The Bachelor” and its counterparts, Boukidis even went as far as to call in to the after-show of an episode of “Bachelor in Paradise,” a special episode where the host of the show, along with callers nationwide, get to ask the contestants questions and make comments. She and her mother were bored so they decided to call in, and because she lives in California, the after-show was not even airing yet. “But I was able to come up with a question because I’m a professional,” kids Boukidis.
Somehow, she managed to be put through onto the show. But Chris Harrison, the host of “Bachelor in Paradise,” had already asked her question, and the show producer who was operating the phones asked her to just make a comment instead. Boukidis stated how she was sad two of the contestants had broken up.
“But you were able to predict Chris Harrison’s question,” says Boukidis’s roommate.
“Basically, I should just be Chris Harrison,” Boukidis responds.
Later on the day of the “Bachelor in Paradise” after-show episode, Boukidis’s roommate called her, as she was watching the show in Illinois at the time. “And she was like, ‘The weirdest thing just happened. This girl that was on the “Bachelor in Paradise” live show sounded exactly like you and her name was Katherine,’ and I was just like, ‘That’s me,’” says Boukidis.
Boukidis is very vocal about her love the television show, even live-tweeting every episode. “It depends on how good the episode is. I tweeted a lot during Juan Pablo’s [a previous bachelor] season because he was a hot mess and a half,” she says. “I tweet about 30 times during an episode, maybe more times during the finale.”
But how exactly can one describe such apparent enjoyment of a guilty pleasure? “[My roommate] described it so beautifully last week, that people want me to feel guilty about it because it’s a terrible show, it’s like everything that is wrong with people, but I can’t feel guilty about it,” Boukidis says. For Boukidis, she only describes it as a guilty pleasure because she feels society tells her to feel guilty about it.
Perhaps some of this enjoyment comes from making fun of other people for being so ridiculous. “I would be guilty if I actually went on ‘The Bachelor,’” says Boukidis. “You’ve got to look at my tweets. It’s all judgment.”
The spectacle of ridiculous television is the reason that DePaul freshman Max Morris enjoys his guilty pleasure of professional wrestling. As a kid, he had thought that it was “stupid” until his cousin got him into it in middle school. He realized he liked the ridiculous characters and plotlines. And he liked that it was completely live.
Morris particularly likes wrestler Bray Wyatt, who is the “leader” of the Wyatt Family, a group of wrestlers, or a “stable” as these kinds of wrestler groupings are called. The Wyatt Family is meant to act as the “villains” to the main wrestling stars, like John Cena, according to World Wrestling Entertainment’s website. Morris likes this storyline of “one wrestler pissing off another wrestler,” he says.
Morris knows that professional wrestling is fake, rigged and absurd, but that is not why he watches it. “It is escapism from real life,” says Morris. He likes to get together with his friends and just laugh while watching. This is even if they find the characters “stupid” half the time, like the wrestler who wears a bunny suit, simply called The Bunny. Or like the wrestler Hornswoggle, the little person wrestler who dresses like a leprechaun.
And maybe the ridiculousness of guilty pleasures is what gets people to watch, just like Morris likes wrestling and Boukidis likes “The Bachelor.” “People like to have something to judge, to laugh at how stupid these people are,” says Morris.
What makes a guilty pleasure fun is watching it with other people.
It would almost be ritualistic for Morris when watching it back in his home in Lexington, Kentucky. His friends would come over and order a pizza. Sometimes, they would make small bets of five dollars on which character they thought would win. It is a communal event, just like “The Bachelor” is for Boukidis and her roommates, and just like my friends and I getting together to watch “Grey’s Anatomy.”
But, ultimately, Morris says he “does not understand why people get mad at what other people find entertaining.” He explains that it is not a big deal to like something that is considered trashy. “Why would you ever feel guilt for liking something?”
Header illustration by Sydney Kosgard
Photo by Bea Aldrich. Katherine Boukidis live-tweets “The Bachelor.” She’ll admit her love for the show, but she’s reluctant to be pictured watching it.