The term Guilty Pleasure is all too well-known in the anime industry, as most people brush it off. Well I think there is something to the term “Guilty Pleasure” and it all stems from you as a person and what kind of values you hold. The anthem of being guiltless about what you watch or what you like is being thrown about in every community, not just Anime, but I’d like to look at the correlation between what makes a guilty pleasure and how it is effected by your values, and just maybe imply that there are some shows that you should feel bad about watching. I always used to remember my parents saying, “you are what you eat.” I like to relate that to what you nourish your mind with as well. Guilty Pleasure’s are complicated things to talk about, but pretending they don’t exist is just stupid and reductive.
So to begin we have to come to some common ground on the predication that there is an inherent right and wrong to the universe, and just thinking doesn’t make it so. Most people can’t seem to find common ground on subjects like “guilt” nowadays because people are more concerned with “their truth” as opposed to “the truth”. There isn’t a thing called “your truth”, “your truth” is your feelings. Now we can find some common ground on what we feel, but if we can’t hold it up to some grand law of the universe then there’s no worth in justifying it at all. So before we move on, unless you’re willing to accept there is a universally right and wrong and we can perceive that as humans, this reasoning wont make much sense to you. I’m not saying that my view of the world is 100% correct, all I’m saying is that there is a view of the world that is. Perception isn’t always reality and thinking doesn’t always make something so.
Guilty Pleasure is something you are guilty of, duh. So where does this guilt come from? Well it comes from you doing something you know is wrong or bad. I could go on with examples but I think we all have had those experiences. This is going to get real personal, if that wasn’t already apparent, so let’s go into my guilty pleasures.
Hentai… never mind, moving on.
So I talked a lot about why I liked Fate/Kaleid Liner Prism Illya in a previous article, and while that’s still true, I would consider it a Guilty Pleasure. Even for all the cool things this show has, it is ripe with loli fan service and portraying little kids in a sexual nature. Kids should be seen as innocent and that sexualizing them is taking away that innocence. So I in turn feel guilty about watching something that is glorifying something that I feel is wrong. Now nobody is perfect in the words of Hanna Montana, and I gotta work at it again and again till I get it right. (I will not apologize for that joke) Now I can enjoy the show for its other aspects and believe me, I do, a lot. But I can still recognize that a big part of something I like is glorifying something that is wrong. Shows that glorify something that is inherently wrong or bad are all Guilty Pleasures. That doesn’t mean they can’t also have merit, but if a core theme of something is wrong then it probably would be better if you didn’t watch it. But to er is human and we all do it, such is why Guilty Pleasures exist.
Another form of Guilty Pleasure is something like the aforementioned “hentai”. When you like something you know is bad. This can be observed again in Fate/Illya. Someone could watch these little girls get all sexual with each other and enjoy that part of the show. They might know its wrong but still like it and that’s something they need to carefully balance as a person. This kind of Guilty Pleasure doesn’t always have to be justified in the anime you’re watching, but it directly related to why “you” watch it. Part of the reason I like Death Note is the beginning episode’s where Light drunk on power, killing criminals. Of course this is wrong and not at all condoned by the shows narrative, but I get pleasure out of him taking the role of God and judging the cruel and vile. I know this is wrong at that no single human should have that kind of power or do so from a place of hatred. But its something I still like to imagine, and I feel guilty for enjoying part of a show that way. When a show brings out a certain lustful or hateful emotion out of you, you got yourself a Guilty Pleasure.
There is shame in doing some things and even though we don’t like admit it, it doesn’t help by choosing to ignore it. Sure I still watch shows I know I probably shouldn’t and I’m sure you do too. Ignoring that fact wont help us grow as people. What you watch, like it or not, has an effect on you. Just because you do something or watch something and liked it doesn’t mean you have to justify it. I’m certainly not justifying the loli fan service in Fate/Illya. And I do feel guilty for liking a show that has that much bad stuff in it. However it doesn’t necessarily make me, or you a bad person for liking something that is bad. What does though, I dare say, is knowing something is bad, and justifying it anyway. Or not recognizing something as bad and choosing to accept it just to make you feel good. So go and watch your guilty pleasures for now, I know I will. But have some hope for tomorrow, or the next day, or whenever that you wont have to feel guilty about what you watch, and you’ll know inside that you didn’t compromise your morals for a Japanese cartoon.