Why Can’t I have Literary Guilty Pleasures?

Tonight my girlfriends and I went to eat sushi(a not-so-guilty pleasure), and watch the latest installment of Underworld(a very guilty pleasure).  The movie had a terrible plot, mediocre acting, over the top gore, and was incredibly cheesy.  I loved it so much.

Which got me thinking.  Why is it so easy for me to indulge in bad movies, but if I’m faced with a cheesy and cliche novel I just want to hurl it across the room?  Is it because I hold books to higher standards?  Or maybe, as a writer myself, I can’t stop thinking about how I would improve it, and what I would’ve done differently.  Or perhaps I just enjoy the visual stimuli of massive explosions and gore much more than I probably should.

Or, and this is the last ‘or’ I promise, maybe I just don’t admit that the books I love are guilty pleasures.  To some, Harry Potter could be considered a guilty pleasure.  Even Tamora Pierce’s novels might be on the same list.  They aren’t the best literature has to offer, by far.  But the way they transport me into their worlds keeps me coming back for more.  Just like the Underworld movies, and the Resident Evil movies.

So, I guess the difference is in how bad I think the movies and books really are. Resident Evil and Underworld? Guilty pleasure because I know they’re bad but I’m not ashamed to admit I like them.  Harry Potter and Tamora Pierce’s novels? Not a guilty pleasure because although people can argue that they’re bad, I’ll never admit it.

Oh, and before anyone asks, books such as Twilight fall under the “makes me want to hurl them across the room” category.  How dare vampires be sparkly?!  I’ll stick with re-reading Dracula, thank you very much.


So, what are some of your guilty pleasures?


About Aly Hughes
Unprofessional, unedited, unpublished. Aly is out to make a name for herself by blogging, twittering, facebooking, and general internet-ing. Be warned: She may not know what she's talking about.

30 Responses to Why Can’t I have Literary Guilty Pleasures?

  1. psharma3 says:

    I just want to point out that Harry Potter has enough depth that they have college courses on it. Also I love tamora pierce.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      That is very true, and don’t get me wrong, I love Harry Potter and I think it’s fantastic. However my skeptical and ever playing devil’s-advocate of a boyfriend has pointed out plot holes and illogical things throughout the series to the point where I can see how some people wonder what all the fuss was about anyways. The most important thing is that it’s all subjective.

  2. amhudlow says:

    I actually do have a literary guilty pleasure, it’s “A Shore Thing” by Snooki. I can’t stand Jersey Shore but for some reason I bought the book and read the whole thing, and the weird part was I loved it. But I find that I can’t tell anyone I like the book without people looking at me as if I had just eaten a stink bug. So I keep it to myself.

    I have never heard anyone say that the Harry Potter series was bad. Where did you get that source may I ask?

    • Aly Hughes says:

      haha, I haven’t read A Shore Thing, but you know, I’ve actually been very curious about reading. Maybe I’ll have to look into that.

      I just realized I answered this in the reply above as well, but my boyfriend isn’t a fan of Harry Potter. He’s been reading the likes of Stephen King and such since the 3rd grade, and by the time he read the first Harry Potter book he was in High School I believe. I guess it’s one of those things where, since he didn’t grow up into the books as I did, he was just too skeptical about it when he finally did read it. And he just likes to be ornery against pop culture sometimes. 😉

  3. mylesserside says:

    My guilty pleasures were actually the Twilight books. Whilst poorly written at some points, they did have some substance. And now we find ourselves at an impasse… On a side note, I do have an soft side for the Underworld series.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      Well, I dislike the books but not all of the readers, so you’ll hear no insults from me! I suppose I should edit my post and add The Hunger Games. I loved the characters and the plot(even if it’s a bit too similar to the japanese novel Battle Royale), but I thought they were poorly written. It just shows that if you can connect to the story, the quality of writing doesn’t have to matter, which is why I don’t hold it against people to like books that I don’t.

      Also, I myself never object to seeing hot ladies kick some undead ass on screen. 😉 The fourth movie was even gorier and more ridiculous than the others!

  4. This entry sounded like something I’d tell myself. Haha. I really enjoyed it. I hope to read more from you soon! CHEERS! 😀

    • Aly Hughes says:

      bahaha! Your comment so mirrors my own! I believe just yesterday I found a new blog and said something along the lines of, ” I love your writing style. I look forward to reading more from you. Cheers!” 😀 I’m about to head over to your blog right after this.

      I am glad I’m not the only one to feel this way, and I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for the comment.

  5. rtd14 says:

    Pat Conroy writes in his book, My Reading Life, that his editor in the nineteen seventies had an Ivy league education and read books, most of which Conroy did not know. As for Harry Potter, some of the books are on Stephen King’s recommendation list in his book On Writing. The point is for any writer to read what he or she enjoys. It could be corny. It could be well-written corny. I try to take something away from every book I read, and since college, I’ve expanded my reading list beyond English history.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      “I try to take something away from every book I read,” I think that’s a great philosophy, not only for readers and writers, but you can apply it to any experience in life. I definitely never regret readings books, whether I think they’re bad or not. When we do find a book that we think is bad, cheesy, distasteful, etc., it’s important for us to examine the why’s of our opinion. Why don’t we like it? Why do we think it could be improved? I encourage people to go out looking for novels that challenge their views and opinions, not only so they can grow as a reader or writer, but as a person as well.

      I actually just began reading Stephen King’s On Writing, I’m so happy you mentioned it! Yes, Harry Potter is amazing, but the point is, it’s all subjective. I consider Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons a great piece of literature. However when it won a Hugo award in 1988 many people were horrified that a graphic novel, or their idea of a guilty pleasure and not actual literature, had won. I cannot fathom someone reading Watchmen and not seeing the literary masterpiece I think it is, but others look at it as just a graphic novel, or just a series of comics, which they equate to guilty pleasures.

      I like to define guilty pleasures on a scale of how we think we should feel about them vs. how we REALLY feel about them. Everything’s subjective. 🙂 And I’m sorry for the long-winded reply! I really need to work on condensing my writing. Obviously I don’t use my Twitter account as often as I should. 😉 Thank you for the engaging comment!

  6. I’ve got to agree with the Underworld and Resident Evil movies. They are not the greatest films ever but they are very watchable. As for books I havent really read a great deal in my life unfortunately but I do consider Tom Clancy books as a guilty pleasure, and I sometimes think that Dan Brown’s books are a little cause they’re kind of like A summer blockbuster.

    A note about the Harry Potter books though, I was listening to someone on a podcast (im sorry but I cant remember the person who said this) who was saying that in 2010 they had the biggest increse in readers about the 18-25 age bracket I think it was, but the theory was that a lot of the people that grew up reading the Potter books have now started to look at other books. So whether we love or hate the Harry Potter’s or the Twilight’s it’s still encouraging, young people especially, to read 🙂

    • Aly Hughes says:

      It’s funny you should mention Tom Clancy. I have two older brothers who haven’t picked up books since they graduated high school, and the only books they willingly read were Tom Clancy ones! I would agree about Dan Brown’s books being like summer blockbusters. They’re very fast paced, action packed, heavily promoted, and frequently talked about. I myself have read all of his books, and I could probably add them to my now-growing list of guilty pleasures!

      That’s very interesting about the increase of readers in the 18-25 brackets. You know, I had a conversation with a friend about this once. There are so many Young Adult novels and actual adult geared novels, but where are all the books for college aged people? They’re so difficult to find! I myself am 21, and I struggle to find decent books about people my age. We came to the conclusion that, people our age usually lag in their reading. We’re in college, or starting in the work force, finding ourselves and our place in the world, when do the majority of us find time to read? I mean, I do, but most don’t. There just hasn’t been a huge market for the 18-25 year old bracket, so, in a way I guess it isn’t too surprising because we had nowhere to go but up. 🙂

      And I completely agree with your last statement. I dislike Twilight, but not the readers. I have plenty of friends who finally started reading thanks to the series, and hey, I begrudge them nothing. Unless we’re talking about the crazy obsessed people who think Edward is real, and try to visit Forks, Washington to have a peek. I’m not from Forks, but I am from Washington State, and I’ve had enough. I can assure people, the only mythical creature we should be accused of harboring is the Sasquatch…which I don’t think is very attractive. 😉
      Also, like my reply to the comment above, this is really long, I apologize. I must have a lot to say today. Thank you for your comment!

  7. It’s really annoying me that I cant remember who was talking of the reader increase, I want to say that it’s Lou Anders of Pyr books, but i cant swear to it.
    Its the sparkly vampire thing that annoys me about twilight lol, and I liked the long reply. It gave me something to wake me up and ficus on this morning 🙂
    Its a good blog 🙂

  8. Tuesday says:

    Watching and discussing the Twilight movies, for example, with my twelve year old niece brought us both up to speed was infinitely less painful (well, less painful at least) than reading the books. I did try to be in the know by reading the first book, but couldn’t do it. Too predictable and simplistic in my humble opinion.

    I also confess to not being able to get into the Harry Potter books, but love that they created a generation of readers as well, Fantasy is just not quite my genre. I would think the books would far outweigh the movies, but again, at least the movies filled me in and were fun to watch socially. My boyfriend’s daughter shares that the first book in the Harry Potter series was easy to read and really drew her in. She states that the books became more complex and harder as the series progressed, matching her level of sophistication as a reader. She says, “I feel like I grew up with the books.” Pretty cool.

    She also shares that people into Harry Potter are more into the plot than the actors portraying the characters whereas Twilight fans were obsessed with the actors maybe even more than the characters. A different dynamic. She describes going to the midnight premiers of Twilight and all of the Harry Potter movies. She notes that Twilight fans cut into line, were rude, and discussions consisted of who was hotter. Harry Potter fans, she says, were discussing the plot, singing songs and that there was a feeling of general camaraderie. There’s a blog idea for you!

    One reason that it may be easier to indulge in guilty film pleasures that we don’t read is that more senses are involved (music, special effects, etc.) and it’s for a relatively short period of time so it feels more like a guilty pleasure rather than a waste of time, perhaps. Plus, if you’ve seen the movie before, there is that anticipation of the best kitschy parts! Besides, sharing with a friend makes it a social event plus you have a partner in crime. 😉


    • Aly Hughes says:

      I really like your niece’s input, she has a sharp eye for this, and I completely agree with what she’s saying.

      I agree that a big part of Harry Potter, is that people do grow up with the books. I read the first one when I was in 3rd grade, and I remember eagerly awaiting the next book in the series, and every time Rowling delivered a slightly more matured book, with stronger writing, as I matured. It also helped that when the first movie came out I was 11, so not only did I grow up with the book, but with the movies and the actors, being the same age as the trio of actors.

      And I think there really is a camaraderie between Harry Potter fans. It reminded me of what I shared with plenty of Lord of the Rings fans as well. I can’t speak for Twilight, but I think your niece was right when she said people were more into the actors and such than the actual books.

      Haha, I love what you said about having a partner in crime with movies! That is so very true. My girlfriends and I make it a ritual to watch all the new Underworld and Resident Evil movies together. Although by the time the next installment comes out we’ll be living in different cities, but I think it’s worth the 5 hour drive to Seattle to watch a movie with my girls!

      I also like what you said about movies being short, so they’re more likely to be guilty pleasures. With books, you invest so much time and energy in reading them that you can hardly consider them guilty pleasures when they’re so important to you. It’s either you enjoy them enough to keep reading, or re-read them, or you dislike them enough to stop and not waste your time on them.

      Thanks for the response, I love discussion comments! 🙂

  9. Luarien says:

    I think there’s a difference between a guilty pleasure movie (where you’re watching it for the spectacular production values – or not so spectacular production values – that ropes all these people into a single effort) and a story. With a guilty pleasure story it’s something that’s unlikable, unfinished, or produced poorly (Uglies is like that for me – I love the books but there writing is a little stilted, even if some of the trends are totally sense-making) but it’s still a good expression of the art. It’s still, in its own way, a piece of art. Twilight, for me, isn’t a piece of art (or, if it is, it’s so poorly conceived and thought out that it’s pedestrian at best). Some of the best works of literature are unfinished or problematic in some way – The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pride and Prejudice, anything by Oscar Wilde (really, read his description with a critical eye sometime), the Foundation series, the Lord of the Rings – any of these works of art we can, somewhere, find a huge problem with its presentation.

    The thing is, though, they enchanted us. That’s what makes them good. Guilty pleasure books, I think, enchant us because of their problems on some level, rather than despite them. They’re the Little Stories That Could.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      There is definitely a difference between guilty pleasures in movie form vs stories. I believe I said it in another comment, but I define guilty pleasures by the difference between how we think we should view something, and how we actually view something. Going with what you were saying about the greater works of literature, there are so many people who overlook their problems. But, they aren’t guilty pleasures because we have the affirmation from peers, professors, and society that yes, they are still wonderful and lovable.

      amhudlow, the second person to comment, said hers was A Shore Thing by Snooki, even though she hates Jersey Shore. Now that is a great example of a guilty pleasure read if I’ve ever heard one. It’s something she thinks she shouldn’t enjoy, but enjoys it anyways. I just have not yet met a book that I think like that about. There are books I’ve read, that I know aren’t the best, but I still never view them as something I shouldn’t enjoy. Books that I don’t think I should like, I always end up straight not liking them. With movies on the other hand… 😉

  10. Amy Keeley says:

    My guilty pleasure: Vampire Knight, a manga by Matsuri Hino. It’s got a couple of soap operaish turns but the characters are fantastic, especially Kaname and Zero.

    I think with a book it all goes back to story. The best that can be done is to make the language so pretty that no one notices a lack of plot/theme/direction. I think that’s the closest a story comes to “eye candy”. Also, when you read, you have to put forward a little effort. I think people subconsciously expect more in return. With a movie, you just have to sit there and let it hit you, thus, it’s more likely you’ll be happier with less. My theory anyway.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      You’re completely right, when I put the time and effort into reading, I do expect more in return.

      To add on to what you were saying about making the language pretty to cover a lack of plot, I think it also comes down to characters. Lousy and cliched plots can still capture people with interesting and/or relatable characters. I’ve read fantastic novels with intricate and refreshing plots, but the books I find myself re-reading multiple times, are the ones that I’ve fallen in love with characters.

  11. I wouldn’t call Harry Potter just a guilty pleasure. Those books (moreso the last few) are truly works of literary genius. Deathly Hallows was one of the best written novels I’ve ever read. Not just the action (though that was amazing too); but some passages I read over and over again in awe. When you think about the series as a whole, JK did something that no one else ever has…. she grew WITH her audience. The kids that started reading Harry with the Sorcerer’s Stone grew up as the series progressed and became more sophisticated. I don’t know how much of it was luck but a lot more of it was one author’s raw talent realized.

    Twilight, on the other hand, is a heaping pile of shit. And yes, I read the entire series. Had to be done. There was no pleasure in that but I sure felt guilty! … and dirty.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      Oh don’t get me wrong! I love Harry Potter, and I was born in 1990 so I’m smack dab in the middle of a generation that grew up with Harry Potter. In fact, once the last movie came out, I was so sad because I literally could not in my lifetime remember a time in which I was not eagerly waiting either the next Harry Potter book or movie.

      I was just trying to make, perhaps a poorly worded, point. Guilty pleasures are completely subjective based on how we think we should view something compared to how we actually view them. I loved Underworld because of the cheesy over the top gore and implausible plot. My brother hated it for the very same reasons. I rationally know I shouldn’t like indulging in it, but I do anyways, therefore I consider it a guilty pleasure. However, when there’s a book that I know I shouldn’t enjoy, then I just plain don’t enjoy it. The Harry Potter example came from a discussion with my boyfriend, who doesn’t read any YA fiction, which is what the first few Harry Potter books were. They did slowly progress into deeper and darker novels, but he obviously didn’t get into those ones, having not read the first several. So, in his mind, if he were to indulge in Harry Potter he would consider a guilty pleasure, while I most certainly do not. I hope that helps! 🙂

      And I attempted to read the first Twilight book but I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it. Besides, there are too many rabid fangirls making trips to my beloved Washington State in search of the Cullens for me to really care about them. Anyways, they’re much more likely to find Sasquatch than Edward hiding up here!

  12. I don’t really believe in “guilty pleasures,” since I’m not at all guilty. I talked about that on my blog: http://u-town.com/collins/?p=2990.

    Also, I agree about the last Underworld movie, though I appreciated that the new directors are better action directors than Wiseman is, and the “Selene is pissed off and kicking ass” thing was cool.

    In fact, I’ve got a blog post I’m working on about lessons writers can learn from comparing the Resident Evil and Underworld movies (sort of “how to write a series”). 🙂

    • Aly Hughes says:

      Well, there’s no denying I’m vain enough to be guilty about some things! I liked your post as well as the one you linked to. I’ve never actually seen an episode of Dark Shadows but I have heard a lot about it. It was fun reading your description!

      Well, you definitely have me hooked on your blog if you’re writing about Resident Evil and Underworld. And adding that with lessons for writers? It’s a done deal! 😉

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