Lately, I’ve been thinking about the difference between “best” and “favorite.”

They’re similar but definitely not the same. Asking someone about their favorite book is way different than asking her to name the best book. And a list of the “best” TV shows for kids should probably be based on some kind of objective criteria, but my favorites? That can simply be all the shows I like most.

Over the past few days I’ve enjoyed a lot of entertainment that’s, well, not cool. At first I didn’t care. I can like what I wanna like! You’re not the boss of me! I don’t care if you mock what I love! I was super chill about it all.

But then, the more I thought about it, the more I decided I do kinda, sorta care. Not in an insecure way; I’m not offended or embarrassed if you think badly of me for watching a certain movie or reading a certain book. And not even in a defensive way; I’ve listed all the reasons I love certain favorites-not-bests before and don’t need to rehash all that. Nope, I care in the way that I want to set the record straight so you and I can both feel free to love what we love, guilt-free.

Both descriptors — best and favorite — are valuable and useful. It doesn’t have to be one or the other! But sometimes it seems like some people are determined to downplay the validity of our favorites. Media designed simply to entertain, rather than challenge, is criticized and mocked. As if something that brings me joy, something that makes me smile or laugh is any less important than something that makes me think and cry and stay awake at night!

We are in what many call “Peak TV,” where lauded, prestige shows are the ones that are dark and gloomy and graphic. Antiheroes are all the rage, and realizing a story’s being told by an unreliable narrator has become, well, reliable. And if you don’t like this? If you don’t sign up for emotional torture on the regular? Well, aren’t you small-minded…immature…simple…basic?

If that’s the case, then pour some M&Ms on my popcorn and call me basic!

Last week I…

  • saw Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again with some friends, on opening night;
  • spent my Friday night taking my daughters to a Kidz Bop concert (and danced just enough to thoroughly mortify my 10-year-old);
  • and ignored the challenging non-fiction book I bought on Prime Day and the challenging novel everyone has raved about for months that I requested from the library to start (and finish) another young adult sci-fi book.

I mean, look. Life is hard. And for some of us, I understand that a book or movie or TV show that pulls an emotional response out of us is just the catharsis we need to deal with life and all its hard stuff. Or perhaps it just helps to watch or read something that’s uglier than the world outside our front door, to get some perspective on just how bad (or not) things are today.

But for some of us? We are not here for that.

Some of us read or watch TV or movies to escape. Some of us just need to laugh. Some of us are delighted to be delighted.

I’m “some of us,” if you haven’t picked up on that yet.

I haven’t read most the books on the “Best Books of 2018” list.
Or 2017 or 2016 or…you get the point.
I almost never see more than one or two of the movies nominated for Oscars.
And those TV shows that the critics love so much? On cable with the graphic this and graphic that? Yeah, I don’t watch them.

Does that mean I don’t see the value in those things? Or ever like them? Or understand that they are well-written, well-directed, or well-acted? No, of course not! I get it. I just don’t always want to consume those things myself.

I like funny. I like fun. I like adventure and intrigue that keeps me guessing and maybe even gasping – but does not give me nightmares. And sometimes I like and want and even need shiny and colorful and lovely and silly.

Sure, I read and watch the news; I seek neutral and objective sources of information and I read up on topics that confuse me before settling into an opinion. I look for media created by voices and faces and backgrounds different than my own; I ask questions and listen to answers even when they’re challenging. But when I need to relax, when I need a little comfort, I’m always going to turn to what the world might call guilty pleasures.

Except I don’t feel guilty at all. (And neither should you.)

Like soapy, silly reality TV? Watch it.
Love old black and white movies? Watch them (again).
Get sucked into every single Hallmark Christmas movie they make? Watch them all!
Want to rewatch Parks and Rec again instead of that new show on Netflix? Do it.
Enjoy comic books or musicals or K-pop or shows on the Disney Channel? You do you.

Because you don’t have to prove your intelligence, your sophistication, your value by the pop culture you prefer. We can enjoy the high-brow and the low-brow. We can digest the complex and the simple, and we can derive value from the prestige and the popular. And if we lean more toward the easy, the light, THE FUN when the world gets dark, that’s just fine.

It’s more than fine.

It’s fantastic. (And so are you.)

So sign me up for all the musicals, all the documentaries about Mr. Rogers, all the pop music – that which has been slightly butchered by tweens and that which has not, all the “fluffy” novels, and all the baby goat videos you can find. I am HERE for those things. I’m a fan of pop culture that’s purely for fun.

What’s your favorite not-so-guilty pleasure?

By the way, if you’d like a fun, guilt-free space to talk about your favorite books, movies, TV shows, and music, please join The Couch! It’s a no-judgment-allowed Facebook group, and we’d love to see you there!

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