Forgive us, America, for we have sinned. Late at night, with the shades drawn, the doors bolted, the lights turned low, and no one in the house, we’ve done the dirty deed. We’ve watched Coach reruns. Listened to Anne Murray CDs. And, as painful as it is to admit, enjoyed the occasional Pauly Shore movie. Yes, we’ve sinned against the gods of good taste, reason, and hipness.
And darn, if it didn’t feel good!
For the truth is, humans can stand edgy, highbrow entertainment for only so long. We can watch only so many thought-provoking Mike Leigh movies about family dynamics before coming home to what we crave: the Guilty Pleasure.
A true Guilty Pleasure shouldn’t be mistaken for something that’s kitschy (i.e., Generation X’s love of Tony Bennett), nostalgic (seeing Star Wars again), or established cheese (any Jackie Collins novel), though GPs do have elements of all three. First and foremost, a GP must induce guilt. It must be something you confess only under extreme duress — something so uncool, it really is uncool. Secondly, it must be pleasurable — but not in that ironic, postmodern way that seems to have infected all of pop culture. You must love your Guilty Pleasure earnestly, purely, and unself-consciously. If you flip on Baywatch to snicker at the dialogue (or lack thereof), then it’s not your Guilty Pleasure. But if you tune in to lose yourself in the slow-motion poetry of bouncing body parts, then join the club! Which brings us to our cover girl, Yasmine Bleeth, the show’s brunet beach bunny and subject of that eye-popping milk ad, the one showing exactly how milk did her body good.
Now, granted, unlike some of the humanoids on Baywatch, Bleeth can actually act. Anyone who’s seen her crack wise on Politically Incorrect also knows she’s got a nice pair of frontal lobes. And yes, after three years of saving swimmers, she is hanging up her red one-piece to pursue a movie career (she’ll play an ex-stripper in the romantic drama It Came From the Sky with Christopher Lloyd).
But in the past, a good part of the Bleeth oeuvre could be said to fall under the Guilty Pleasure awning. She’s a veteran of two soap operas: Ryan’s Hope and One Life to Live; gloriously lowbrow movies-of-the-week, including one about a wicked plastic surgeon; and, of course, that little show about L.A. lifeguards. The thing is, Bleeth doesn’t buy this whole puritanical GP concept. She’s got zero tolerance for closeted Baywatch fans. ”Are they supposed to sit at home and watch PBS and CNN all the time? And like CNN doesn’t have trash TV, covering murders and car chases?” Bleeth, instead, advocates a pang-free existence: ”Don’t feel guilty about anything that gives you pleasure. The people who watch Baywatch and feel guilty are probably the same people who have sex and feel guilty. Have sex, watch Baywatch, and eat a Big Mac! This is my ultimate fantasy: watching [QVC] with a credit card while making love and eating at the same time. With somebody else’s card, of course!” Sadly, not all of us are that liberated. So here’s a guide to our worst transgressions, plus their rating on our trademarked Guilt-O-Meter (the guiltier the pleasure, the higher the number). Just make sure the door is locked before reading what follows.