In Defense of Guilty Pleasures

I love the summer for many reasons- hundreds, probably, but perhaps one of my favorite of the lesser of these reasons is the soothing and silly night time show, America’s Got Talent. My husband and I get excited on Tuesday and Wednesday nights in the summer, blocking off the time to make sure we won’t miss an episode.

It’s goofy.  The judges’ lines seem cheesy and scripted.  The pre-recorded shows are heavily edited and curated to appeal to a mass audience. Nothing about this show’s production is very original or intelligent.

It’s bombastic and at times ridiculous.

But, I can’t look away.

I have many a fond memory of the first few months after my daughter’s birth, nursing her in the midst of postpartum anxiety, and being able to briefly let go of all the worries of new motherhood and just watch the inane and vapid unfold before my eyes.

The bickering of the judges, the silly jokes, the crazy costumes, and of course, the horrible and cringe worthy auditions of people who got buzzed off the stage.

The beauty of America’s Got Talent, though, is that it’s not ALL inane.

There is something stirring and rousing in seeing humanity perform at its best.

The deaf girl who sings better than Taylor Swift.  The 12 year old who is a self taught ventriloquist.  The plane crash survivor disfigured by burns who finds the courage to sing in front of millions.  The dance crew from Ukraine who perform gasp inducing stunts with lights that make you feel like a child watching magic for the first time.

The little girl with an angelic voice whose father died of cancer just two weeks before her final performance on the show.

The human spirit is indomitable.

Being able to capture the beauty of life and distill it down into an art form that people can watch, admire, cry at, and discuss over and over is a beautiful thing. The magic of a performance done well –  of art that is truly good – is that it elevates the human spirit. It truly captures what it means to be alive.

I recently finished the book “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel due to a good friend’s recommendation.  The book is set in a world that has been ravaged by a deadly flu, and among the remaining survivors; a ragtag band of actors and musicians is formed. The troupe performs Shakespeare plays while traveling the Mad Max reminiscent landscape, but people still come to their shows despite the danger.

The concept of the arts surviving in a post-apocalyptic world is a fascinating idea.

We work to make money, and with that we have a triage of needs. We make money to spend on the necessities- food, shelter, warmth- and then we use it on the things we enjoy.  The things we enjoy, the arts and crafts of this world – are things that make life worth living.

These things are not necessary for survival, but they make survival enjoyable.

It would certainly make sense then, that art would outlive electricity.

So, when I watch America’s Got Talent, I marvel at the talent of humanity. The precision the dancers have. The perseverance the dog trainers must have to train their animals to do crazy stunts. The courage of the deaf girl who sings in front of millions, with no idea how her voice sounds.


Humanity is truly astounding. We are a varied bunch, a ragtag troupe. All of us have something unique to offer the world. It might not be a flying trapeze act on America’s Got Talent, but it is still something beautiful and innately you.

And so, to all the guilty pleasures out there, I salute you.

You make life worthwhile.