Mocking American tastes and intellectual sloth is a bad habit of mine. Which is why, on occasion, I receive emails like this one:
I always bristle when you start picking on the populace for what they watch on TV or choose to read or when you suggest that so many are idiots! I bet there are lots of brilliant people whose lives are full of serious challenges, and they just like some light entertainment. How about a brain surgeon who is under serious stress all day? He’s brilliant, but when he gets home, he wants to unwind with [The] DaVinci [Code]. Or the mom of 3 who cares for her husband, kids and home plus heads up a ministry at church. She is organized, creative, and shrewd. Makes meals that keep her family raving, settles sibling rivalry incidents with wisdom, gets the best deals… And then she collapses with some Christian chick lit. Okay, I’m rambling. I’m just saying people have a right to read what they want to read and if their choices aren’t as literary as yours or mine, it doesn’t mean they are stupid.
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Actually, the tone of the letter was gracious. This is just the part that took me to task.
I appreciate correspondences like this and don’t feel the least offended. (So if you’re thinking about sending me a nasty letter, now’s the time to do it, while I’m in a good mood.) I realize I can come off as an elitist sometimes and, in a way, have no defense.
As long as we agree that there is “light entertainment” (some would say, “mindless entertainment”) then we’re on the same page. Where we probably differ is in
- What constitutes “light entertainment”
- How much light entertainment is good for a person
- Why we gravitate so naturally to light entertainment
I’m probably over-thinking this, but here I go: If there’s “light entertainment,” then there’s other grades of entertainment, from “heavy” to the “really light” (vacuous?), from the “substantial” to the “substance-less,” from pure diversion to exploitation to the obscene. So it’s a matter of drawing lines and people are free to draw them where they want.
Still, I can only take so many game shows before I want to puke.
So maybe we can agree on degrees. While art appreciation is a subjective exercise, most people would agree that the Beatles were better than your neighbor’s garage band and that Ulysses is superior to Mike’s First Story. Maybe The DaVinci Code falls somewhere in between. All I’m suggesting (albeit in my snide manner) is that it’s far better to listen to the Beatles than your neighbor’s garage band, and to read Joyce than Dan Brown. Watching American Idol might not make one stupid, but striving for better, deeper fare definitely wouldn’t hurt.
All that to say, light entertainment might not be bad for you, but neither is small doses of cotton candy.