America has got it backward.
Yes, I know, in a great many things, but I’m thinking specifically of the way we line up summer’s entertainment. The newspaper is rife with reviews of the summer’s hottest movies. Bookstores are rolling out the summer reads, those sweet-whipped stories with plot as shallow as a strawberry pie.
When did we decide that summer would get all the superhero movies and sandy-toed heroines? Summer is already full of hope. No school, no snowpants, no chapped faces. We venture on road trips across the great American West. We drench ourselves in lemonade and sprinklers in the backyard. Gardens and roses and baseball in the park. Homegrown tomatoes. Picnics, boat trips, fireworks, fishing and watermelon.
So you see, I don’t need the Incredible Hulk in July. I need him in January, the month of mushy snow and post-holiday fatigue. Instead, Hollywood uses that month to unveil the introspective Oscar-worthy movies, the ones that make me weep and troll around the house for days in a melancholy state while the sun makes a cameo appearance in the sky.
The same goes for books. Dostoevsky needs to be the new summer read. I don’t want to read about a St. Petersburg winter when I’m experiencing one myself. In winter I want to read about lush, tropical gardens, and save the snow-swept landscapes for the times when I am sunning myself in hope and fresh-picked raspberries.
But Americans are nothing if not ripe for an excuse to entertain. We associate summer with material as light and airy as a balloon. “It’s nice to not think for a change,” we say. In an era of pop culture obsession, reality TV and voyeuristic magazines, I don’t think the overabundance of deep and thoughtful dialogue is a problem. If anything, it’s nearly extinct. Where Americans were once known for their work ethic, they are now known for their fun ethic. Life is a pastime, speed boat optional.
At a recent local event of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a general authority reminded those of us in the audience that the Lord set aside six days for work, not five. He admonished us to work harder and to teach our children to work.
I took that message to heart. Saturdays are workdays around here. We mulch and weed and vacuum and polish. I remind my boys that leisure, the fun stuff, is a reward, not a right, earned only after a full day of labor.
Likewise, while the rest of middle Americans enjoys their lighter summer fare, we'll be delving into deeper stuff. Shall we start a revolution? Bring your Dickens, your Twain, your “Howard’s End” and “Shadowlands.” Your big thoughts and big ideas, longing to be free. Also, your sunscreen.
I’ll see you at the beach.