Light Entertainment?

Interesting post over at 2 Blowhards on “Light Entertainment.” Michael wonders whether we under value so called light entertainment. The first issue is of course where to draw the line:

If, say, Noel Coward is light entertainment, then why not Oscar Wilde? If Wilde, then why not “Lucky Jim”? If “Lucky Jim,” then why not Jane Austen? If Jane Austen, then why not Moliere? And if Moliere, why not the comedies of Shakespeare? Perhaps there really is a line, and to the left of it everything is froth and will never be anything but mere froth, while to the right of it everything is adult, substantial, and has the potential of being found great. But where does that line get drawn? And who gets to make this decision?

After discussing the problem with automatically placing more “serious” works above lighter fare like comedy and farce, he wonders if critics are missing the point:

In any case, isn’t viewing light entertainment dismissively rather like criticizing a sushi dinner for not being a meat and potatoes meal? It’s missing the point. And in a culture of abundance where none of us is exactly starving for entertainment or art, and where we get to choose our own pleasures, what’s the point in being exclusive?

I need to organize my thoughts on this one a bit more (and read the comments to the post), but I think the key lies in balance; valuing a work for what it is – neither claiming too much nor too little. Terry Teachout has touched on this issue a number of times and in a review [sub. req.] of Thomas Mallon’s Bandbox for National Review, has this to offer:

Profound it isn’t, but if you want to be diverted by a smart writer who knows what it means to be serious, you won’t do much better than Bandbox.

To me that strikes the right tone. It acknowledges the skill and intelligence involved but admits that the work is still “diversion.” More later when I have organized my thoughts.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).