Assessing an obsession with seriousness

Despite popular belief, frivolousness doesn’t deserve any less merit than seriousness does.

Kate Nelson

Life just hasn’t been the same since seriousness became so important to us. Not love (“Things are getting serious”) nor work (“I want to be taken seriously”) or even truth (“I’m serious this time”).

Case in point: Earlier this week, I was, well, knocking “Knocked Up.” I must admit that despite my appreciation for Will Ferrell, Steve Carell and the rest of the gang, “Wedding Crashers” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” did not make my top-10 list. Or my top-100 list for that matter.

You see, I’m more a fan of films that leave you feeling enlightened, acting with more cultural awareness or at least sobbing like a baby. So when I first saw the previews for the aforementioned box-office hit, I was not impressed. In fact, my exact words were something along the lines of, “What a waste of time, money and studio space.”

Much to my chagrin, however, several of my friends saw the Katherine Heigl hit and have deemed the flick hilarious, which at first infuriated me almost as much as did the fact that The New Yorker dedicated more than a paragraph on its precious pages to review the flick.

Flash over to my current hobby: the great American job search. (And I swear, I’m getting to a point.) I’ve spent many a year and many a tear trying to figure out just what path I need to take to get where I want to go – or, more aptly described, where I should go. What field and form of employment can leave me fulfilled, help me impact the world around me and allow all this to be done in a way that others respect?

Back when there were no immediate ramifications (a.k.a. when I was years away from entering the job force), I was determined I would chase seriousness wherever it lead me.

Now, I’m not so sure.

After all, I’ve got plenty of time ahead of me when I’ll have no choice but to be serious, so why push it now? It seems I’ve already allowed it to sneak into numerous areas of my life where it has no right to be and serves no purpose.

It all comes back to the idea that has been set up in our society that the only option besides seriousness is frivolousness. And no one wants to live a frivolous life, we’ve been told. Unfortunately, most Americans see this as a dichotomy rather than as a spectrum.

Despite popular belief, frivolousness doesn’t deserve any less merit than its counterpart seriousness does. When and why was the former deemed less important and less capable of making an impact than the latter?

There is an appropriate time and place for both. And each of us will likely lean more toward one end of the spectrum. But that doesn’t mean we should pat the doctor’s back and not the actor’s.

I’m doing my best to dispel the serious/frivolous dichotomy in my mind that has had such jurisdiction over my thoughts and actions, and I encourage you to try it on for size.

I still won’t be dishing out the dough to see “Knocked Up,” but why should I give my friends such grief for enjoying it?

Maybe they are right: Maybe it is “seriously” hilarious.

Kate Nelson welcomes comments at [email protected]