Fireworks: America’s Worst Pastime*


One of the more frustrating aspects of life is when everyone seems to like a particular activity significantly more than you. For some people, this occurs with food. People respond with a mix of condescension, befuddlement, and downright anger toward a friend of mine who does not like chocolate: “How could you possibly not like the most delicious food on the planet?”

My chocolate is fireworks. Everybody loves fireworks. If you want to boost an otherwise boring activity’s appeal, just mention that there will be fireworks. 

—“What? You don’t like watching minor league baseball? But, there will be fireworks after the game!”
—“Sure, let’s go!”

Troy Patterson of Slate apparently doesn’t like fireworks all that much, either. But, his arguments against them don’t resonate with me. “Fireworks are imperialist and…hegemonic,” he claims. Right: Fireworks suck because they are oppressive. Yet, according to Patterson, fireworks would be better if this hegemony had a purpose: Fireworks are not enjoyable because “there is no drama”; nothing is exploding other than the fireworks. He, then, embeds a video of fireworks that cause harm to people, garages, and other fixtures.

I don’t enjoy violence for the sake of violence. I particularly don’t enjoy watching people be harmed or harm themselves (suffice it to say that Jackass was not my favorite television show). So, I don’t think the problem with fireworks is that they are not violent enough. In fact, violence has little to do with my like or dislike of fireworks.

The reason most people like fireworks is not just because they are violent, but also because they are extravagant and beautiful. People enjoy the different colors and patterns that are created in quick succession. For about sixty seconds, I can understand that joy. The sky is lit up and there are entertainingly loud noises, like thunder and lightning, which were also pretty cool the first time you were exposed to them. But, fireworks perhaps have the most diminishing marginal utility of anything (well, maybe cotton candy has more but we’ll save that for another post). I just don’t enjoy watching the same colors and patterns exploding continuously for half an hour. This is not to mention that most people have seen the same fireworks year after year so the first sixty seconds aren’t even that novel. And while I do appreciate beauty in other dimensions: art, music, people, I just don’t see it in fireworks. While everyone is looking up in the sky with awe, I glance intermittently at the sky and my fellow fireworks watchers with bewilderment. Am I missing something?

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jen on July 5, 2009 at 12:22 AM

    Well, Josh, I think fireworks are AWESOME! Yes, they may lose their novelty when seen year after year from a distance or on tv, but when you are close to fireworks, no matter how repetitive, they are really spectacular. Tonight I was the closest I’ve ever been to fireworks, in the beachside backyard of Jackie “the jokeman” Martling’s house, and with this post which I had previously read in mind, I still fully more than enjoyed every firework that was set in the sky.


  2. Posted by ellematador on July 6, 2009 at 3:40 PM

    i like to think of fireworks as a slap to the heavens… kinda like a, “take that, nature!”
    interesting blog you kids have going here.


  3. […] -I don’t generally like fireworks, but they were employed in the most optimal way I’ve ever seen at this concert. After the first bunch of “live and let dies” (at 38 seconds in the video below) during the “Live and Let Die” performance, fireworks start in conjunction with the shift to the instrumentals. […]


  4. […] America. I’m definitely in favor of the first; I’m iffy at best on the second (though not necessarily as opposed as Josh). But I’m adamantly against the last […]


  5. […] it turns out, Josh isn’t the only one who hates fireworks. So does Slate’s Troy […]


  6. Think of how the Shock and Awe campaign was like a long extended fireworks show.

    On another note, as someone who worked a fireworks stand for a few summers during college, it is one of the most depressing jobs when you see parents who can’t afford it (or who obviously should prioritize their money differently) drop hundreds of dollars to give their kids a half hour of a good time instead of…rent being on time, etc.


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