It’s the middle of the summer, so most of us are hard at work on drafting new syllabi, writing and revising articles, dissertations, book manuscripts (or sometimes all three simultaneously), catching up on reading, and all sorts of myriad tasks that aren’t possible during the academic year.
For me, summer also means I get to indulge in one of my favorite guilty pleasures: watching 1776 to celebrate July 4th. I know, I know, I’m a historian, I should be more serious. But the movie is not the worst history you’ll find out there (go ahead, ask me which depiction of revolutionary America I most despise; enough requests and I may write a follow-up post). Much of the dialogue is taken from actual letters of the Founders [sic]. And it’s just plain fun.
I mean, how could you not love watching Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin singing their way through picking a national bird?
To add to my culpability, I occasionally use the film in class, in no small measure as a way to mix things up. Most often I use the clip in which Adams (played by William Daniels, or, as most of my friends know him, Mr. Feeney from Boy Meets World) decries that no one will remember him—only Franklin and Washington … and his horse. To be honest, I also poke a little fun at John Adams (go ahead, ask me my least favorite film representation) by pointing out that what he really wrote to Benjamin Rush in 1790 was almost identical, but less funny.
I’m not claiming it’s perfect, of course. The historical interpretation is not exactly cutting-edge, and it has one strange anti-Vietnam number in the middle (“Hey Mama”). But all in all it’s a fun way to spend a July afternoon.
Okay, I’ve revealed (one of) mine. What are your guilty pleasures?