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Culture Fail



Your story about Michael Birkeland [“Mormon Celebrity Meltdown,” Dec. 15, City Weekly] was so interesting. I graduated from Alta High in 1999, a year after Brady Heyborne. His older brother Kirby went to school with my sister. I think there’s an insidious failing in Utah’s predominant culture that probably paved the way for Michael losing it when he got here, and that failing is totally bred at schools like Alta along the Wasatch Front.

There is an expectation that a worthwhile life works itself out like a seminary video, full of emotionally charged moments and big dramatic stories, all of which can be recapped in well-paced narratives containing poignant moments of revelation that make it all mean something.

As I read the story, I was thinking back to the emphasis placed on entertainment—not creative expression, but entertainment—when I was in high school. And not just at school, but in church, too. I can’t believe how imbalanced it was. Michael is not going to find “normal” as a Mormon in Sandy, UT; he’s in the heart of the culture that set him off in the first place.

Lara Gale
Salt Lake City