Consumer Culture

Monday, 15 February 2010
This year my New Year's resolution was RAC (Rebel Against Consumerism).  I've been forthcoming about my overspending habits in my early to mid 20s.  Now, I'm paying for it but I love to learn about our consumer culture specifically when it comes to credit (spending money we don't have).

I recently finished the book Ad Nauseam:  A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture by Carrie McLaren (editor) and Jason Torchinsky (editor).  While the book simply points out the ways marketing influences our purchases, it opened my eyes to the way I view products and brands.

For instance (p.90) the editors include a chapter about children "playing" by doing parodies of people they see on TV.  I was once part of a skit in college of Madonna's "Vogue" song.  I looked up to her and wanted to be like her.  Why?  Possibly because of consumer culture which included MTV and fashion magazines.  Did you dress up as Superman for Halloween?  How about a Disney character?

Ad Nauseam also outlines Consumerism by "fans."  The chapter covers the absolute obsession one "fan" has for Disney's Ariel mermaid character.  The man saved all of his money for three years and then quit his job so he could pursue his love for Aerial.  He estimates he has spent more than $18k on Ariel products which he has on display on every room in his house.  His plan was to begin working again so he can save his money and continue buying Disney products which feature Ariel.

I was shopping two weeks ago and thought, oh that's a nice Nike bag.  I picked it up and carried it around the store.  Did I need a new duffel bag?  Nope.  But the brand's logo attracted me to the item and luckily I was able to reason with myself before getting to the check out.

The point of the book is to open readers' eyes to the reasons why we buy what we do.  It is a quick, easy read and very interesting.


Anonymous said...

I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with buying certain "brand" name products or enjoying "consumerism" to some extent. The key is to not allow your spending habits to exceed your budget. But if you stick within your means, no one should judge your priorities. I may not under stand the Ariel obsession (not at all), but if the guy was still able to save for retirement and provide for his family, who cares? Now it doesn't sound like he was able to do that...crazy is as crazy spends.

I enjoy shopping and spend money on nice shoes that I am sure many could not comprehend. But I also clip grocery store coupons and never buy brand-name peanut butter. Just depends on where you set your priorities.


Nikhil Inamdar said...

Hey Denae,

Interesting post, because I've been an anti-consumerist for the past 3-4 years and buy only what is absolutely necessary (except for the huge amounts of travelling I do). I am currently reading 'NO LOGO' an acclaimed book by Naomi Klien - she's very insightfully chronicled the evolution of the 'hammer and tong' approach brands use to lure consumers into submission. It is a MUST read!



PS - How are you otherwise?

Denae said...

CC - I like what you said about when staying within your means, no one should judge your priorities.

Nikhil - I'll pick up NO LOGO. I'd also be interested in your journey from Consumer to Anti-consumerist. While I'll always be a fan of shopping, I'm also very conscious of what I'm buying. All is well with me. I need to send you a long email to catch up. THANK YOU for stopping by my blog.