BLACK FRIDAY BLACK FRIDAY BLACK FRIDAY means it is now officially Christmas Time (or Hanukkah Time, or…) marking not only the true start of the holiday shopping season but, for a certain part of the population, the green light for an equally affirming activity: grumbling about our 24/7 consumer culture. After all, the only thing comfortably-living people like more than Criterion Collection Blu-rays is talking about how disgusted they are with buying Criterion Collection Blu-rays! Raise your hand if in the past two weeks you’ve heard:
- “Christmas decorations already? It’s not even Thanksgiving!”
- “I find it sad that we value brand names over quality. Does anyone even like the sweaters at Abercrombie & Fitch?”
- “I don’t want anything for the holidays this year, not when kids in Botswana are murdering each other.”
Extravagant purchases – self-awareness + reusable grocery bags + Twitter. WELCOME TO THE 99%, Y’ALL!
Mixed in with the gripes above is a pervading sense that this is the worst it’s ever been — that the American drive to buy and own and have has reached its highest (or lowest) ever point and every generation to have come before and to follow should be ashamed like crazy. Maybe not UNTRUE, but if movies like Midnight in Paris and also common sense have taught us anything, it’s that the golden days of yesteryear aren’t always that perfect hue we imagine.
Take the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, which has been around now for almost 80 years. (Pre-Depression!) Today it is inarguably a three-hour commercial for terrible focus-grouped musicals and toys your kids will murder you for, if it came down to it. There’s no integrity in a Sonic the Hedgehog balloon sandwiched between Scotty McCreary singing “Merry God Bless the Troops Santa” and the cast of ‘Bring It On: The Broadway Extravaganza’. But you may be surprised to learn that it has always been like this.
We may think of Donald Duck and Seamus, the Goliath Irish Strongman as being “quaint,” but in their time they were every bit the corporate-ized icons that Pickachu, Shrek, and The Wimpy Kid (of ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ fame) are today. Maybe advertising was less invasive, and the Internet not yet a thing, but kids ate that 1939 shit up with 2011 gusto. In smaller portions, probably, but still — American consumer culture is nothing new.
…All of which is to say ABSOLUTELY we have a problem in this country with wanting and then buying things we don’t need and giving ourselves over to a system designed to exacerbate that problem by a magnitude of about 1000, but, like, chill out. Don’t feel bad about your new PS3 — without it you wouldn’t be able to play ‘Arkham City’! — or if you’re an adult, panini press. This is the time of year, as it has been since Jesus’ birth, in which to just say “screw it” and embrace delirious hedonism (that’s gotta be correct).
And one thing 2011 has all over 1939? Thorough, remarkable return policies. There is always a reset button!