All the while long, you have been patient with my generous sharing of biased opinions about consumerism. So I thought, why not take a break from hearing about what I have to say, instead let’s hear about what my friends have to say. So I rounded a few of them bookworms and gave them this question, What attracts you to buy a book? Let’s find out if they are susceptible to the aesthetics.
Disclaimer: This video contains shaky footages, too many closeups, unsynced audio, non-professional video editing, and perhaps bad influence. Watch at your own risk.
Conclusion, even the intellectual and academic bookworms all know and conform to consumerism, one cover or another.
Disclaimer: This audio recording is done by a complete amateur, who struggles to accept how her voice sounds like on record and suffers from a serious case of awkwardness. Rants and rambles may occur periodically. Listen at your own risk.
Here’s wishing you a belated Happy Easter! I hope the merrymakings have treated you kindly and have shown generosity with an abundance of chocolate bunnies and easter eggs for your devouring.
Now leaving the festivities aside, this Easter weekend has brought upon me a revelation. No, I’m not referring to the kind where Jesus resurrects from the dead sort of revelation but rather a more first world problem sort – the selfie phenomenon. I know you must be thinking that it’s a stretch to draw a connection between the (commercialized) religious celebration and the ‘selfie’ but bear with me, as I have a simple explanation as to how I arrived at that thought.
Easter Sunday started out like this. With an itinerary of attending church service, followed by a family brunch at this pretty fancy Chinese restaurant, my sister was more than invested in the act of self-beautification. And since these meticulous, feminine things of dressing and making up are rare, especially in this excruciatingly hot and humid weather (where makeup melts right off your face), it is almost instinctive of her to want to commemorate such an occasion. Cue the selfies!
The age ofdigital narcissism has befallen us. The signs are undeniably clear when even Obama succumbs to such millenial practices (he went as far as to wink). This peacocking behavior that ordinarily in societal norms would, if not should be considered vain, self-absorbed and egotistical is suddenly given a rightful place within social media, and even more incredulous, is celebrated of. The embrace of this culture is borderline pervasive in my opinion, going as far as to sustain the existence of some celebrities such as Kim Kardashian. In all honesty, other than living her life under public scrutiny while looking good, I’m not too sure what she does for a living (note the sarcasm).
Well enough about her. From the perspective of a media user, digital narcissism has certainly redefined the roles of consumers. Courtesy of social media, consumers have now become the producers as well as the commodity both at once. To paint this picture, my sister takes a photo of herself (producer producing the commodity, that of the producer) then posts it on Snapchat or Instagram (commodity consumed or for consumption). Sigh, how times have changed the simple and well meaning maneuver of taking photos. Or at least, have changed its connotation.
Meanwhile, I like to think of myself as less narcissistic when I’ve so generously shared this frame with 11 other people. The way I see it, 12 smiling faces are always better than one.
In these last 2 months of my undergraduate life, I could say for certain that the only thing keeping me alive (and sufficiently sane to continue writing) is my ambrosia, COFFEE! This nectar from the study gods helps get me outta bed and keep outta bed. So of course, I’d have to dedicate at least one post as a form of high reverence to this liquid gold. A no-brainer, the coffee brand up for scrutiny today is the infamous STARBUCKS.
Here’s a little infographic about the global brand I’d had a bit of fun whipping up:
Now for some deeper thoughts, how did selling coffee in a paper/plastic cup manage all these commercialistic accomplishments it has today (like the few from the above)? Simply, branding. According to an interview with Stanley Hainsworth, who was vice president global creative at Starbucks, he defined ‘brand’ as being ‘an entity that engenders an emotional connection with a consumer’. And how did Starbucks do that? Not only were they selling the commodity, they attached an experience to consuming coffee. Every decision that Starbucks has made was a conscious strategy towards providing their consumers that experience, this includes the music that their stores would play, the design layout of the space, pieces of furniture, the decor, the color and size of your cup, wifi access etc. The brand has us all engaged (later addicted) through our 5 senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. The bottom line being: Starbucks, through providing their customers these experiences, had successfully created a communal ‘third-place’, albeit a capitalistic one.
So the next time you visit Starbucks, perhaps stick around the store a bit longer, get your money’s worth of that Starbucks experience.
In my expedition through the subconscious territories of today’s consumer trends, I have come to admit to one of my guilty pleasures which I so often buy into, baring all in the name of critical thinking. But before we go on to critique my sinful ways, let me first compensate with beginning this post on a scholarly note.
It was the late 1980s when Joseph Nye of Harvard University coined the term ‘soft power’. Not wanting to bore you, it is simply the ability (of a government mostly) to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction. And at this, I ask you, what could possibly be more appealing and attractive than seven flawless-skinned, tone-bodied, choreographically-synced men mouthing their no-more-than-2 lines-worth-each of their lead single titled ‘Beautiful’?
Only if we’re willing to concede to the fact, we’d know that these idols are merely money-making puppets to the capitalistic masterminds of Korean talent agencies like the juggernauts of SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment. And if these bourgeoisies are capable of determining the style, the songs, and the work schedules of these idols, think what more they can do in determining their identities (for public consumption). More often than not, I have come across interviews and variety shows participated by these idols that scream preconditioned. It would abide the sacred sequence of statements introducing themselves, discussing their charming characteristics and good physical traits, and ends with displaying their one specific skill (e.g. being cute). These two-dimensional identities set up for Kpop idols only highlights the ideals that masses are assumed to prefer, the model image of humanity without the complications of other intricate human behaviours (e.g. having flaws). I could only imagine the repercussions as the consuming idol worshippers harbour unrealistic standards of what constitutes beautiful identity. On the flip side, without giving these capitalists too much credit, we consumers may just be more than appreciative of the attractive and appealing because who doesn’t love looking at a pretty face? Right?
But yet, critique as I may about this consumption habit, there is no denying that South Korea has the winning algorithm to producing profitable popular culture, much to their advantage of expanding soft power across the globe.
Regret not understanding 90% of the lyrics to ‘Beautiful’.
Just as I would, like a child that gazes upon the supermarket with wonder-filled eyes while armed with a shopping cart to call my own, I stepped through the welcoming retractable glass doors only to be slapped in the face by the cool breeze of dispossession.
Ah, such crude awakening! When will I ever learn to numb my senses to these shiny, neatly wrapped and priced temptations? With them piled high throughout the seemingly endless aisles of planograms of desires and wants, is there any room then left for needs? Moderation? Rationality?
“Excuse me while I go get them. I’d left them in the car. On purpose.”
I’d imagine myself with little limbs, tipped-toed with arms stretched yet still unable to reach that foreign, imported, 30 ringgit per box cereal. Though maybe inappropriate, the fresco painting of Michaelangelo’s The Creation of Adam does come to mind. Perhaps not the hand of God per se but in its place, consumerism. While on the other side, the immortalised hand of Adam (or mine), forever suspended in the vacuum of infinite dissatisfaction (with the usual box of Cheerios). You could say rationality (and my puny allowance) won one for the team, but I certainly did not feel like a winner.
Yes, thus is the cruel fate of consumers, as good as any plot for a Shakespearean tragedy. If MacBeth had ambition as his fatal flaw, I’d have the impulse to spend to match. But that is all there is to our similarity because unlike him, I choose to question the author (p.s. the capitalists, the system, the consumer culture etc.) and I choose not to concede to this fate. At least not without a fight.
Ultimately, in the rewriting of my own play, I set out as a millennial heroine navigating the raging seas of commodification,popular culture and consumer trends, sailing the ship of critical thoughts, and battling my demons of needless wants. Thus, I bid you come journey with me as I account my adventures in this little corner of the internet. Till then, I shall leave you with this refined quote.
“All the world’s a supermarket, and all the men and women merely shoppers”