Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I watch TV as part of my job. Rather, I really leave it on in the background, keeping one ear on it while I check out newspapers online. The channel I watch is a local news station of middling calibre, which means I've been hearing the trailer for Confessions of a Shopaholic every twenty minutes or so. It's particularly meaningful because for some unfathomable reason, the studio behind Shopaholic budgeted to air a trailer that runs sixty rather than the standard thirty seconds. One minute every twenty from between nine a.m. to five p.m. is a lot of time.

At several points in this trailer, the lead actress -- who comes off as a poorwoman's Amy Adams -- wails. I spent days wondering exactly how to describe the noise she makes; it's no piercing scream or jagged shriek. It's this long, continuous, wordless wail. It barely varies in tone or pitch and doesn't carry any articulate noises, no recognizable sounds -- not because there isn't anything to articulate (although it's close). It's because she can't.

She's too simple. Complex emotion is beyond her. The urge to buy a purse, the sight of her credit card -- stimuli that people ignore or adroitly manage -- are so primal, so overwhelming to her faculties that she can only produce this endless, meaningless sound as a way of relief; it's the wail of a child, or an unfortunate simpleton. It's the wail you hear when she, faced with the peril of losing a pair of Gucci boots, unleashes as she claws at a stranger's face like a threatened puma.

What I find really offensive about movies like Shopaholic is that there is invariably a correlation between consumption and idiocy. She racks up debt because she's an air-headed moron. Never mind that many intelligent, educated people with  high-powered jobs that demand intelligence and education -- often because they are in such intense, responsibility-laden positions -- fight battles with alcohol, drugs, and yes, finances, all the time. It utterly glosses over the more interesting psychological complexities of compulsive behaviour, murkier waters bypassed for something transparent and easy.

And anyway, alcohol and drugs are offensive, (gender-blind) adult addictions. Shopping is fun. It's funny. It's glamorous. It's a destructive behaviour that's easy to trivialize, since its primary characterizations is the unchecked acquisition of bright pink handbags and stilletto shoes while sipping bikini-tinis.

The crowning scene in Shopaholic's trailer, I think, is probably the one the lead finally earns the first professional respect of her life. On paper, it probably read as a self-affirming scene, one where their heroine has used her female brains (brains!) to impress a roomful of superiors -- and, incidentally, her attractively British love interest. Isn't that progressive? Isn't that empowering?

The problem is that she does this by entirely unfeminist means. In the scene, she's being feted for marketing financial advice to women in the context of shoe-shopping -- for understanding what "how women think," as one executive proudly puts it. Every woman! All of them, for they are an amorphous collective, indistinguishable as individuals. (Can anyone picture the Borg in Prada?)

(I'd take this idea better if I knew that this magazine also thought men were somehow intellectually unreachable via any means beyond the context of driving fast cars and fucking pussy, but I'm sceptical.)

Never mind her admirers are all men (What? Women executives at this company?); I'd call it a telling sign, but clearly the writers perceive no irony in a woman being complimented by everyone except other women.

The only comfort is that the same station airs an ad (although nowhere near Shopaholic's rotation) for a debt agency. Its opening montage features a spunky young blonde trying on clothes, flipping over dress tags of hundreds of dollars, and loading up shopping bag after shopping bag. As she comes home laden on each arm, the bags drop to the ground like stones. The camera cuts to reveal a bright yellow "EVICTION NOTICE" on her apartment door. Debt is manageable.

You mean reckless spending doesn't land me a plum position at a magazine, invitations to media cocktail parties, and a charming British fiancÚ?


posted at 3:43:38 pm

February 19, 2009   07:37 PM PST
And yet, Isla Fisher has a splendid rack. Also she's married to Borat. Lamentably.
February 10, 2009   11:39 PM PST
I like the commercial on a Denver radio station that says "You may be in debt, but it's not your fault..."

Because, you know, all debt is the result of other people using your credit cards. Never the fault of the people who used the credit cards.
February 10, 2009   06:57 PM PST
Thank you. I'm am going to get into a ridiculous amount of credit card debt just to get that attractive British fiance!
February 10, 2009   05:58 PM PST
I'm off to fuck pussy in my car until I understand this post

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Glo'ri'a'na, noun:
1. An alternative form of "Gloria."
2. As "Americana" defines itself as artefacts of American culture, "Gloriana" consists of the artefacts of my culture.


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