This might be a good time to discuss postmodern theory before moving on.
I have a video that shows zombie-like consumption. As you think about your own multimodal projects, consider how I assembled the “Images of American Consumption” sequence.
A Note or Two about Consumption
All that talk of consumption last class got me hungry. Consumption is a major component of the base in capitalism. One criticism of media is that it influences or at least projects the need to consume in order for us to feel good or just normal. The Zombie films are texts that deliberately poke fun at conventions or practices that a society has. Poking fun at behaviors through media or literature is called satire.
For example, our culture loves to consume things–products, food, oil, BS, etc. We are provided opportunities to devour resources and buy our way to happiness. Unfortunately, we sometimes don’t live within our means as this Nationwide commercial points out. Consumers, which could be synonymous with “citizens,” in America have an extremely low savings rate, which means we spend almost as much as we make (aggregate).* This rate has increased since the recession, but it was near a 74-year low in 2007. To satirize the blind, destructive consumption in which citizens engage, zombies are shown in movies, video games, etc. as eating people. Well, there are zombies all over the place in real life…
Important Points about Consumption
Media influences people to buy into concepts. What we’ve noticed is that, as a culture of excess, our “basic” needs have been met–food, clothing, shelter–so we are free to pursue leisure activities. While that can mean a trip to the mountains or the beach or Mickey’s House, leisure can be product based: we consume products that make us feel good, and commercials reinforce those good feelings.
What’s bizarre in our economic system is that our base–“the economic means of production within a society” (Bressler, p. 193)–pushes us to spend beyond our means. In order to drive the economy, we have to purchase consumer goods. What we see with the excess–buffets, shoes, video games, hi-tech gadgets–is that we over consume and are drawn to do so.
Also, media consumption begets media consumption. Think about the “role” of the news media surrounding events like movies openings, Black Friday/Zombie Bride shopping, iPhone releases, etc. Those events get covered for us by the news media…they are “news” items. As Kubey and Csikszentmihalyi tell us, TV and other media are powerfully attractive “substances,” and viewers experience feelings of guilt when they feel they watch too much, and those feelings are different depending on class (para. 12).
The “Californication” video by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, to me, sums up where/how images of culture are produce for consumption. Think of the issues we addressed the other day–fashion, reality TV, success=$$, celebrity status–and how they are presented or re-presented through media, but they are dictated by a ruling class (the powers that be, the “man”, the rich elite, etc.). As Marx points out, the dominant ideas that are presented to us are seen as self determined concepts, “the essence of man” (p. 41). What’s shown through media is what’s normal, but the idea of normal is constructed; it’s socially constructed reality.
What are some similarities between the “Californication” video and Tommy Vercetti’s activities in GTA: Vice City. What is a player consuming when he or she manipulates the avatar?
Here’s a link to the lyrics for “Californication” for a closer look at the song’s message.