Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lamenting the Return of Designer Label Pornography

Long-time readers of this blog will not be surprised to hear that I am repulsed by the previews for Confessions of a Shopaholic. For years, I am complained about the designer label pornography that has infiltrated women's magazines and television shows, sometimes to the point where I have seriously risked alienating the good friends of mine who enjoy them. I have nothing against fashion - the art of designing and wearing clothes to achieve a certain effect - looking sexual attractive, looking professional, and so forth. Fashion is an art. Fashion is important. What I deplore is the way that designer labels have been fetishized. Fans of Sex and the City did not enjoy watching Sara Jessica Parker wear Prada because Prada made her look good; rather, they enjoyed watching her wear Prada because Prada is expensive, and she was wearing Prada and you're not. The appeal was pornographic; nobody can convince me otherwise. Also, the show seems to have convinced half of the under-30 female population in this country that men find irresponsible, crazy, money-and-label-obsessed women endearing - perhaps its most annoying contribution to our culture.

David Edelstein says it best in his review of Confessions of A Shopaholic. "Any film set in the world of media or finance or real estate in which the central topics of discussion are dating and fashion instead of layoffs, foreclosures, and the end of Life As We Know It belongs to a distant past, like Judy Garland all atingle over those wondrous inventions at the St. Louis World's Fair. Whatever else it is, the aggressively silly romantic comedy Confessions of A Shopaholic is in sync with the curve: Its theme is addiction to spending, its suspense tied to maxed-out credit cards and a bulldoggish bill collector. If the movie didn't pander so madly to the audience for Sex and the City and Legally Blonde, it might have been a comedy touchstone instead of a cringeworthy footnote."

Defenders of Confessions of a Shopaholic say that it is more self-aware than Sex and the City; that its makers recognize the destructive aspects of Sex and the City culture and have created a character that realizes the ridiculousness of her profligate spending, even if she is unable or unwilling to control it. I just don't buy that for some reason. If they want to say that that is the movie's theme, then that's fine with me. Fight Club's theme was that men in contemporary society have to re-establish their masculinity in a culture that is increasingly increasingly status-conscious, materialistic and effeminate, but more men walked out of that movie wanting to start a fight than walked out re-examining their masculinity. Call my cynical, but I can't help but believe that more women are going to walk out of the movie theater wanting to go shopping and marry a rich, fashion-conscious British guy than re-examine their spending habits and patterns of consumption.

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