Tuesday, October 2, 2007

FASHION, MOVIES, CELL PHONES, MADNESS


My client in this morning's visit is a Mexican dad and his son. Dad mainly speaks Spanish but speaks English well enough to be conversational. And is he ever conversational� The guy is talking to me non-stop. He's talking to me as a write this. And what does he have to talk about? The following things, and nothing else: Fashion, Movies, and Cell Phones.

Every single visit, without fail, he will notice my shoes and start talking about Converse, how he likes this or that color, how they look great with a suit jacket when you go to the club, etc. It's the same conversation every visit, almost verbatim. He will then ask me about other brands of shoes, and I'll shrug and say "Sure". Next he moves to movies, and briefly touches on the latest major releases and whether or not they were awesome. Finally, we move to his favorite, Cell Phones. We discuss at great length the many merits of the iPhone, and various other new models I haven't heard of. Sometimes it veers into other electronics, iPods, laptops, etc, but usually we stay pretty firmly in the mall phone kiosk. I have become really adept at smiling and nodding.

Today, we had a slight variation on the motif. To be sure, it was still about mass-culture consumer goods, but today his big thing was about where those goods were manufactured. He was outraged to find that his new Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses were made in China, and went on to list every product he had ever seen that was made in China. Guess, Gap, Holister, Levis, even the beloved Converse�all in China. And when he ran out of stuff made in China, he began to list everything from India, then Korea, and so on. It took about 20 minutes.

For me, the sublime moment of this whole experience was when, later on, during a rare lull in the conversation, while I'm writing this blog and Dad is just sitting there looking at the wall, he suddenly, with no apparent context whatsoever, just blurts out, "Nike."

I think now I finally grasp the idea of rampant and toxic consumerism. I've always kind of dismissed it as a scratching-post for over-caffeinated social critics eager for a target, but I'd never known anybody who was really part of the scene, never really had it shoved in my face. Having just sat through a 2 hour lesson in pop-culture-consumer obsession, I think I get it now. Sign me up for a 10 year subscription to Adbusters...

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