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Fiske’s Glib Account of Modern Consumerism Essay

Fiske’s Glib Account of Modern Consumerism

  John’ Fiske’s “Shopping for Pleasure: Malls, Power and Resistance” seeks to create metaphors out of the modern shopping mall. The first metaphor, borrowed from Pressdee and one which Fiske himself agrees is rather glib, is that of a cathedral which the shoppers come to worship. Rather than create such a cliché of shopping as a religion, however, Fiske chooses to emphasize the differences between the two. One difference is that a religious congregation is powerless, much like a herd of sheep being led; shoppers have extreme power – the power to negotiate and the power to discriminate. They can discriminate between malls, stores and the items themselves. Thus, nearly twenty years ago, the new product failure rate was 80 percent.

    Fiske borrows his next metaphor from an advertisement – the admittance ticket – and once again points out the major difference. A ticket guarantees admittance, while the consumer’s own purchasing power determines whether they truly belong at the mall. He goes on to demonstrate this “ticket” in Australia, where consumers invade the malls regardless of whether or not they have money to spend. Fiske gives credit to Pressdee, who referred to this invasion as

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“proletarian shopping”.

    It would be impossible to discuss the act of shopping at a mall without bringing in the plight of women. Bowlby suggests that the female shopper metaphors (one of her examples is “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping”) serve to subjugate women within the patriarchy by suggesting that men pursue the important endeavors while women are left with merely the domestic. She even suggest, on page 314, that women can find shopping as a source of empowerment, as she is able to examine things she does not own in a structure that is not hers. This empowerment often leads to women (such as Bowlby’s mother) sampling items she has no intention of buying, all the while running the salespeople ragged.

    I didn’t care for this article. In his effort to avoid being glib, Fiske accomplished just that. His use of other’s metaphors and research left him without a voice of his own. By the end of the article, I couldn’t tell where Fiske stood on consumerism in general and shopping malls specifically.  Rather than focusing on the work and research of others, Fiske might do well to enter a shopping mall and see consumerism through his own eyes.

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