Tags: commodification, consumption/consumerism, marketing/brands, advertizing, conspicuous consumption, consumer culture, emulation, identity, materialism, veblen, 21 to 60 mins
Access: no online access (trailer on YouTube)
Summary: This documentary offers an excellent overview of consumer culture. In the words of the documentary's creators, this film asks "Are we too materialistic? Are we willfully trashing the planet in our pursuit of things? And what's the source of all this frenetic consumer energy and desire anyway? In a fast-paced tour of the ecological and psychological terrain of American consumer culture .... Taking aim at the high-stress, high-octane pace of fast-lane materialism, the film moves beneath the seductive surfaces of the commercial world to show how the flip side of accumulation is depletion -- the slow, steady erosion of both natural resources and basic human values" with an exploration of the "relationship between the limits of consumerism and our never-ending pursuit of happiness." This video would work great with consumption theories from Veblen to Juliet Schor (who is featured throughout the film). One limitation of the documentary is that while it explores the ecological impacts of consumption, it does not focus on the labor and social issues (e.g. sweatshops) related to the production of the goods that we consume. The film would also work well in combination with videos (such as this video on Fair Trade) and activities (e.g. using a smartphone app to explore consumption impacts) addressing more sustainable consumption to encourage students to think about possible solutions, but also to think critically about whether we can adequately address these social and environmental issues through consumer activism alone.
Submitted By: Paul Dean
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