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 Post subject: Affluenza
PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 6:42 am 

Joined: Mon Jun 11, 2007 8:13 am
Posts: 211
I watched a documentary last night called http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0475060/. Now, this is not the first time I've seen it, but I wondered if anybody else has come across it and what y'all think about it.

The term, affluenza, is basically a made-up portmanteau that indicates that many people now are sick with the disease of consumerism that leads them to perpetually desire and want things that will never truly satisfy them. The film goes on to feature segments describing the symptoms of the 'illness' and includes a brief interview with one of the late YMYL writers. Affluenza even a cameo performance by my favorite hypocrite, Ted Haggard (who gets pissed at a goat trying to eat his Bible).

When I went on IMDB, I also found information about http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0878095/. Now I'm really interested to see if I can get a copy of that since the other one was quite dated, though funny to see how they were fairly effective in predicting the current trends in consumerism, lack of environmentalism, and politic'ing ignorance.

For those of you who torrent, TPB has a link to a well seeded version of the '97 video that was originally aired on public television.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 9:09 am 

Joined: Wed Nov 28, 2007 3:07 pm
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I have heard about this although I have not seen it. It is also a book:

http://www.amazon.com/Affluenza-All-Consuming-Epidemic-John-Graaf/dp/1576751996

I find myself falling into the traps of it to some extent.....

Do you know many women who covet that designer bag (at a tune of $500)? Watch Sex in the City - with the Manolos that cost - $500-1000? Average women think they need these things. Even in O magazine (Oprah's) I have been amazed at the products they market to middle class middle aged women. They all have luxury price tags.


I know many people who fall into this exact cycle: I work hard, i deserve to buy myself (insert luxury item here). Then, they are in debt, so they have to keep working (or working harder) in order to pay for the thing they bought themselves because they work so hard. Then the cycle continues.

The opposite point of view is from the "simple living" people - who derive pleasure out of life outside of the consumer world.

Its a struggle.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 9:36 am 

Joined: Mon Jun 11, 2007 8:13 am
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I saw the book too, but I think that was probably what was used for the 1996 Affluenza film.

I know what you mean about the designer stuff. I'll be honest. If I see a woman decked out in either Prada, LV, or DG, I'd probably look more than twice. It's sad, but those are major status symbols.

In fact, I recently bought a watch that I didn't need just because I knew that it's something that people look at. It makes a big difference to me if I'm wearing a Tissot (previous watch) or a Tag Heuer (recently acquired) watch. Most people who have no idea of appreciation of the differences, but I worked out the justification in my head and I'm satisfied with my purchase, actually. Similarly, I went out over Christmas and bought a replacement set of headphones for my iPod because I just didn't like the brand of the other ones. Sure, the new ones were stupidly expensive and the performance difference isn't all that much, but I didn't like the feeling that I was using cheap headphones.

I forgot to mention, but one of the best films that I've seen that helped to illustrate just how funny it is to have this conspicuous consumption mindset was a nature film about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowerbird. Really fascinating stuff. There's all these species of birds, but the males all tend to build these elaborately decorated bowers to attract females. The intricacy of the bowers and variety of design and content was amazing. It's remarkable, and as I'm watching it, I kept thinking, this is so similar to how humans put on displays for the benefit of attracting what they want.

Apparently, there's two PBS specials on Bowerbirds. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/bower-bird-blues/introduction/2109/and http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bowerbirds/. Neither one is the video I saw, which was narrated by Attenborough.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:17 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
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It's funny, I'm just the opposite: whenever I buy a bag or an article of clothing, the first thing I do is to cut off any tags or logos that identify it. In fact I try not to buy clothing or luggage that has the logo embroidered on; I look for brands with tags that I can cut off. First, I don't want to be a walking advertisement for some company, but second I don't want to be seen as wearing a status symbol. I think I got into the habit when I lived in Vermont, where there tends to be a strong class difference between the locals and the wealthy ex-urbanites who moved to Vermont from New York or Boston. If you wear Patagonia clothing you're automatically branded as a flatlander, for example. Most of my friends there were foresters, woodworkers, carpenters, etc., and most real Vermonters buy their clothes from K-Mart or Sears. So I would buy Patagonia for the quality but cut off the tags so I didn't look like some rich yuppie.

I'm not necessarily in the "simple living" camp but I definitely have the "inconspicuous consumption" mentality. The more attention something draws to itself the less likely I am to buy it.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:25 am 

Joined: Wed Nov 28, 2007 3:07 pm
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brad, i agree with you completely, but sometimes there is no denying the "quality" aspect of some luxury goods.

For example: jeans. I can't believe i'm saying this, but I own 2 pairs of designer jeans. Cost for each pair - about $130. Yet - they are THE BEST JEANS i have ever owned, and I wear them - alot. Probably at least 3x per week, and I have owned each pair now for over 2 years. The fit is fantastic, and so is the quality. I will never go back to GAP jeans.

Are these jeans a status symbol? I am sure some of my girlfriends notice the brand, and believe that to be true - but the quality and fit have sold me.

I'm sure I could give more examples, just where the quality of an item (to me anyway) sells me over the perceived status. It is a fine line between buying something because you want other people to think you are of high status and then buying something because it is pricey but of much better quality.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:32 am 

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danielle17 wrote:
brad, i agree with you completely, but sometimes there is no denying the "quality" aspect of some luxury goods.


Exactly, which is why I buy Patagonia for example but take off the tags. I want the quality without the status symbol aspect. I tend to buy clothes rarely (once or twice a year max), so when I do I get stuff that I'm going to love and that's going to last me a long time. Same goes for most purchases in my life. But there are high-quality things that I just won't buy because there's too much status symbol associated with them. I guess i'm attracted more to quality than luxury, which is why I drive a Toyota when I could afford a Lexus or a Mercedes.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 11:06 am 

Joined: Mon Jun 11, 2007 8:13 am
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I recall reading Peter Benchley's Jaws a while back and there was a part in it where a little boy's mother was making fun of his obsession over a Lacoste polo shirt. She called it a $5 shirt with a $20 alligator on it. I guess that Lacoste polos only cost $25 at that time.

Wearing 'loud' clothing that is plastered with logos is tacky, no matter what the logo is. It's characteristic douchebaggery of the most common sort.

However, recognizing quality and paying a premium for it is a matter of preference. Come to think of it, everything is a matter of preference so if the d-bags want to stroke their ego with what I would consider tacky try-hard clothing, it's their choice and I'll leave them to it.

I guess I'm most impressed with the marketing tactics that advertising set use to lure people (including myself) into buying products that they don't need. I've seen some of the stuff, like eliciting values and using focus groups, but it's difficult to comprehend just how scientific they've got it now. Any more, when I'm tempted to buy a consumer good, maybe like a car, a suit, or like my watch, it's more because I want to identify with the lifestyle that I would associate with other owners of such a thing. That probably doesn't make any sense to anybody but me.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 11:21 am 

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144mph wrote:
Wearing 'loud' clothing that is plastered with logos is tacky, no matter what the logo is.


This is why I would never buy anything from The North Face. That logo is just so in your face, I find it repellent. Back in the 1980s when the preppy style was in, I remember going to concerts or movies and the people in front of me would put their L.L. Bean coats on the back of the chair, carefully turning the collar down so everyone behind them could see the L.L. Bean label. That in fact may have been the root of my aversion to labels on clothing ;-)

144mph wrote:
Any more, when I'm tempted to buy a consumer good, maybe like a car, a suit, or like my watch, it's more because I want to identify with the lifestyle that I would associate with other owners of such a thing. That probably doesn't make any sense to anybody but me.


Oh no, it definitely makes sense. Most of us wear a uniform of some kind whether we realize it or not, and we want to identify with a certain group or type of person so we dress like them. I remember back in the early 60s when wearing blue jeans was a political statement and identified you as being part of a particular small group of protesters; then jeans became a sort of uniform for an entire generation and today nobody even thinks about them, they're just what everyone wears. Fifteen years ago, body piercings and tatoos would have set you off as an individual; now they're just another type of uniform.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 11:30 am 

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I read the book and couldn't find the movie anywhere to borrow.
I think it is a worthwhile read and nicely done.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 4:14 pm 

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brad wrote:
This is why I would never buy anything from The North Face. That logo is just so in your face, I find it repellent. Back in the 1980s when the preppy style was in, I remember going to concerts or movies and the people in front of me would put their L.L. Bean coats on the back of the chair, carefully turning the collar down so everyone behind them could see the L.L. Bean label. That in fact may have been the root of my aversion to labels on clothing ;-)


Sorry, this is an absurd reason for not buying TNF gear or clothes and given this, you probably do not know anything about TNF. TNF's logo has always been the same forever, although they used to be silk screened, and they haven't gone around plastering more of them all over the place either. TNF has been more successful at marketing their products than other outdoor gear companies so you see more of them around. Despite this, TNF maintains high quality standards and they continue to back their gear. If a zipper breaks, threads come loose, you can simply send them to TNF and they will repair for free forever. TNF has also repaired holes in my stuff at no cost when they didn't have to do so. I have owned TNF gear and clothes for over 25 years, in fact I still have a mountain light jacket from 20 years ago which TNF repaired for free. I'm also not someone who just wears TNF in the urban jungle. I have owned and used lots of different brands, and I continue to stick with TNF because of the quality and standing behind their products, but more importantly because TNF fits me best and because I have so much of it, I continue to buy for modularization. With that said, I have never bought TNF or any other outdoor make at retail, no need to given the cyclical nature of winter clothing market. heck, if you don't like TNF logo standing out, take a black sharpie and color the logo, but it is a ridiculous reason not to buy. But again, i don't get the concept of being conspicuous, because I just don't care what people think of my purchases.

although I agree people get caught up in the joneses, but it shouldn't be the reason you don't buy a particular brand or start cutting off labels. As a smart consumer, you buy things based on value and quality, if it happens to be a particular make, then so what. remember, then whole premise isn't buying things for other people's benefit, but for your benefit. personally, i don't get why you would cut off labels or avoid a particular brand simply because of its label under the excuse of status symbol, yuppie, or whatever. It makes no sense to me. I think there is a reverse of keeping up with the jonses in this regard, keeping up with the joe's. in either case, you are worrying about what other people think and that is driving your spending behavior and your life. Either way, it makes no sense to me. buy things for yourself, not for what people think of you or the perceptions you want to give other people.

144mph, i'm with you. I just don't get the concept of conspicuous consumption if people's goal is not care what other people think. Want items are inherently irrational. I wear a Breguet watch, ridiculous in price to most and perhaps most don't even know what a Breguet is, but for those who can appreciate a Breguet, like myself, it means something. again irrational nature of want items.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 4:34 pm 

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I'm totally aware that what I do is just as silly as buying designer clothes as status symbols; I was kind of making fun of myself up above for that. It's irrational, but I just don't like being a walking advertisement even if I really like the company I'm buying from. I know The North Face makes great stuff and it's high quality, but that logo is just too big and out there for me. I have a few other friends who feel the same way; one of them refuses to buy any clothes that have a logo on the outside where people can see it, while I won't go that far.

While I don't care what most people think of me, I'd rather have them focus on me as a person than on the clothes I'm wearing if they're going to judge me.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 4:56 pm 
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Logos can be really useful. I've been looking for a small messenger bag for travel and I just bought the perfect one from REI. A woman on the bus was carrying the bag and I noticed how perfect it was and looked closely and saw the REI logo. If I hadn't seen the logo, I wouldn't have known where to get it. (Unless I asked her, but the bus was really crowded and she was getting up to leave.) Was she a walking ad for REI, absolutely, but I'm glad she was and I don't mind being an ad in turn, if it'll help someone else out.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 9:03 pm 

Joined: Thu Jul 17, 2008 8:37 pm
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Location: Upstate NY
I am in total agreement with googoo here.

Is it really that different to buy clothing just because it has a certain brand name plastered on it or to either not buy quality clothing or take the tags off just to make sure no one sees you wearing that brand?

In my opinion both situations still involve someone trying to fit into a group and show off their identity; fashion aware consumers or fashion disdaining "free spirits." Just because you don't like the attitude people have about brands as status symbols... this still doesn't take away from the quality of some brands over others.

I received a hat for Christmas and it says Patagonia on it. Its pretty and its warm, I don't care what it says on it. Would I have bought it for myself? Probably not... but I am not ashamed to wear it either. Today I bought a TYR bathing suit for $64 instead of a no-name suit for $29.99 but I have a long history with swimming and I know that TYR is a good quality suit that will last me about 4 times longer than that cheaper off-brand. I don't care if their logo is on my chest, their point of existence is to turn a profit and if I like it enough to wear it, what do I care if I am advertising for them?

My generation (I am in my late 20's) seems to be really into brand identification, or into rejecting all known brands to proclaim their differentness. I am kind of sickened when I go visit my friends who have recently all started to buy houses and condos (again, before they are ready because they are all still in DEBT!) and I walk in to find the entire place decked out with brand new furniture and decor from IKEA or wherever is popular (Pottery Barn?) like it was placed there directly from the pages of a catalog. I feel like I am in a showroom. Gigantic plasma tvs in every room. My apartment has a 10 year old couch we bought from my boyfriend's parents, a desk from walmart, a bed from 1983 that was in my grandmother's guest room and a new pull-out futon that we got for pretty cheap from IKEA. None of it matches, and I think its awesome that way because it feels like a home to me instead of a perfectly coordinated shopping experience.

Maybe I am just weird :roll:


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 11:00 pm 

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brad wrote:
While I don't care what most people think of me, I'd rather have them focus on me as a person than on the clothes I'm wearing if they're going to judge me.


you forget that people will still judge you regardless of what you wear or don't wear. You are still worried about creating an image of non-image that you are still predicating your choices by what other people will think of you. you could wear nothing at all and someone will still have an opinion of you. Like I said before, it comes down to if you are buying things because of an image or non-image you want to portray or for the quality of a good irrespective of the brand.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 5:18 am 

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mskalinin wrote:
I am in total agreement with googoo here.

Is it really that different to buy clothing just because it has a certain brand name plastered on it or to either not buy quality clothing or take the tags off just to make sure no one sees you wearing that brand?


Yes! Why should I pay $25 for the privilege of wearing a plain old t-shirt with a big Nike "swoosh" printed on the front? How in the world have these companies convinced us to pay them to advertise their product for them?

I am not a walking billboard. If a company wants me to walk around with their logo on my chest, they can pay me. Otherwise, if I'm spending my own money, I'll stick with clothing without huge logos on them. Don't get me wrong, I'll buy the more expensive clothing if there really is a quality difference, but not if there's a huge, visible logo on it.

For me, it's the principle. I simply refuse to pay money to be a walking billboard. It's absurd.


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