Consumption culture in TV

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Consumption culture in TV

Post by thrifty++ »

It just dawned on me while watching the new series "Raising Dion" how excessive and entitled consumption culture is in TV and how that might perpetuate it and cause such a sense of entitlement among people.

I just started watching it and at the beginning the main female character keeps having woe as me's about not having money and being unemployed while simultaneously meeting friends for lattes and pie at hip cafes, drinking wine at home and living in a large flash apartment. Things which I very rarely do and when I do am consciously aware of their luxurious nature, although living in a large flash apartment has never occurred. It really quite annoyed me and makes me think no wonder people have such a sense of entitlement and such a consumption dependence when you watch shows like this.

It made me think of some friends and acquaintances I know who behave like this. Who are unemployed but smoke cigarett6es, drive their cars everywhere, drink wine at home and go out for coffees and diner and get uber rides home and then complain about how hard done by they are. That annoys me to. Its these sorts of behaviours that means I will probably never lend any money to anyone. As no one is as frugal as I am. Except one person I know. But of course that person would never need me to lend money to them because of their habits.

I am probably just having a bit of a rant here but am feeling quite annoyed at the sense of entitlement of people about what they think they are owed and how maybe part of this comes from TV and movies. I am sure other people on this forum can empathise with this irritation.

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Re: Consumption culture in TV

Post by tonyedgecombe »

Are unemployed people really out enjoying the high life or is that that the message you are being fed. I don't know about the US but in the UK the media loves to demonise the poor. Usually they will pick one egrigous example and present that as if it is the norm. This works really well when you want to convince the populous that benefits for the poor should be restricted.

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Re: Consumption culture in TV

Post by IlliniDave »

tonyedgecombe wrote:
Sun Oct 06, 2019 3:46 am
... I don't know about the US but in the UK the media loves to demonise the poor. ...
Here in the US it is generally the opposite. When it comes to the bulk of the media and one of the major political parties, the "poor" are portrayed as victims of the wealthy. The other major party and the remaining media generally portray the poor as victims of the government. We currently have low unemployment, and one up-and-coming politician recently, in a roundabout way, suggested the poverty threshold be "raised" to $36K/year to inflate the ranks of the poor.

Back to the OP. The poverty threshold in the US a few years ago was over 150% of the worldwide middle income threshold. In a lot of ways it's a relative thing, as we hear a lot about income inequality. The consumer culture clearly exacerbates that. People see lifestyles portrayed in TV/movies and either try to match them even when it's inadvisable, or they look at their own situation and feel inadequate. Perhaps worse is the advertisement culture that continually implies spending money is the key to a happier life. Too many people find themselves continually strapped for cash even though quite a lot of money flows through their wallets. Aside from retirement saving in a 401(k) at work, I was in that trap pretty much from the time I started my job out of college until after getting divorced, even though my income was above median for almost half of that time.

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Re: Consumption culture in TV

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

I agree. The worst example would be "Downton Abbey." I very much enjoyed that show (and the literary genre on which it was based), but I also recognize its pernicious influence on the proliferation of McMansions surrounded by chemically treated lawns in innumerable suburban subdivisions with names like Beacon Hill, Green Mansion Estates or, even, (I kid you not) The Plantation Phase III. Urban Hipsters drinking expensive hand-pours are a drop in the bucket compared to this level of waste, even though equity in McMansion could be accounted as portion of net worth.

Anyways, I think entitlement/complaining at any level is annoying, but I don't have a lot of trouble with somebody who cheerfully chooses to live in a camper while dropping the occasional Lincoln on locally dark-roasted sour cream seltzer concoction, but likely this is primarily because I have been that person :lol:

The number one "wasteful" outlay most/many members of this forum feel entitled to would likely be something like privacy/solitude.

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Re: Consumption culture in TV

Post by unemployable »

Television advertises television.

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Re: Consumption culture in TV

Post by CS »

I don't think entitled is the right word but a desire for quiet is about the only reason I would ever want to be stinking rich.

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Re: Consumption culture in TV

Post by 7Wannabe5 »


I don't think entitled is the right word either, but if "quiet" costs the same amount of money as a gold-plated Hummer then somehow or another it likely burns the same quantity of planetary resources.

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Re: Consumption culture in TV

Post by Scott 2 »

I have a hard time begrudging someone coffee and a slice of pie, or even a glass of wine. That doesn't seem like an unreasonable ask out of life.
thrifty++ wrote:
Sun Oct 06, 2019 2:36 am
am feeling quite annoyed at the sense of entitlement of people about what they think they are owed and how maybe part of this comes from TV and movies
I think you're hinting at the root cause here. Many systemic factors keep people poor, not just media. As an individual, breaking free is tough. The worse your starting point, the harder it is to make even small steps forward. Jacob touches on the impact of ignorance with the Plato's cave analogy in his book.

I avoid people who don't have it figured out, but man, they are dealt a rough hand. I can see why they'd feel entitled or straight up pissed off.

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Re: Consumption culture in TV

Post by Jason »

We cancelled our streaming services this year - $40 per month. We still watch TV/movies but DVD's. In researching Disney stock who will be launching their own streaming service later this year, an analyst stated the average US household if they stream, stream at...drumroll....$40 per month. That's three services i.e. Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Showtime et al. Not only Disney, but soon Apple will be joining the fray. Cash is king but his castle is built on content. Suffice it to say I moved my streaming services cash into Disney stock. If only I could get there with McDonalds.

I think the most pernicious aspect of TV is not the Downton Abbey portrayals because that's just financial porn and most people realize that's unattainable and for the most part, an anachronism. I believe it's the "easy" way middle-class is portrayed. We are watching Parks and Recreations a sitcom about government employees living in a fictional Indiana town, who all live in beautiful furnished homes/apartments, driving nice cars, eating lunch out every day, wearing new clothes without a care in the world. It's that fictional disconnect that results in non-fiction credit card debt, car leases, home mortgages etc. Ironically, this is one of their most famous clips.

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Re: Consumption culture in TV

Post by thrifty++ »

@Jason - that's is such a brilliant show. So funny. But now that you point it out I can really see it. And the woman in that video who I think works in admin talks a lot about her new flash Mercedes and it is showcased quite a bit in one episode. This then makes me think about other shows like Friends which depicts young people, mostly of whom have crappy jobs or work as actors and are unemployed for periods of time, living in flash manhattan apartments

As I think about it, it seems to be quite an American thing. Film and TV from other countries seems to have a bit more of a realistic depiction of lifestyles of average people, like from UK, France, NZ and Australia, but especially from the UK. But then most people are watching stuff from USA, at least in NZ they are.

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Re: Consumption culture in TV

Post by jacob »

IIRC, there was some science done way back (perhaps I read it in Affluenza?) about how the average sitcom depicted the 66% percentile spending level. This, incidentally, is also what the median believes is necessary to achieve happiness, so it's probably not coincidental even if it's not necessarily deliberate.

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Re: Consumption culture in TV

Post by Toska2 »

TV not only is advertisements, it is also price anchoring. I caught 15 minutes of This Is Us. The episode had a teenager living at home as a single parent detailing cars bemoaning of $10k private preschools. I wasnt just inundated with flashy cars of unknown people but literally was told the value of things never to be seen on the show.

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Re: Consumption culture in TV

Post by flying_pan »

I am not really into TV, but my family is. So TV is always in the background, and I am really interested in advertisement. Different channels have different ads, basically targeting different audience. More "redneck"-y shows like different judge shows advertise trucks like "super" heavy. Interesting that all of them are shown – Ford, Chevy, RAM. One might say they are basically the same, but there are slight differences in narratives: RAMs are for more "farmery" people, Toyota for more adventurous, Chevy for more "solid" people. Interesting that it is all about how you want to feel yourself, since I think solid 5% will do what they show in these ads.

Moreover, I find extremely hilarious the fact that what they often show in ads is actually prohibited. Unless you have a special insurance, the moment you go offroading you basically voiding your warranty and also make your insurance claims much harder; try to give them a fire road with just numbers as a place of your breakdown and see how it flies.

Nevertheless, that's what people want: they want to feel this way. And I can't blame producers: it works! Everybody knows Subarus are for adventurous people, and you "need" a truck if you haul 2 pieces of wood once per year. It can be seen in other things as well, not just cars, of course.

Speaking of TV, if you pay attention, this crazy lifestyle is everywhere. I don't remember the name, but there was one pretty famous movie, where a waitress was living in an apartment (she was renting) which was like 2 bedrooms in Manhattan, all by herself. Same story about movie La-La-Land, where both of main characters live by some miracle in decent places. Friends are canonical example of that, where people just hanging out all the time and live happily. If you combine everything (what they drive, what they do in their free time, where they live), it becomes obvious they can't afford it.

I wonder what happens if you watch such TV shows/movies for ~3 hours every day. Do they really feel that is the right way and everybody can do it? Rhetorical question, I guess.

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Re: Consumption culture in TV

Post by C40 »

It depends on the show

I think shows like Seinfeld and The Office don't really depict much consumption.

In racking my brain about Seinfeld, there are various episode themes that do center around a character buying something, but they all seem to go wrong and the purchase turns out to be a mistake.
- Jerry buys a really expensive suede jacket and then it gets ruined in the rain
- Jerry buys/acquires that really ugly frilly white shirt and then unknowingly promises a woman he'll wear it on the Tonight Show
- Kramer (or George?) buys an arcade game, and they have a terrible time trying to transport it home
- The group goes to the mall to buy something (often gifts for others) and they have a miserable day - usually due to something bad happening in the parking garage
- Jerry buys a Cadillac for his dad and then it becomes a burden for the dad (because his friends think he is now rich or showing off)

[Insert Jewish joke]

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Re: Consumption culture in TV

Post by Frita »

Regarding Seinfeld, what was up with all the cereal? (My spouse watched the show, so it was more background noise to me.) We open a box at a time as it can easily go stale (or squishy when living in a humid climate). I always wondered why one would buy so much and how often one would have to eat it to not waste it.

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Re: Consumption culture in TV

Post by Lucky C »

Seinfeld's cereal was a part of the child-at-heart 20-something lifestyle which also included an interest in Superman, dating young beautiful women, and making a living telling jokes. Shows focused on the bachelor life or immature comedic males in general tend to be less consumerist because they know they don't have to spend a lot of money to have fun, and they aren't motivated to have a family, buy a big house, cars, etc. This often makes for a funnier show than a King of Queens or Full House type of show.

See also: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which might be the most appropriate 2000's-2010's analogue to Seinfeld. The Always Sunny gang is pretty broke with realistically small shabby apartments and no aspirations to start a family. They demonstrate time and again how much (anti-)social fun you can have without spending much. Hence it became the favorite comedy show of many broke millenial bachelors who could relate.

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