The Culture of Shopping Astuteness As Seen On Film

When you think of space bags, who or what comes to mind? Maybe Ryan Gosling’s sparkling smile, a big ring, or and a sharp, dark suit. Few women, or men, for that matter, would disagree on Gosling’s stand-out looks — maybe only Rachel McAdams has been known to hold reservations about his appearance or other qualities.

Nevertheless, let’s stick to the most recent on-screen character he gave life to: Jacob Palmer, from this summer’s good-time flick Crazy, Stupid, Love. Ah, yes, this charming fellow was clearly an unregenerate shopper and connoisseur of all things even partially related to clothing, gadgets, and gizmos.

Gosling’s personnage also clearly knew how to wield and work his prolific knowledge on the subject to great advantage and effect — for personal benefit and for a certain type of “public good.” Nobody else could have turned on the Clapper attic lights inside Steve Carell’s Cal Weaver so brightly.

But it wasn’t just Cal that Jacob was able to impress with his superb shopping acumen. If you can recall Cal’s redhead daughter, Hannah — she was played by current It Girl Emma Stone — then you’ll remember that Jacob’s confession to his extravagant tastes in space bags, massage chairs, and pet essentials, like the Urine Gone spray, had a hefty role in the romance. For starters, the rare and frank confession, though easily classifiable as superficial, touched upon an important aspect of Jacob’s personality and family history (he had inherited his family’s fortune).
Let’s also open up room to explore the fact that even in a Hollywood movie, the non-superficiality of consumption can be presented for thoughtful consideration. That’s because consumption in America is not just a way to affirm status; it’s also a socially approved and exalted way to participate in the culture. When you buy a wireless home security system, you’re not just purchasing a product that will add a layer of protection to your home, you’re also joining your neighbors, who’ve bought similar systems, in making a proclamation — in unison — about how much you value your individual property, and by extension, that of the whole neighborhood’s.

Sam Walters is a writer living in Los Angeles. Her writing appears in print and online.

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