The paradox of what?
April 15, 2009 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Books/Movies/Shows/??? with a heavy anti-consumerism bend?

I've been reading and watching anything I can get my hands on. I'm interested in both fiction and nonfiction as well as anything in the way of documentaries that are readily available. As far as movies and documentaries go, anything available online or through Netflix would be much appreciated.

posted by piedmont to Media & Arts (34 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Fight Club
posted by Nattie at 8:41 AM on April 15, 2009

all films of Andrei Tarkovsky.
posted by Substrata at 8:43 AM on April 15, 2009

Juliet Schor:
The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don't Need
Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture
posted by littlecatfeet at 8:49 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

The is a alternative history movie called The Confederate States of America. It's filmed like a documentary and the "commercials" are sort of really out there and there is a twist to all (or at least most) of the commercials in the movie.. its not directly what you are looking for.. but I would call it a distant cousin to what you are looking for..
posted by MattScully at 8:50 AM on April 15, 2009

Thomas Frank's books the Conquest of Cool, Commodify Your Dissent and One Market Under God are all good looks at run away consumer culture. Doug Rushkoff's upcoming book Life Inc is another great example of this. There's also Fast Food Nation which has a movie version and is a decent indictment of the things that capitalism causes. I also enjoyed reading Joel Schalit's Anti-Capitalism Reader. These are not necessarily anti-consumerism as anti-capitalist but there's some decent stuff in there in any case. Paco Underhill's The Call of the Mall is more directed towards consumerism specifically.
posted by jessamyn at 8:59 AM on April 15, 2009

Robocop. Seriously, its a parody of corporate capitalism going out of the control. The commercials are pretty amusing too.

Recently, there's Wall-e, Idiocracy, and Office Space.

Also, someone could easily argue that a lot of mainstream sci-fi books and movies portray future societies that arent capitalistic at all, and usually reference a capitalistic past as being barbaric. Star Trek comes to mind. Perhaps not overtly anti-capitalist but utopias and future societies are rarely capitalist in fiction.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:05 AM on April 15, 2009

It's not exactly a book, but Adbusters rocks my anti-consumeristic world.
posted by scarykarrey at 9:11 AM on April 15, 2009

Days of War, Nights of Love

The Space Merchants

Jennifer Government hits some of these points, but it's ultimately concilatory to the core ideals of capitalism and consumerism. Also, it's shit.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:11 AM on April 15, 2009

Two great Frontline documentaries: The Persuaders and The Merchants of Cool , both available online.
posted by googly at 9:17 AM on April 15, 2009

You might be interested in the documentary Corporation.
posted by ubersturm at 9:20 AM on April 15, 2009

The Story of Stuff. (20 minute internet movie). She was shopping a book around a while ago, though I don't know if anything came of it.

posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:21 AM on April 15, 2009

Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity by Anne Elizabeth Moore (as featured in Pamela Anderson's summer reading list).
posted by tallus at 9:24 AM on April 15, 2009

The Incredible Shrinking Woman is old-school consumerism satire.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:24 AM on April 15, 2009

I would second Fight Club and Merchants of Cool above. Very different, both excellent.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:32 AM on April 15, 2009

Your question asks for anti-consumerist books, and this isn't exactly that, but strikes me as very relevant. It's a book called The Hidden Injuries of Class by Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb, and it's more about how capitalism defers and damages people's dreams. It's a nuanced, thoughtful take on dynamics of social class, made all the more devastating by never falling into a strident tone.
posted by umbĂș at 9:43 AM on April 15, 2009

Also, definitely check out Cute, Quaint, Hungry and Romantic: The Aesthetics of Consumerism by Daniel Harris. The section on the grotesque lurking within cuteness is hilarious and right-on.

There is also a Consumer Society Reader edited by Schor and Holt which has some interesting texts in it. It is a good place to start if you are interested in academic perspectives on the topic, such as Pierre Bourdieu's take on how consumer taste operates as a marker of social distinction.
posted by umbĂș at 9:51 AM on April 15, 2009

Zombie Strippers parodies consumerism.
posted by malp at 10:00 AM on April 15, 2009

A lot of these suggestions are really great, but I don't see any mention of Heath & Potter's Rebel Sell (Also known as Nation of Rebels,) which makes the distinction between mass society (capitalism as monotonous efficiency, everyone buying the same thing) and consumerism (I am what I own, I must own something new and different in order to be young and unique.) I think it's a really important distinction that a lot of books, especially the schlock that Melanie Klein markets for her personal brand of lifestyle literature, totally misses. In any case, you should beware anti-massification arguments masquerading as anti-consumerism arguments. Often, they're diametrically opposed.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:01 AM on April 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

PS- Thomas Franks is the real authority here. Pay especial attention to his work.

Also, Amusing Ourselves To Death qualifies as anti-consumerism from a media-consumption perspective.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:04 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

ARGH Frank, not Franks.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:04 AM on April 15, 2009

Seconding anotherpanacea. An excellent companion to (and devastating critique of) the anti-consumerist literature & documentaries.
posted by googly at 10:07 AM on April 15, 2009

William Gibson's Pattern Recognition has some elements of this, but not entirely.

Scott Westerfeld's So Yesterday is about a 17-year-old cool hunter but definitely has an anti-consumerism bend to it.
posted by darksong at 10:26 AM on April 15, 2009

For a somewhat lighter side of fiction, Frederick Pohl was skewering the idea of hypermediated corporatocracy way back - The Space Merchants, The Merchants War, and The Cool War come to mind. Although you have to take a product of Disney/Pixar (with its share of marketed tie-ins) with a potentially throat-clogging grain of salt, Wall-E is in part a cautionary tale about the outcome of uncontrolled consumerism. Anti-consumerism is a running theme in punk-anarchist type speculative infotainment entrepreneur Jim Munroe's work, it is probably most foremost and prevalent in his science fiction novel Everyone in Silico.
posted by nanojath at 10:28 AM on April 15, 2009

Thank You For Smoking.
posted by electroboy at 10:32 AM on April 15, 2009

Branded: The Buying And Selling Of Teenagers by Alissa Quart
My remembrance is that this book is very "mainstream" and a little sensationalist. But, still decent in presenting disturbing trends in how youth in the US are being taught from an early age to be consumerists.

Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende
Not sure this quite fits, but I thought it was a very entertaining read with some interesting insights about how our culture has changed as we have gained technology.
posted by dormouse at 11:21 AM on April 15, 2009

I can give you approximately a ZILLION recommendations for books targeted on consumerist culture/advertising/mass media's effects on adolescent girls and women, so if that's something of interest, contact me. In case it isn't, I won't overwhelm you with it right off the bat. ;)

Can't Buy My Love by Jean Kilbourne is an excellent book. Kilbourne also does some great video work, but it's hard to get and expensive.
posted by so_gracefully at 11:45 AM on April 15, 2009

"Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television..."

posted by radioamy at 12:05 PM on April 15, 2009

American Psycho -- the book is much more anti-consumerist than the movie.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:14 PM on April 15, 2009

The Irresistable Revolution by Shane Claiborne from a subversive Christianity perspective.
posted by Dukat at 12:14 PM on April 15, 2009

Seconding American Psycho. The anti-consumerism isn't really the main focus, but it definitely resonates. There's one scene in particular that I just cannot avoid thinking about whenever I see someone walking around with a bunch of shopping bags.

I don't know if it's available anymore, but Michael Moore's show TV Nation was pretty decent. Moore definitely has some problems with dishonesty, but he can be really funny when he's in irreverent mode.
posted by equalpants at 3:16 PM on April 15, 2009

(Seconding the book, that is, not the movie.)
posted by equalpants at 3:19 PM on April 15, 2009

Repo Man
posted by cjets at 7:27 PM on April 15, 2009

They Live!!
posted by hpliferaft at 9:43 PM on April 15, 2009

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