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CMNS 221 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Ridley Scott, Terry Gilliam, Mexican Americans

Course Code
CMNS 221
Martin Laba
Study Guide

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1. The Culture of Consumerism: Histories of Dream Worlds and the Selling of Desire
mass consumption democratization or mass deception? (Williams)
In exchange for the freedom to browse, meaning the liberty to indulge in dreams
without being obligated to buy in fact, the buyer gave up the freedom to participate
actively in establishing prices and instead had to accept the price set by the seller
Active verbal interchange between customer and retailer was replaced by the
passive, mute response of consumer to things
Cheap goods implies the acceptance of a social system where significant inequalities
in income endure despite the growing equality in merchandise
In modern society, technology makes possible an equalization of enjoyments without
a corresponding equalization of incomes
The pleasure of possession may be destroyed when many dream the same dream
People should have real equality in income and seek whatever illusion they crave on
their own
the historical “triumph” of the sensual pleasures of consumption over
intellectual enjoyment, contemplation, reflection, engagement (Williams)
The change in how this merchandising was accomplished by appealing to the
fantasies of the consumer
Taste does not apply to transient decor whose purpose is to attract and to hold the
spectator’s attention
Decor → Convey a sense of the lavish and foreign
consumerism and the “domestication” of the marketplace (Williams)
Cinema as a phenomenon of the people, in the largest meaning of this term
Modern technology widens the horizons of the masses
The aim of mass publicity is to make the dream world as uniform as possible in order
to entice as many people as possible
the emergence of consumerism marked new ways in which the fulfillment of
pleasure, imagining, perceived social needs, even social meaning was defined in
terms of the consumption of commercial goods (Williams)
This cinematic syncretism is a result of the need to appeal to a large public with
varying tastes
Because film speaks in the language of imagery, it is at once emotionally exciting
and intellectually deceptive
Movies excite because they communicate through powerful, concrete, realistic
Images goes in one direction only, from screen to spectator → passive
The images imply a startling contrast between male and female fantasies, between
what men want women to be like and what women want to be like
Wealth is of such importance in the symbiosis of commerce and dream
citizenship and consumerism can consumption be understood as a new and
powerful resources of political identification and social action (environmental
awareness and environmental justice, for example) (Trentmann)
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Consumer boycotts put to political use the ideal of freedom, choice and the sovereign
consumer given circulation by neoliberal discourse and policies
Consumption as a new resource of political identification and mobilization around
questions of fair trade, sweatshop products, and related issues of social and
environmental justice
Consumption has for a long time functioned as an alternative sphere of political
action and inclusion for groups excluded from the body politic, both women in the
metropole and men and women in the colonies
consumption as a site of action and mobilization (Trentmann)
Consumption has also been an integral aspect of new, more transnational forms of
The development of consumer culture break down barriers to trade and exchange,
thereby changing the flow and diversity of local tastes and consumption behaviour
Consumers through their everyday practices, leave an active mark on these larger
social systems
A useful additional perspective for our understanding of the dynamics
between consumption and citizenship
the concept of the “consumer-citizen” demands that we look as broader
contexts of policy, politics, economics, communication and move beyond the view of
the consumer in terms of conspicuous consumption (Trentmann)
A market consumer-citizen was also drawing on a particular national form of political
The appeal to personal responsibility and choice in current appeals to the “citizen-
consumer” can be experienced as overwhelming and numbing by individuals and
families when it comes to complex global problems such as climate change
There is a gap between micro and macro levels of understanding consumers as
citizen=norm and practices
consumption=private side, in the everyday workings of politics
the consumer as an informed, vocal, and active citizen
2. Issues in Technology and Popular Culture
“information-rich and attention-poor” –a theory that suggests that as access
to, and volume of information continues to increase, we become less able to engage;
that is, we become, impatient, unable to attend to issues of substance, and
accustomed to speed of transmission and fragmented, depthless information (a shift
away from depth in communication, away from what is deep and nuanced in favour of
what is fast and stripped down)
the participatory and democratizing potential of new media (Jenkins; Burgess
and Green)
Double function
Top down platform for the distribution of popular culture and a bottom up
platform for vernacular creativity
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