Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Shopping-Writing is Genius

Sure, the "Thursday Styles" section in the NYTimes is consumerist-heavy and far from pressing news. It's the only section of the Times that may actually cause brain atrophy. Alex Kuczynski's "Critical Shopper" column is the single redeeming feature of the section. How else would readers know that the Abercrombie and Fitch flagship store in New York has hearing-damaged salespeople? But The New Republic takes aim at the frothy section with a biting essay on the paper's seeming self-aware embrace of materialism.
In fact, it's precisely this simultaneous mocking of, and wallowing in, our luxe-life obsession that makes "Critical Shopper" a creation of Frankensteinian genius. Plenty of Times readers may be dying to hear every last detail about the parking lot at Fred Segal's Melrose Avenue store, but some may feel a twinge of shame about their aggressive acquisitiveness. After all, the Times is bringing luxury porn to a much broader audience than, say, Millionaire or Rich Guy magazine. Those publications are preaching to the choir of conspicuous consumption--to readers who not only have scads of money but have few qualms, if any, about spending it ostentatiously. "Thursday Styles," by contrast, is seeking new converts, reassuring its more skeptical readers that there's really nothing wrong with showing off their good fortune. This is delicate work considering that even many ultra-affluent Times readers belong to the ambivalently wealthy ranks of the "Bourgeois Bohemians" profiled so piquantly in now-Timesman David Brooks's 2000 classic, Bobos in Paradise.
The term "luxury porn" seems a bit excessive, but catchy nonetheless.


The Environmentalist said...

Alex is a fellow BC alum- I'll have you know. Saw her talk at BC Writer's Conference. She is an Amazon woman and she was wearing gold boots- to boot!

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