Consumer Culture

ICS 392 – Consumer Culture .

Professor Albert Muniz

Assignment #1 Look at my F***ing Redneck Neighbor’s Red Baby Stroller: Taste, class, status and consumption

This assignment explores conflicts stemming from differences in taste, status and consumption. These conflicts manifest in three varied episodes. You will need to interpret these conflicts using course content and constructs from sessions 3, 4 and 5. You will need to identify and consider similarities and dissimilarities between the episodes.

Episode #1: the so-called red neck neighbor

The first episode is the oldest. Visit the following website: http://fac.comtech.depaul.edu/amuniz/RRNA1/

This is a copy of a now defunct website (a proto-blog, if you will) in which a consumer details the activities of his “redneck neighbor.” Read the descriptions of the neighbor and his activities and look at the pictures. What is going on here? Why is the author upset? Is the author’s neighbor intentionally trying to provoke others with his behavior? What else could explain the discrepancy in understandings of the appropriateness of the behavior (the behavior seems fine to one person yet so offends those nearby)?

Episode #2: the mommy fight site

Please copy and paste the URL below into your browser to visit a Washington DC parenting website and message board: http://www.dcurbanmom.com/

Spend ten minutes poking around to see what this website is and then read an article about a notorious conversation that took place on the message board there. It’s about a battle between two different groups of new parents: Washington, DC residents and Washington, DC-area suburbanites:

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/news/article/13040066/dc-mommy-fight-site

Then, read some discussions, like this one. It’s full of stuff relevant to this class and status oriented consumption: http://www.dcurbanmom.com/jforum/posts/list/134886.page

What is going on here (in this particular discussion and in the discussion board in general)? Analyze these two different groups and how they discuss consuming with a focus on issues related to brands, consumption and status.

How to proceed: I would suggest reading a few threads beyond the one listed above (preferably those that are currently or recently active) from start to finish. Maybe you then want to read threads devoted to stuff and consuming and brands. To do this, you might try searching for threads that include these topics. Poke around a bit. Maybe you will want to visit the website for the upscale stroller brand referenced in the article from Washington City Paper (watch the short videos, note the prices of the stroller): http://www.bugaboo.com as well as the other strollers: gracobaby.com, maclaren.us. Explore the community and the brands implicated therein and try to figure out what is going on.

Episode #3: Look at my f***in’ red trousers.

This episode explores some tensions surrounding class and clothes in the United Kingdom.

Here are two pieces on the conflict and how it played out:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/12181163/Red-trousers-are-being-killed-off-by-hipsters-and-hooray-Henrys-Country-Life-laments.html

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/style/look-at-my-fing-red-trousers-how-one-blog–ruined-the-ultimate-u/?utm_source=fark&utm_medium=website&utm_content=link

Here’s a link to the very explicitly-named and NSFW blog in question.

http://lookatmyfuckingredtrousers.blogspot.co.uk/

Here’s a link to a piece in defense of red trousers:

https://www.countrylife.co.uk/country-life/in-defence-of-red-trousers-83921

Finally, a former 392 student alerted me to an American analogue: white boys in salmon shorts on tumblr:

http://whiteboysinsalmonshorts.tumblr.com/

What is going on here? Why were people wearing red pants (salmon shorts)? Why would someone start a blog ridiculing red pants (and salmon shorts)? What’s the source (or, sources) of conflict?

Now think integratively. What is going on in these three episodes? What’s the common source of conflict? How can class content be used to explain what’s happening in these three episodes? Can anything else from class be brought to bear? (Hint: yes) Can anything from the readings, lectures and videos be applied? (Hint: yes).

In sixteen-hundred words or less, explain what is happening in these three episodes. Interpret what you read and what you see, using the readings and class notes to inform your thinking. Use content from the class to interpret and explain these episodes. Formulate an argument and integrate your thoughts into a cohesive and coherent essay. Make sure you clearly and thoroughly explain the significance of and the connection to any course content you cite/use.

Word count: at the bottom of the paper, list the number of words in the document (use the word count feature in your word processor).

Due at the start of class W#6. Must be submitted via Digital Dropbox in D2L.