Saturday, February 19, 2011

Status emulation on steriods

One of Thorstein Veblen's more brilliant insights was his observation that the human desire to ape those we believe to be our betters is so strong, it is second only to the survival instinct.

Veblen points out that status emulation's second place standing is a near thing with a wickedly funny crack about those who are well-dressed but ill clad.  When I read that, I literally laughed out loud remembering my cab-driving days when I would deliver women in flimsy cocktail dresses and high-heeled shoes to concerts on winter nights so bitterly cold, their survival out of doors would have been measured in minutes.  I also recalled those many times when my mother, the oh-so-proper preacher's wife, would show that there is literally no action goofier than one undertaken to demonstrate one's respectability.

But NOTHING has entrenched Veblen's concept of status emulation more thoroughly than television.  Before TV, one could usually envy and imitate only those who could be physically seen.  But with TV, we can now envy folks and situations that do not even exist in the real world.  In fact, that is the whole point behind most advertising.  It can be argued that TV "industrialized" status emulation.

In the following clip, a guy named Charlie Brooker covers the subjects of TV and status emulation amazingly well.  Enjoy!

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