Monday, December 18, 2006

Keeping up with the Joneses

I hate the Sunday supplements. I buy the Sunday Age for the TV Guide in M Magazine. But, my god, it’s a vacuous piece of shit.

The (relatively new) editor, Michelle Griffin, is a respected literary journalist and a fine writer. She is incredibly intelligent. She seems to be a no-bullshit kind of person.

So, it is increasingly odd to me, after a long not-quite-acquaintance with her on the literary pages, to read her chirrupy little editorials. It’s not those that I have a problem with, though. (Hell, we all gotta earn a living.)

This week, there is an article on the ‘Homes’ pages that really pissed me off. It is about home cinemas:

Rodney Hearn is a born hi-fi and movie buff … He and his wife Anne are such avid cinema-goers that they pay for the gold-class experience. But even that edge of gilt-edged luxury isn’t quite enough for Hearn. “It’s very annoying to be watching a movie while someone is eating a three-course meal behind you,” he says. And it’s even worse in conventional movie theatres “with people behind you talking or rattling chips bags. How much of the movie do you actually get to see? That’s why the home theatre is cut out for people like the Hearns. They’re sinking $100,000 plus – their redundancy cheques – into creating a 9.5 metre by 6.5 metre home cinema on the back of their western suburbs home.

What the hell? So, the obvious solution to annoying eaters in movie theatres is to build your own home cinema? What is wrong with these people? Who are they? The article takes pains to make them sound like your average, perhaps slightly well-to-do couple. (Note ‘western suburbs’)

Their addiction is not as extreme as they might think. More and more people are forking out huge sums to set up a home theatre.
Is this: theatres are the new swimming pools? Obviously designed to make people think that this is normal, that anyone can do it, that you might feel as if it’s something you can’t afford, but everyone’s doing it these days. So just get a loan, or whack it on the credit cards …

Why is the trend towards home cinemas intensifying? … “Deep down, people love the idea of having their own private cinema. It was once just a futuristic dream. Now all members of the family can have fun together, playing electronic games or watching movies on the big screen.”
Oh, so it brings the family together. It’s an investment for the good of the kids.

If you build it, they will stay at home.

Am I crazy, or is this sickening? It’s similar to when they first started advertising steel fridges with built-in televisions. It’s just so extreme.

This reminds me of my short-lived stint at an architecture and lifestyle magazine, where I was gently chided over a line in a book review. It was one of those ‘50 Houses’ type things, showcasing the best new architecture around the world. I’d written something about it giving readers the opportunity to tour fabulous homes that they could never afford ‘But isn’t it true?’ I asked. ‘Well, ye-es,’ I was told. ‘But the whole point of the magazine is for people to realise that everyone can afford an architect. And that sends the wrong message.’

I’m sorry, but if we’re all that rich, why don’t we have better public schools, public health, child care, public transport?

Or are those things less important than the dream of having your own home cinema? Designed by an architect, of course.


audrey said...

Whatever happened to setting up a large white sheet with a projector? These people make me sick.

Kate said...

I write about home theatre and I always try to include some bits and pieces about what you can do on an ordinary budget. Which isn't much, frankly.

But I write this stories for the money, so I try not to angst about the consumerism and the fact that they're just an extension of company marketing, because I get paid ok money to do it. Sad. Very sad.

Ariel said...

As I said about the editor of this mag - you gotta make a living, and I have nothing against the writers of this stuff (most of whom could never afford it!) It just makes me mad (and sad - not be all Dr Seuss) that this is our society. Good on you for your small contribution, Kate. Every bit counts! I'm sure I'll be doing this stuff soon - if I'm lucky. Maybe that's why I'm so mad ...

redcap said...

People like that are just a waste of space. Who the hell spends $100,000 on stuff like that and how can they possibly justify it to themselves?

I've been writing about up-market display homes this week and it's been immensely depressing. After all, how many living rooms do people really need? And why do you never see a bookcase in a display home? But we grit our teeth, think of the pay check and thank Ford it's not hair removal advertorials.

Ariel said...

RC, I did think of you and your advertorials as I was replying to Kate (gotta make a living!)

meva said...

I read that 'article' about home cinemas, too. Gobsmackingly appalling!

Why, why, WHY do people think they need all that STUFF? And the $5000 chairs? People are starving, for dogs sake!