“Live Monster”: Black Friday and the All-Consuming City
Bowling Green State University
As the current economic crisis lurches to new depths of job loss, real estate vacancy, and financial meltdown, the practice of holiday shopping in the US has become, simultaneously, all the more frantic and the focus of global attention. Though holiday shopping is reportedly more cautious than ever for the 2008 season as a whole, the now two-day event and coordinated media spectacle of “Black Friday” achieved new levels of mad, voracious consumption. Subways opened early in some places, Porta Johns were set up in others, extra staff hired, some locales even enlisted live entertainers to occupy the frozen eyes and ears of shoppers waiting on line. The following essay was written at the apogee of Black Friday consumer ecstasy. The housing market had not yet collapsed, the US dollar seemed to be on the upswing, gas prices had not yet doubled, debt was still relatively easy to acquire (for everyone but me, it seems!). Like the fabled emperor, the overworked, house-poor, debt-ridden “post-Fordist” consumer class looked upon the open secret of each others’ nakedness as if the pretense of clothes were equivalent to fabric; 2005 appeared to be the Rostowian pinnacle of mass-consuming society ad infinitum… but, as we remember from time to time, things—especially illusions—fall apart.