Today's Consumer Culture: Bought Self-worth and Artificial Happiness

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"There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
Ooh, ooh, and she's buying a stairway to heaven."
From "Stairway To Heaven", by Led Zeppelin

Shopping malls didn't just happen. They are not the result of wise planners deciding that suburban people, having no social life and stimulation, needed a place to go (Bombeck, 1985). The mall was originally conceived of as a community center where people would converge for shopping, cultural activity, and social interaction (Gruen & Smith, 2005). It is safe to say that the mall has achieved and surpassed those early expectations. Unfortunately,
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The distrust, fear, and hatred of Russia and Communists fueled an intense desire within society to "out do" the Russians- in every aspect of life. This need to be better than the Communists is most accurately portrayed in what has become known as the "Kitchen Debate," a conversation between Vice President Nixon and Kruschev. As explained by Nixon, "debates over consumer goods would provide a reassuring vision of the good life available in the atomic age" (May 17). But this way of life had to be earned, and it was an "American duty" to have this life. Saving was no longer first on the family agenda (though not last either), and a strong faith in capitalism/consumerism not only helped to fight the Communists, but also contributed to the progress of American society. As May explains, "[c]onsumersim was not an end in itself; it was the means for achieving individuality, leisure, and upward mobility" (May 18).

Today's malls are the centers for teenage hangouts, parent-child bonding, and, most of all, consumerism- the centers of today's society. These large complexes house both local and chain stores, food courts, arcades, public space (used for fashion shows and picture ops with the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause). The minute you walk into the mall, usually via a department store, sales and advertisements hit you in the face, and the sense of money exchaning hands
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