We are at the end of an era. An era marked with rampant materialism, excessive luxuries and hopefully, bling.
Suddenly, spending $500 on a Fendi bag or pair of exotic French shoes doesn’t seem like that great of an idea. Now we’re left with the question, who is to blame?
Sure, we can point fingers at the greedy CEOs, reckless financial institutions and oblivious government agencies. But I place the blame solely on one person: Alicia Silverstone and her stellar portrayal of Cher Horowitz in the 1995 film, “Clueless.”
What does Alicia Silverstone have to do with the sub-prime mortgage crisis, you may ask? Probably not that much. No, I don’t believe Cher, or Silverstone, were out offering loans to people for homes they couldn’t afford. But her character and her ridiculous devotion to consumption beyond her personal means provides insight into what brought us into this mess.
Cher, with her computer-operated closet that held all the highest fashions of the day, her brand new car (even though she couldn’t drive) and her credit cards, displayed like never before the low point we had reached as a society.
By the end of this film, Cher saw the error of her superficial ways, but this Cher type of mindset instilled in the early ’90s, coincidentally an era of financial growth, carried to new heights the shallowness of our nation’s financial mindset today.
Soon we had people with the Cher syndrome making their way into financial institutions, bred with the only mantra our excessive culture has held onto: More is more is more. More clothes, More gadgets, more TVs in every house, more cars in every garage. Young girls went from reading “Nancy Drew” to “Shopaholic.” Fourteen-year-olds idolized Carrie’s shoe selections in “Sex and the City.”
Barbie didn’t just have her male counterpart, Ken, anymore. She had the convertible, the H2, the beach house, the pink American Express card and the mansion. Young boys went from playing with GI Joes to arguing over what season their $40 Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt is, as they blow more money on their rims, sound system and bodykit than on their actual car.
We have spent more time and more money on what we put in our electric closets than in our own bank accounts.
Now we find ourselves facing the reality that we can’t be throwing all this money away on the next hot gadget or Coach purse, and suddenly we are frightened to death. But is it really that bad? Maybe instead of paying $15 for a tan twice a week, people will learn to go outside instead. I’m pretty sure that’s still free.
It has become clear our generation has been completely wired down by electronics and new inventions for far too long. Let me remind you our parents survived in a world that didn’t have LCD screens on their toothbrushes, and they turned out just fine.
I often have this intriguing conversation with my parents about which generation is cooler, and lately, I’m coming around to their side. Sure I could wire an entertainment system without looking at any instruction manual at age 16, but all that proved was a dedication to the wired world.
At 16, my parents were freqently attending marches in Washington. At 16, I was spending several hours playing “Grand Theft Auto 3” on Playstation 2. By 18, my dad had hitchhiked across two states to attend the legendary three days of peace, love and music at Woodstock. By 18, I was spending several more hours playing “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.”
While in college, my parents met in an abandoned barn on the Monmouth University campus where students would get together, listen to music and discuss everything under the sun. In my personal college experience, most students prefer to turn their laptops on and spend their entire days locked up in their dorm rooms with headphones blocking out the rest of the world. Notice any patterns here?
The grim world we will inherit after this financial crash might not be that scary a place after all. The little-remembered plot twist of “Clueless” was Cher only found true happiness after giving away all her meaningless and expensive material possessions.
Maybe if you pull out your headphones, turn off your TV and open your dorm room door you might see the world we leave behind is the one to truly be afraid of.
Sources: imdb.com, “Clueless,” nytimes.com