Shade Grown Hollywood: Materialism at the Multiplex

ColumnWhere celebrity becomes conscious.

The stock market is on a roller coaster, financial oligarch Warren Buffet is calling for all the other financial oligarchs to get real, and everyone has been holding their breath about Greece. Such are the times. We  would all do well to tighten our belts and remember that life isn’t about material things.

Unless you’re in a Hollywood movie, that is. Tinsel Town is notorious for glamorizing materialism and consumption. A movie shopping montage can look as all-American cool as James Dean slouched over in a leather jacket. Today, James would now be entirely represented by Ryan Gosling’s six-pack abs.

Films and sitcoms have long been guilty of bumping up the characters’ environs a tax bracket or two beyond realistic. But in the current economic climate (not to mention climate climate), some films are particularly jarring – a rather sad retrospective on a society that’s consumed itself like some mythical Greek tragedy. Or, cinema is about fantasy and we’re no fun. Only our closets and bank accounts can decide. Herewith, the seven most materialistic movies to date:

Sex and the City 2 (2010)

This sequel behaved exactly like a feral puppy holding our favorite adolescent book in its mouth – it shook and snarled and shattered our happy memories of a fantastic HBO series until all that was left were sloppy, spit-soaked scraps on the floorboards. For many, this is what happened when Sex and the City was first brought to the big screen in 2008. For almost all, the 2010 sequel was the final nail in their gold-plated coffin.

The plot of this movie entailed taking our favorite female Manhattanites, Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda, and propping them against miles and miles of Gucci, Dior, and Prada. Our gang eventually heads to Saudi Arabia, only to find they aren’t so welcome in Islamic culture. But not to worry, Saudi women are fine. Underneath their Hijabs and Abayas are just more Gucci, Dior, and Prada. Can we say ridiculous, racist, and radically offensive consumerism? Yes, we can.

Crazy Stupid Love (2011)

It’s no secret we love Ryan Gosling. Nonetheless, his latest movie didn’t even bother to keep consumerism in check. The plot runs something like this: Gosling helps the old guy become cool, get girls and get laid by buying clothes. Don’t worry; he’s got a trust fund! And did we mention that old guy’s ex-wife lives in a sprawling home that is totally unrealistic for a middle class Los Angeles family? Yes, it’s 2011 and we’re still making these sorts of movies.

Pretty Woman (1990)

Evidently, what makes a great antidote to a soul-shattered life filled with prostitution, murder, and drug use is shopping on Rodeo Drive! Just make sure your “heart of gold” charms your John into leaving you with a credit card you can thumb in the noses of snobby Beverly Hills salesgirls. We acknowledge that Edward and Vivian rode off into the sunset together at the end of the movie, happily in love. After all, isn’t selling your body for money romantic? (We prefer to be called realists.)

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Marie Antoinette is not exactly known in history for her socially-conscious contributions to society. So a flashy, updated biopic on her life shouldn’t be expected to read like a remake of Gandhi. However, Sofia Coppola’s ill-fated French queen was compared to a modern day Paris Hilton. What gave critics that idea? Possibly the miles and miles of film focused on shoes, couture, hairstyles and more. Was it all bad? The film boasts an incredible soundtrack (New Order, anyone?) and is gorgeously shot against Versailles itself. Consumerism is made hip, cool, and pretty – and ultimately, deadly.

Clueless (1995)

Is it ironic that a film about materialism stars one of the Hollywood’s green darlings? As if! Cher, played by vocal vegan and PETA pin-up Alicia Silverstone, shops her way around this update of Jane Austen’s Emma. Problems are solved if only the right outfit can be found. In the end, our Cher-Emma-Alicia finds true love with her socially-conscious step-brother. So maybe this was just art imitating an eventual reality for the lovely Ms. Silverstone.

Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)

This film about a shopping addict who falls for a wealthy entrepreneur had the misfortune of debuting just after the dawn of the Great Recession. As one review wrote in 2009, “When P.J. Hogan’s out-of-step comedy was conceived, conspicuous consumption was the norm. Yet here we are, only nine months after the [first] Sex and the City movie and an obsessive spender with an overstuffed closet, and credit card bills to match, no longer seems quite so cute.”

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Set at Runway (aka Vogue) magazine, Anne Hathaway’s Andy Sachs finds her fight to the top is streamlined once she raids the hallowed halls of the magazine’s sample closet. We’re even treated to a montage of amazingly-styled outfits as Andy makes her way to work through the streets of New York City. (See? We’re not total shopping curmudgeons.)

But how did Andy justify the new wardrobe? There’s some lip service that she gets the clothes for free via Stanley Tucci’s benevolent godfather-style tutelage. But could a Conde Nast assistant ever afford such a wardrobe without a healthy bank account not possibly acquired solely as a Conde Nast assistant? Not likely. And did she really need it? Only in the minds of a Hollywood executive.

This is the latest installment in Katherine Butler’s column, Shade Grown Hollywood, where celebrity becomes conscious. “Shade grown” refers literally to shade grown coffee, a farming method that “incorporates principles of natural ecology to promote natural ecological relationships.” Shade Grown is our sustainable twist on Hollywood.

Image: zoonabar

Katherine Butler

Katherine Butler is the Beauty Editor of EcoSalon and currently resides in Los Angeles, California.