In today’s world it’s hard to come across someone who has not been to a shopping mall at some point in their life. Shoppers flock to these malls to consume wide ranges of products while also encountering as much culture as you can find in a single enclosed area. Among these many different cultures on display, present-day youth culture is the most visible. Many differing opinions have risen about these “shoppers” with regards to their validity as consumers and their true intentions in today’s shopping malls.
In John Fiske’s essay, “Shopping For Pleasure: Malls, Power, and Resistance”, he brings up an interesting argument regarding the relationship between shoppers and the higher-ups in charge of shopping malls. Fiske refers to modern shoppers as “the weak” and he states that the strategies of the powerful are most vulnerable to the weak in today’s shopping malls. As a member of the targeted discourse community, I had an opposing stance after reading his essay. Shopping malls are where the innocence of the shopper is most vulnerable to the strategy of the powerful.
Modern consumers have a level of innocence when they enter shopping malls simply because they go in with no intention to deceive. This innocence is constantly compromised by mall owners, which in return drives their customers to resort to “trickery.” Fiske goes into great detail to paint the picture of the typical mall shopper as a trickster, yet he doesn’t explain why they partake in these actions. These tricks included turning shopping malls into “their meeting places” or “putting alcohol into some, but only some, soda cans” (Fiske 285). While reading Fiske’s essay I couldn’t help but get the feeling that he viewed today’s shoppers as devious con artists who trick those in power for no justifiable reason.
As a mall shopper and member of the targeted discourse community in this essay, I felt as though my community was being wrongly viewed by Fiske’s undiscerning eye. Tricksters don’t trick for no reason, the reason they do so is because they feel as though they are being tricked first. I believe that Fiske does a successful job in describing the tricksters when observing, “they pleasurably exploited their knowledge of the official ‘rules of the game’ in order to identify where these rules could be mocked, inverted, and thus used to free those they were designed to discipline” (284).
This quote by Fiske accurately portrays the reason that these tricksters trick, but he never goes on to expand on this observation. These tricksters have valid reasons to try to invert these rules because the higher powers of today’s malls created the rules with the intention of deceiving modern consumers. Since their inception, shopping malls have been manipulating their customers through their aggressive advertising and much more, so the victims of these schemes should justifiably be able to fight back.
John Fiske’s essay doesn’t solely deal with back and forth trickery, he also sheds light on the argument of who really controls public space. Powerful higher-ups try to take advantage of the “weak” through this scheme but what they are actually doing is imposing on their innocence. All consumers have certain inalienable rights, including the right to public space yet Fiske still proposes that there is a problem with the, “youth ‘invasion’ of consumer territory” (284). To Fiske, today’s shoppers are viewed as intruding on this consumer only territory but the truth is that this space is vividly advertised as open to the public.
Shopping malls are constantly expanding to make their confines more comfortable by adding benches so those who aren’t shopping can lounge comfortably. Fiske argues that these non-customers who don’t purchase from the stores are imposing on those who have consumer power, but the truth is that many of those with money to spend choose to shop at malls over other popular stores. Shopping malls have culture that other places simply don’t. Today’s shopping malls don’t have lower prices than other popular stores, meaning that those with spending power actively choose to come back to these malls. The vibrancy of a mall is very enthralling to consumers and that energy is one of the main reasons that malls are able to draw in such consumer power.
Unlike Fiske’s argument asserts in his essay, I believe that the truth about shopping malls is that the strategies of the powerful are constantly trying to exploit the innocence of the weak. Compromising morality for larger paychecks is too common in modern society even though the effects are undisputably negative. Taking advantage and playing on someone else’s purity is an irreversible sin, yet we still see this happening every day. Today’s consumer has to be too careful when they step foot inside any store nowadays because their innocence is unjustly taken whether they like it or not. Taking someone’s innocence is an unhealable scar that leaves the victim for better or for worse, aware and fearful of their environment. These forced emotions lead to self-awareness, churning defense mechanisms such as the “trickster” mentality. Whether we like it or not, we live in a world where the days of “shopper power” are long gone.
Fiske, John. “Shopping For Pleasure: Malls, Power, and Resistance.” Reading Culture. Ed. Diana George, John Trimbur. Pearson, 2012. 282-285. Print.
To my fellow classmates, specifically April and Kelsey, and my professor: Thank you. Your kind words of encouragement throughout the peer review process have given me the confidence to write this essay. I would not be able to do this without your help.