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In contemporary world, the relationship between freedom of choice, identity and general lifestyle of modern consumers are quite complicated and questioned by a number of scholars like Bauman, Smart, Bourdie and Featherstone. An actual description of ‘lifestyle’ as a term is very broad. If refer to a sociological explanation lifestyle explained as ‘distinctive style of life of specific status groups, within contemporary consumer culture it connotes individuality, self-expression and a stylistic self-consciousness. (Featherstone, 1991 :92) Contemporary consumers are rifted from a traditional understanding of what is actually needed to rather what is wanted regarding the type of choice people make when shopping or socializing.
The actual change of a consumer behavior, understanding of freedom and lifestyle as well as identity explained in several theories. This essay will focus on examining several theories about consumer culture, sense of freedom and the relationships of consumers and advertisement, using a critique of Made in Chelsea live show as an example (season 4 episode 4).
According to Bauman (1998), society identify itself as consumer society by achieving their identity, status and highlighting relation to a social class through engagement in the consumer activity.
A significant fact is that recently a there was a change of the emphasis of priorities from production to consumption, a ‘passage from producer to consumer society occurred. (Bauman, 1998:24). It represents an increasing importance of consumption and an actual choice that consumers make regarding which image of themselves they want to represent. Smart, 2010) More to that, actual choice and sense of a self-identity also an be fashioned and ‘lifestyled’.
For instance in Made in Chelsea (MiC) episode, the main representation is a group of rich young people who are assumed to be occupied but it is very rarely seen as them actually doing work. Whole series of this reality show illustration Chelsea friends as a constant consumers. They are showed most of the time shopping, at restaurants, clubs or other venues, beauty salons or other leisure activities and services.
Only one hero Francis Boulle, showed as a hardworking guy who occasionally seeing friends. Smart (2010) argues that recently articipation in work, production or occupation does not stand up as a priority, but the engagement in consumer activity. Thus, people work and occupy themselves Just for the sake of the opportunity to go and spend gained resources for a consumer culture, i. e. shopping, restaurants, cinema etc.
That what MiC represents not only in Season 4 episode 4 but also as a whole idea of the content. Everything that meters to the cast there is consuming good and serves while discussing each other relationships and drama. However according to Miller (1998) ethnographic research roved that majority of the population purchasing goods and services for sake of showing love and care to their beloved, friends and family, rather than persuasion of constant upgrade of their self-esteem and identities.
Bauman (1998,2000:82-4) call contemporary consumers the ‘society of individualized consumers’ with their freedom expressed in consumer choice. This is exactly how it look in the show, that everything that people are doing there are their individualized choice. They all nave a bright identity, however very similar as a whole, because of the similar cultural capital, rigin and social class. Television is still one of the most influential medium that produces a set of information and visuals of different content but one aim, promotion of a lifestyles.
Simulation world of media exposing and spreading signs and pictures that blurring sense of what is real and what is not by the audience who are alongside are consumers. Oameson, 1983) Particularly in the I-JK lifestyle reality television is very popular. Through the lifestyle media society exposed to the circle of the rules to follow and Judge the other as well as ourselves. The demonstration of a ‘good taste’ lso displayed in reality TV shows, such as the manner of speaking, body image, home image, meals, places visited etc. Surveillance is internalized but also externalized: its panopticism relates not only to its inward turning, but to its omnipresence in public: we are taught the rules but which to Judge ourselves, but also to Judge others’ (Bell ; Hollows, 2005) MiC season 4 episode 4 starts with the mise-en- scene of a Chelsea neighborhood, focusing on brand shops, fashionable caf?©, stylish young people, focuses on Balenciaga uncle boots and Chanel bag, handsome man with an expensive watch.
Next shot is Spencer and Louise having a romantic private moment at daytime (considered as luxury for many middle class workers you spend their days in offices) while Andy calling to her iPhone. All together it represents a high social class , chilled and stylish lifestyle, culture of high consumers that desired by many. From the academic point of view, according to Featherstone (1991) The use of term ‘consumer culture’ highlighting the values of contemporary society, which are became very materialist, however the use of ‘culture’ emphasizing the ‘use of material goods as communicators, not Just utilities’.
On the other hand, from economic perspective of the term it symbolizing the market principles of supply, demand, capital accumulation, competition and monopolization which operate within the sphere of lifestyles, cultural goods and commodities’ (Featherstone, 1991 :94) Nowadays, consumer choice is represented as an advantage, bold beneficial product of the market economy that usually taken as an expression of freedom, which represented as a cause of modern capitalism. (Friedman, 1982 in Smart, 2010).
Smart (2010) also says, that now it is a consumer ociety who is dictating the process of production for themselves, that the origin of production process is according to the wishes and needs of consumers as well as the mode of business activities. Mises (1996:273, in Smart, 2010) noted that ‘entrepreneurs and owners of the means of production are virtually trustees of the consumers’. Mises (1996:273, in Smart, 2010) making a point that now the consumers are leading the production process and successful businesses and not vise versa.
This article argues that producers are highly depended on ‘supremacy of consumers’ and accommodating to the individual consumer wishes. Thus, this statement leads to the bold concept of consumers having a freedom of choice and consumption as well as a material control over market economy by making entrepreneurs, owners and producers to face the need to meet the requirements and expectations of their clients.
However, there are a question arise whether the wishes and co-called freedom of choice’ ot society is actually individualized and determine a marketplace; or it is made up and all the needs required, expectations and further cultural processes are formed by the environment of media and advertisement that are all-encompassing odays life of every member of the contemporary society.
Marx (1963 : 15) being a nineteenth-century economic liberalist, outlined a “structural constraints on human agency, people make history, but they do not make it Just as the please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances, existing already”. Hence the idea that the freedom of consumption is questionable is not new. Smart, 2010) According to Gabriel and Lang (2006), people who consume goods and services offered by market economy do exercise choice and eciding about what exactly to purchase and which brand to choose, but it is all a matter of an influence by variety of factors, such as production and manufacturing, retailing, actual marketing strategies, fair-trade and advertisement campaigns etc. , which are not under the ‘condition of their choosing. Rosie from MiC is a fashion blogger in outside the reality show.
Thus subconsciously by knowing this, and that Millie is a make-up artist, audience would focus their attention on how Rosie wear things and which make-up does Millie have, so to maybe reproduce it on themselves later as a fashionable one. Producers and advertisers want consumers to believe that they have a total freedom of choice, when actually a number of researches investigated that ‘choice’ is regulated and affected by a number of processes and factors of marketing strategies and general environment. Smart, 2010) Majority of analyses concentrated their attention on cultural intermediaries included in advertisement, branding and marketing that persuade the idea that every member of contemporary society is a consumer that through the material spending of their income on certain thing they can buy a sense of self-worth, self-identity and even appiness Just by consumption of particular objects of production. (Galbraith, 1975; Gorz, 1989; Klein, 2001; Dawson, 2005; in Smart, 2006).
Bourdie’s research investigated how with the help of semiotics and association certain classes desiring to distinguish themselves from the masses with the particular lifestyle, dressing up and places visited. Hence, sending a massage full signs and meanings to public that screaming that they belong to a certain group or class. Another scene at MiC – Rosie, Millie and Sophia having lunch in a fancy restaurant while gossiping about Louise nd Spencer : “Spencer Genially getting fit and getting healthy’, “He is doing a marathon”, “Louise not going out and detoxifying together with him” (Millie and Rosie).
This is seen as a promotion of a healthy lifestyle, looking after your body, which is perceived as an expensive one to keep up but highly suggested by the media, doctors and recent fashion (many people quit smoking and/or drinking recently as a part of a fashion of a “Green lifestyle”). More to that girls are showed in Dukes Hotel, Restaurant Thirty Six, which is obviously not ordinary place for a simple workers to have their casual lunch. Another scene is Jamie and Spencer at Spencer’s own gym, discussing recent gossips and working out.
It looks very familiar, but than the cast still placed on a much higher ladder: Girls getting together for lunch and gossiping, but in a luxury London hotel; Guys meeting up to work out in gym and gossiping, but in Spencer’s private gym. Following scenes are gust a gap between stories but felled in with the image of Chanel boutique, Gizia shoes and anther luxury notel There are many shot ot a tancy t in top restaurants during the episode as well. Again the image of a high lifestyle indorsed to the audiences mind. The image of the consumers in its best, those who can afford to buy almost anything.
Contemporary consumer society mode in late modernity neo-liberalism is concentrated at highlighting the premium, wealthy lifestyle and status by investing economic income into objects of proof of that lifestyle, such as cars, traveling, digital devices and brand clothes. According to Smart (2010) those attributes determining an exercise chose to bring a confidence and desired self-image. Lately an activity of people purchasing all kind of good increased due to the marketplace response to a 2008 global economic recession.
The effect was that producers should persuade consumers to spend more of their income and ‘shopping to excess once again’, instead of saving up and investing, ‘served to confirm, simultaneously illustrating Jameson’s point about the inability of politicians and policymakers to imagine anything else beyond a return to the infernal dynamism of consumer capitalism’. (Smart, 2010) Bauman (1998) argues that the identifiable sigh of consumer society is not the actual consumption but a significant difference from their predecessors.
A perception and idetification of new flexebility of needs and shift of norms ‘setting onsumption free from functional bonds and absolving it from the need to Justify itself by reference to anything but its own pleasurability. “(Bauman, 2001) Advertisers making sure that the sense of need is constantly present, increasing and extending to new limits, the need to keep the tension alive’. Hence a satisfaction of consumers needs is never possible, ‘gratification measures its progress by ever-rising demand’. Bauman, 2001) A good example from the MiC episode is when Cheska, Binky and Ollie went to the luxury adult shop and trying out some devises there. This epresents extended needs that people might have, which is far not primarily needs. In addition It explains that the correspondence in consumer behavior of late modern societies’ as well as the prominence accorded to consumer activity, flow from the implementation of neo-liberal economic policies and the associated generation of a political economy of insecurity. Smart, 2010:232) There are three main concept of explaining the Neo-liberal economic polices main factors of insecurity, as suggested by Bauman (1998). Firstly it have significantly shifted the understanding and erception of occupation and workplace of majority of workers, especially those who are engaged at low-salary, insecure, part-time forms of occupation, also known as ‘McJobs’. (Beck, 2000 in Smart, 2010).
Secondly, ‘contributed to dramatic reductions in commodity turnover time through programmed product obsolescence or retirement’. Finally, the growing and significantly increased, comparing to previous times, trades of goods and services produced and available for a purchase, but because of two above are not easily accessible. Modern marketplace keeps promoting new options of ommodities and constantly updated fashion on lifestyle and self-identity that requires a constant consumption by society.
While the disadvantaged situation with the neo-liberal economic polices making it difficult to keep up for a big amount of workers as well as providing an unstable self-identity image through the processes of advertisement, popular culture and marketing strategies and fashion, which are invariably changing. (Kellner, 1992:172) Hence, when simple workers or teenagers are watching MIC with its representation of an excessively luxury lifestyle, the desire it, but understand hat it is not actually achievable tor them.
Essentially, the components of the identity construction including what society think they should be, or a desire to become and the idea of the self-representation are driven by the consumer marketplace. When exercising the choice of goods and services purchased that might help in self-determination and representation is responsible for the actual purchase. However, when making a choice it is heavily depended on financial, informational and other decision process resources, especially time that spent to make a reasonable and free choice examined and decided individually.
All above are to a certain degree limitations for a vast majority of society. (Smart, 2010) For example, all the places and venues listed during the MiC episode are straight forward perceived as a top places that is a must to visit. However if to think deeper, this is the business reality show doing, Just by indorsing a hidden advertisement in their episode. We cannot know for real where those rich and young would go, we Just assume that it is those places showed in episode (Duke’s Hotel restaurant, Dorchester Hotel restaurant, Luxury apartments Maze restaurant, etc. As Ewen (1976) entioned, apparently advertisement constructing the idea of ‘homogenized national character’ as a whole and a formatting further capitalist production. The cultural fashion and identity of the contemporary society being formed through the advertisement campaigns that are mainly ‘American type’. Sociological term Americanization (through the advertisement exposure) could be also indorsed to this argument. It provides common desires build up by the common ethnicity, language, cultural perspectives and matters.
The brightest character in MiC is Mark Frances with his extremely posh British accent and way of talking, as well as, style and ehavior. M. Frances: “If I go out to night clubs it is only members night clubs”, that very well known for the difficulty to get to , hence not mainstream. However now, in London, majority of the newly opened nightclubs call themselves ‘members night club’, for example Kensington Roof Gardens, when being quite accessible for the mainstream, but Just attracting by the ‘exclusivity. When consumer identifying his desires in terms of capitalist production, automatically he accepts the rules of ‘modern industrial life’. By transforming the notion of “class” into “mass”, business oped to create and “individual” who could locate his needs and frustrations in terms of the consumption goods rather than the quality and content of his life (work)’. (Ewen, 1976:93) The main content of the MiC season 4 episode 4 is that everyone meeting up with each other in different combination, socializing, gossiping an d discussing an organization of a party, night out, bi=but the girls have their own and the boys have their own, to catch up and socialize.
Both groups are going to a fancy nightclubs. Nice shot of all ladies ‘dressed up to impress’ on their way to “Dorsia” nightclub at South Kensington. When guys chose “Embargo’ club. Following shots of them all having fun, drinking expensive alcohol and dancing. Those all are not perceived as an advertisement or endorsement of a lifestyle while audience watch it, but at the end the image of fun and freedom that are exercised by the consumers if figurating alongside whole episode.
In analyses of a consumer activity and its conditions it was investigated that in the USA each day people are exposed to 3000 advertisements which selling their products and rather brands by making a bond and association to a desired, attractive lifestyle or big celebrities. Schwartz, 2005:53-4) It nas been noted that to intluence the way consumers making their choices and which choices they should make, advertisers across the world spending over $1JS400 billion each year on their campaigns.
It does not argues that consumers are cultural dopes that are easy to influence, rather that by its frequency of exposure, advertising does make an impact on the choice consumers make. (Smart, 2010) The main goal for all brand is to be automatic choice, which does require right association as well as constant rehearsal and reminding of their features. Hence, MiC episode is a representation of a lifestyle and identity of a high-class people. It Delivering a massage ofa luxurious and perfect image of life, on the top of the market economy, place where all consumers are freedomly aiming to get.
Fowles (1996:156) summed up the whole idea described in this essay: “The relationship of the advertising / popular culture mix to gender formation is indicative of the relationship of the mix to the entirety of self-identity, and behavior, but are ideals alone and can never be fully actualized in everyday life, at least not for long” Illustration of perfectization of a lifestyle, freedom of choice and appearance in most of the live TV shows made to be seen as real, while it is good not to forget that everything that is going on air is formatted and worked on, so to deliver the ‘right’ massage.
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