Culture jamming is a tactic used to counteract and challenge consumerist culture and to disrupt media culture. It’s about interrupting a consumer-culture message and forcing the consumer to actually think about it.
One example of this is displayed above (I’ve learned a lot from Michael Scott) – throwing red paint on fur-wearers. In our consumer culture, wearing fur is a sign of wealth and luxury….[enter red paint]…it forces us to remember the pain and loss of life behind the fur coat. This is a good culture jam because it takes an image that is popular in our culture and alters it to reveal an obvious aspect of the message that we have been dulled to (murder = fur = murder!)
Now, I am not an animal right’s activist, but I am a strong proponent of critical thinking and overzealous questioning of consumer culture. I hate, with a passion, the power that our consumer ideals have over our lives. I hate that we, as a society, have been lulled into a life that demands thoughtless over-consumption.
I happen to be a consumer. For most of my life, the focus of my consumption was of clothing, shoes, accessories, etc. Now, as a kid and a teenager, I had really limited funds; but let me tell you, it is really easy to buy a ton of clothes with little money. If my dad gave me $50 to buy clothes for back to school, I just had to take one trip to H&M and I’d be set. My birthday money, my babysitting money, my allowance, it all added up to more shirts, pants, dresses, shoes, anything I thought I should have. The clothes let me feel like a normal kid, I liked the identity that they gave me.
Now, fast-forward ten(ish) years. I have more income, since I actually started working, and a lot more freedom. However, I don’t buy nearly as many clothes as I did when I had no money. Why? One day I asked myself, why can I buy a brand new, brand name t-shirt for $2.50? Why can I buy a pair of pants for $5? Sure, I may be getting a good deal, but who is my purchase affecting?
Once I started asking those questions, I couldn’t go back. The answers suck. There’s a reason nothing is produced in Canada anymore: clothes are made by people, and people need to be paid wages, and wages need to be paid by companies, and companies make money from consumers, so consumers need to pay decent prices for their clothes! A t-shirt SHOULDN’T cost $2.50. When I’m shopping now, I don’t thrill over low prices like that, because I know that somebody else is paying the price.
But back to culture jamming as an idea! Its a super effective tool that can cause other people to think about and question things in their every day, consumer lives. It’s certainly not pleasant, but that’s the point. We are living comfortable, blissfully ignorant lives, consuming as much as we can with as little intention as possible…and that is not ok.
We’ve let corporations become members of the community and businesses become actual people. Walmart and Ikea are institutions that we trust, that we don’t question. When they tell us that we need something to be happy or to be normal, then we actually start to need it. When Coca-cola tells us that it cares about us and that it can help us to care about other people, we start to care about it! We get a warm, fuzzy feeling in our tummies and can suddenly only express ourselves by purchasing, purchasing, purchasing.
Culture jamming forces us to stop. I think I’ve repeated that a few times throughout this blog, but that’s because it’s something we ALL need to do. We need to stop, assess, question, and re-assess. I know it
sounds boring, but if you are a free-thinking human being, you shouldn’t have any trouble with it!