The subject of my moan today is the film ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ which I paid good money to go and see on Wednesday evening. On one level it was a funny film. Isla Fischer looked gorgeous throughout and even my mouth tortured itself upwards into a stifled giggle at some of the comedy stunts. I particularly resonated with the crazy dancing, as anyone who know me will realise!
However. Yes, you knew it was coming. A torrent of moans about deep seated issues this film throws up. The first and most obvious one is the way a woman who is in serious credit card debt fails to take it seriously and relies on others to hoick her out of the mire. The way she paid the money back in pennies, and grudgingly, as if the debt collector had no right to chase her for it. Anyhow.
Second point, and one I have made quite vocally before: the main character is a dippy girl who is portrayed as stupid. Stupid and funny. Stupid and funny gets the guy. Hmm. Stupid and funny spends a lot of money on clothes then lies about it. But, ladies, here’s the news, underlined in Gucci gold trim: it’s OK to be stupid and funny and spend, spend, spend, because you can just sell all your things and live happily ever after. Your credit rating will not be affected, no bailiffs will come a-breaking down your door, all you have to do is open your eyes wide and pout, that will absolve you of all financial responsibility. Allegedly.
Third point: the four ‘older women’ sub characters were portrayed as weakly hiding behind their husband/boss/crazy/deeply ingrained fashion stereotype. A dippy wife, a faithful secretary, a bag lady and an editor – but wait – of a fashion magazine. All the men in the film were either executives in suits involved in hiring and firing money deals or wise sages with advice and a rescue plan. All the women were stupid. Oh dear. Of course, I don’t imagine for a minute that anyone at all who went to see that film resonated with any of those women, did they?
Fourth point, and the only one that I thought of after actually seeing the film: I now want a Prada bag. The film was so laden with advertising brands that I was almost rushing to directly to the Trafford centre with my credit card as soon as it finished. Almost every scene in the film was lined with designer goods and brand names were bandied about for fun. How ironic! A film that is all about resiting the urge to shop busting at the celluloid with advertising exactly the types of expensive designer products that Becky had got into so much trouble with.
If the well trodden theory is that we are all smart enough to realise these things and not let them affect us – then welcome to a closed-off middle class egocentric standpoint where the assumption that everyone is as well-educated and aware as yourself reigns. Back in the real world where women are beaten by their partners and families are so seriously in debt that they can’t afford to heat their homes and mothers don’t send their children to school because they just don’t see the value of education after three generations of unemployment, I wonder if those people who don’t have the same educational or social advantages as me will be watching their bad quality copied DVD of Confessions of a Shopaholic and conducting a full social analysis? I seriously doubt it, and they are relying on moany activists like me to not judge them but to make a case against those things that prey on them and make their lives progressively worse, whilst desperately trying to work towards a better health and social future with them.
Whichever side of the fence you fall on feminism, love it or hate it, it’s there for a reason. That reason is that lots of women are marginalised in society. Realising that Becky and her cast are bad role models is one thing. Aspiring to be them and dismissing women’s financial and social responsibility for themselves because of gender is another. Being in denial of the damage caused by implicitly advertising techniques is another. But failing to recognise the effects that the media has and dismissing it as ‘just a laugh’ is socially irresponsible, in my opinion.
Maybe I have had a sense of humour transplant, but in these times of recession, I wonder how women and girls have seen that film and carried on spending on their credit cards in the surety that they will also be rescued by selling their Dior flip flops at some out of town car boot sale or their Prada jacket on EBay? And how many of them will be holding meetings with the local bailiffs when they can’t pay their bills and Mr executive-hubby-in-a-suit hasn’t ridden up on their white horse just yet? Isn’t that the reason that there is a world recession – too much credit hence a ‘credit crunch’?
I’m not suggesting for one moment that all women should burn their wonderbras and queue up on Greeham Common. In fact, quite the opposite. Women must do what they are happy doing. If that’s raising a family, fantastic. If it’s career building, fantastic. If it’s both, fantastic. But on their own terms, not as a clown who constantly needs rescuing. Relationship or no relationship, great. But on equal terms, not to men but to each individual human being, valuing commonalities and differences and therefore respecting those people with different levels of awareness and viewpoints? Stereotyping is actually a form of psychological banter that is used for defending a bigoted position or refusing to see another’s viewpoint.
We all like to dream, and I expect that someones designer dream was fulfilled in Confessions of a Shopaholic. Even I can suspend my belief for an hour and a half and laugh at the comedy stunts. But isn’t it immoral to use blatant advertising techniques in a film that purports to give a message about someone in debt through shopping?