Retail therapy: film, art, books and more for the Christmas shopping season | Culture

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Retail therapy: film, art, books and more for the Christmas shopping season | Culture


George A Romero’s 1968 horror film Night of the Living Dead is one of the most inspired critiques of consumerism in film history. It’s about a zombie uprising caused by a virus from outer space, which causes dead people to rise from the grave, driven by a hunger for living human flesh. The film satirizes 1960s America’s consumerism: people existing in a catatonic state of hunger and thirst and hostility; a metaphor made explicit in the later Dawn of the Dead (1978), which takes place in a shopping mall. Now, in the age of social media, it is even more relevant. All of us scroll endlessly through our phones, poring over material surreptitiously compiled by commercial algorithms. People do it on public transport and even walk on the street… like zombies. Peter Bradshaw


Placing a bridge … Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Photo: Nintendo

Most games are materialistic: they tend to revolve around the accumulation of resources, be it money or experience points or increasingly better weapons and armor. But there’s one game that really communicates the joy of shopping, rather than the drudgery of it: Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Every day when you walk into Animal Crossing’s local store Nook’s Cranny, there’s a different small selection of beautifully modeled furniture; when sahara the carpet seller camel arrives it feels like an event. It’s satisfying to browse the ever-changing wares and choose what to spend your hard-earned bells on, then take them home and display them. There’s no use for Animal Crossing’s decorative housewares, but that’s kind of the point: you buy them because they look cute, not because they’ll give you a benefit. Keza MacDonald


Raise the bargain...Hang Linton.
Raise the bargain… Hang Linton. Photo: Jen Photo

The planet is dying, the wallet is tightening and for the umpteenth year everyone in the family has agreed that there is nothing anyone really needs for Christmas. And yet we all fill our online baskets as usual, convinced that we’ve found “just a few” essential bargains. Capturing the vicious cycle of this 20% off food frenzy, Leeds newcomer Hang Linton Sale shares a cautionary tale about a shoulder-hop pop-funk beat: “Discount upon discount / But don’t discount the fact not / We bought it all for cheap / with the sweat of someone’s back”. Will we be more circumspect next year? Hopefully. But until then, this danceable number cuts to the cold heart of consumerism. Jenessa Williams


White Noise by Don Delillo

The great Don DeLillo’s visionary 1985 novel, White Noise, – adapted into a film by Noah Baumbach this winter – tells us about the holy trinity of shopping: “Mastercard, Visa, American Express”. Brand names are repeated like mantras. Children whisper “Toyota Celica” in their sleep. Grown men stand stunned and amazed at supermarket displays: “There were six kinds of apples, there were exotic melons in various pastels. It seemed that everything was in season, sprayed, burned, bright.” There are huge copious lists of everything. There is always more goods and always the possibility to buy more. But there is never a hope of escaping the terror of mortality. No matter how much shopping DeLillo’s characters do to distract themselves, they know they are always moving toward death. It is both the bleakest and the funniest examination of consumerism that money can buy. Sam Jordison


Sold out… Antoine Watteau's L'Enseigne de Gersaint.
Sold out… Antoine Watteau’s L’Enseigne de Gersaint. Photo: Alamy

As you struggle through crowded shops to count the Christmas coins, picture this: L’Enseigne de Gersaint, a dream of shopping as elegant, luxurious pleasure, painted around 1720 by Jean-Antoine Watteau, one of the most seductive artists who ever lived. Watteau made L’Enseigne as a shop sign for an art dealer in Paris, and it must have stopped buyers in their tracks. As a celebration of art as commerce, it anticipates Warhol by 240 years. Watteau surpasses every perfume ad in the way he makes shopping look sexy. Women’s silk dresses sparkle as they exercise their taste in choosing paintings for the mansion, which shop workers pack. Watteau revels in the comedy and sensuality of life, but he died in 1721 and this tender advertisement is his last breath. Jonathan Jones

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