The primary reason that malls bother me is that i don’t think so much pop culture and watered down fashion should exist and commingle in one place. I cannot bare to look at another Lord of the Rings cross-promotion. I cannot watch my girlfriend try on jeans every fifty feet for three hours anywhere but a mall. I almost cannot stand the ability to comparison shop for video games, Magic cards, stretch jeans, and Pat Benatar cds all at once.anywhere but a mall.
New Jersey, for those of you not in the know, has almost reached mall saturation-point. Really. And, when Elise asked me if i wanted to go shopping today, i had no idea that it would be a multiple store, multiple mall, multiple highway endeavor. NJ needs its malls, because they represent a commercially and spatially sound means of starting up a highly visited business venture in a state that all but refrains from imitating the metro Philadelphia and New York settings that it exists as a suburb to. However, i don’t think that i need them.
There is something distasteful about obviously thirteen year old girls in tube tops and capri pants with little wicker purses trying to catch peoples eye. There is something gut-wrenching about the Disney characters pressed onto black cotton shirts in startling standard alternative store Hot Topic, whose should-be motto was on sale as a witty Tee. Express is hedging their bets heavily on pin stripes and retro-hemmed skirts, while Wet Seal is leading the pack of outlets selling peasant-style blouses in ridiculously busy prints. Aeropostale seems to be convinced that terrycloth, baby animals, and sparkles are the undeniable keys to fashion success – and are willing to offer you an obscenely cheap PDA with your $50 purchase to prove it. And don’t even get me started on how hard i laughed when i looked inside the store that was (nearly fictionally) titled Rave Girl, or about the swimsuit at the Macy’s entrance that appeared to be depicting a 9/11 memorial somewhere just above the crotch.
It’s not that the existence of malls bothers me so much as the ways in which people rely and depend on them. At a time when everything from the songs you hear on the radio to the fashions you see on campus are dictated just as much by brute force marketing as by public opinion, how can a mall be anything other than a virtual cesspool of what corporate America thinks you should buy? Of course they only have a handful of independent albums, of course their size six jeans wouldn’t have ever fit me in my anorexic heyday, and of course the price of Neverwinter Nights is nearly the same at every store we visit. It is not a coincidence, it is a calculation, and every striped polo shirt that you buy means that everything added up just as planned.
If my Communications degree means anything to me, it is the ability to see through corporate curtains to the strings being pulled, even if it also means Elise might never take me shopping again.