Super-Size My Foyer: On Size and Snark of McMansions

Super-Size My Foyer: On Size and Snark of McMansions
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I came upon an article "McMansions: An Architectural Parable on the Death of the American Dream," which points to its originating article "Let Them Eat McMansions! The One Percent, American Inequality, and New-Fashioned American Excess" by Thomas Franks and enjoyed reading both, as they touch on area of study and observation I love to ponder and write on, too. A kicker I think, is that condemning a lack of good taste in others can never be a fully vested opinion, for any writer's own personal taste must by definition be inherently "flawed" as it is singular and unique. Any quest for some unilateral best is in actuality a mutually exclusive search. That being said, aesthetically questionable American architecture -- our homes and houses -- is fabulous fodder for a sociological chat.

I've tackled houses, housing and neighborhood/city planning in a pop sociology piece I did years ago and often press with similar queries when discussing everything from faux foodie endeavors ("Obtuse Cheese: a Lament" on HuffPost) to fashion, in particular my Trendy Wendy series. My most recent endeavor, podcasts for Fashion News and Muse, airing at Civil Discourse Now on Indiana Talks often lean to the fussellian calling out of what I love to call emperor's new clothes.

The sage George Carlin and his take on "stuff" is a great nutshell observation of Americans' penchant for quantity, and I will likewise always invoke the works of the late, great Paul Fussell.

A.A. Gill, of whom I am a fan, just did a fab piece in this vein, "The Performance Anxieties of the Super Rich." I find it utterly fascinating, how easy it is to 1. Make fun of, 2. Pity -- and I mean, really feel sorry for -- these people, for whom obscene schneickloads of money and its spending appear to be (and logic mandates that cannot be the case, ever) the sole foundation of their existence. When consuming in ways that would make even King Midas cringe, these lucky(?) ones morph into cartoon-like consumptive caricatures of themselves and become entertainment fodder, (i.e. Queen of Versailles, "reality shows galore -- what I call the Crystal Fishbowl Effect), their neediness for "things n stuff" nothing more than wealth-enabled, void-filling, insecurity-driven addiction.

But the validity to make the buck (yes, fools and their money should be parted as often as possible) exists on many levels, including the right anyone has to make a good living on something others (all we smug consumers who think we have more sense than anything else) might question or shun. There is no constitutional mandate for good taste, or for anything that requires quality over quantity in our day to day consumption. Take a look at Vogue's mega-selling April issue, with of all things, a Kardashian on the cover. If Anna Wintour blesses it, seems our parameters can be stretched oodles. If she, like Yosemite Sam to his arch nemesis Bugs Bunny, can join them when she realizes she can't beat them, so can just about anyone come 'round that mountain...and from it sell more mags than ever before.

Cash is king, no matter how crumpled the bill.

The only thing I take issue with in the reference article has to do with mention of upper class, which, IMO, can only refer to those who don't work for/make their money. Surprise, surprise, this will also not include the worst of the hedge fund/wall street gamers who damage our real economy with the stroke of a key. Those virtual robber barons work for their money like everyone else, much as we might want to shelve their doings separate from all those who actually produce something. Their progeny, however, all those model-produced offspring, will be upper class, once the bucks have been handed their way -- it's a technicality, nothing more. All others, and most assuredly those chatelains of those bumbling, rambling abodes, are middle class, a.k.a. working class, and not even of the mythical one percent -- those people don't do suburbia. But the fun, the snark, the study, is found indeed in the aspirations to create mega impressions via crass display. Attempts at "upper" "class," old moneyedness is where poignant, sometimes sad and very often misguided, attempts occur. Still, it fascinates -- are not horror films and comedies blockbusters too? -- and, lest we snark too much, in this case on McMansions, let us remember these objects reflect consumers' demand -- our collective taste -- not the other way around.

And just as soon as I try and boast of some superlative insight or immunity to things and stuff myself, I will have thrown a stone at a glass house -- even if it is a two-story Palladian window, even if it's draped in Pepto-mauve and installed over an entry door -- and I bet a crumpled buck you will have too. I say we observe, look for the humor reflected therein (it's there) and continue to try and learn from our own selves. That, doc, is the twicky part.

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