Mediated, Part Two: The Wedding Industrial Complex

Finally! A wild blog post appears.

So we have a general idea of what mediation entails. Events (capital E) – fictional or “real” – are filmed, tailored, snipped, and spliced together to present us with a “mediated” view. We see events through particular lenses – and more significantly, we are aware of those lenses, of particular “cultures,” in a way that most people in the past were not. We have what de Zengotita calls a “God’s-eye view,” seeing everything, and what results is that we become used to being addressed. After all, media – whether we’re talking about Facebook, news reports, the weather channel, feature films, video games, TV shows, commercials, magazine covers, and so on (and the list does stretch on) – wants our attention. There is only so much to go around, only so much the human brain can process. We are used to the flattery intrinsic to mediation.

All of that – OK, whatever.

What does it look like?

Say your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere–the middle of Saskatchewan, say. You have no radio, no cell phone, nothing to read, no gear to fiddle with. You just have to wait. Pretty soon you notice how everything around you just happens to be there. […] Nothing here was designed to affect you. It isn’t arranged so that you can experience it, you didn’t plan to experience it, there isn’t any screen, there isn’t any display, there isn’t any entrance, no brochure, nothing special to look at, no dramatic scenery or wildlife, no tour guide, no campsites, no benches, no paths, no viewing platforms with natural-historical information posted under slanted Plexiglas lectern things–whatever is there is just there, and so are you. And your options are limited. You begin to get a sense of your real place in the great scheme of things. Very small.

(See, I told you the list stretched on!)

A sort of sub-conscious awareness of this is embedded even in our casual, everyday language, according to de Zengotita. Consider the following common phrase: “The reality is …” What this phrase means is that real things are not optional; the “reality” is something that can’t be avoided and must be addressed. (The implication, of course, is that things that are optional are not real.)

Those of us in the developed world have the luxury of choosing between options. Multiple entities (mostly consumer businesses) are competing for our (limited) attention, so we are used to being addressed and used to being surrounded by optionality. This is not true of other places and other peoples:

[…] Millions of human beings are trapped in realities so restrictive, so desperate, that the possibility of applying to them what I have to say in this book does not arise at all.

But the issue of the trend remains, for it is global. And so does the issue of mediated reality in relation to the immiseration of these millions, not as it is lived, but as it is experienced by the rest of us, by privileged citizens of the overdeveloped world who can choose to deal with it. Or not.

We can even look at this from a historical perspective. Let’s talk about the “wedding industrial complex” (tongue in cheek, but not so strange as it might appear). Before the nineteenth century, weddings in the U.S. were small, private affairs conducted in the presence of family. If there was food, it was cooked by the mother of the bride. Women would choose a nice dress to wear, but it had to be a re-useable dress. They couldn’t just buy a one-time dress for a special occasion. They were constrained by the lack of options, restricted by what we would call now “the reality of the situation.”

It was around the mid-1800s that “weddings” as business, as Event, became a Thing. (More on “Things” and “Whatever” in another post.) If you remember your history lessons, you might note that this coincided with the Industrial Revolution. With the rise of marketing and cheap manufacturing, manufacturers had to figure out ways to sell people things they didn’t need.

So they sold an image. The white dress, the flowers, the catering, invitations, the guests you barely or didn’t at all know–that whole idea that we are so familiar with, that’s where it got its start. Queen Victoria’s white dress. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s or so that the familiar image really coalesced. It was the creation of marketing geniuses, vendors who had a product and needed to create demand.

Everything about the wedding industrial complex is “optional.” Decisions about what kind of flowers, dresses, bridesmaids, venues, caterers, DJs – so many decisions, so much pressure. The image of the perfect wedding is impossible to attain. It drives people, especially women, absolutely nuts, which you might have noticed if you tune in for more than two seconds to a show like Bridezillas. Because, as de Zengotita put it, mediation is why “the trailer is always better than the movie” – the mediated vision of Wedding is always better than your lowercase-w wedding.

Even anti-weddings are optional. Want to wear a black dress? Want to have your wedding in a bar? Want to have everything homemade? Want to go vintage and evoke “nostalgia” for a bygone era? (Never mind how strange it is that we can be “nostalgic” for something we never experienced except through media. But we all “remember” the 50s, even though we weren’t alive then.) That’s your choice, of course. Using money and products (the “consumer vote”) as a way of identifying yourself – it’s all a matter of navigating the choices, expressing yourself.

Of which more anon.

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