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Consumed: Identity and Anxiety in the Age of Plenty   cover photo

Consumed: Identity and Anxiety in the Age of Plenty 2013


Distributed by Films Media Group, 132 West 31st St., 17th Floor, New York, NY 10001; 800-257-5126
Produced by Journeyman Pictures
Director n/a
DVD, color, 88 min.

General Adult
Environmentalism, Evolution, Future, Global Issues, Marketing, Psychology, Sustainable Living

Date Entered: 10/29/2014

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

As stimuli-seeking mentally restless animals, humans are always looking for something new, innovative or different. From early childhood, we are also told in multiple and ubiquitous ways that products and possessions have both intrinsic and extrinsic value that confer status, security, prestige and wellbeing. By the early 21st century, it appears that we may have learned this lesson all too well. Our drive to acquire and our continuous presence in the marketplace do not appear to have made us individually or societally any healthier or happier. According to the filmmaker, “Our lives have never been richer, yet our need for more seems undiminished.” Further, while globalization surely provides some short-term economic benefits to a few, it is also wreaking havoc on the planet.

In this thought-provoking educational film, originally produced in 2011, a broad overview of rampant consumerism is presented. Rather than looking at the problem from strictly an economic, historical or environmental perspective, the filmmakers instead interview scholars with an interest in psychology. The researchers - Geoffrey Miller, Tim Cooper, Jonathan Chapman, Aimee Plourde, and Alastair McIntosh – describe consumerism as another step in the evolutionary process. Using evolutionary psychology as a tool to understand human behavior, they also see hope for the future. Just as we are susceptible to suggestion and have been indoctrinated through marketing into always wanting more, we may also be able to learn to expect less and to live more lightly. Whether we can do so before we destroy the environment is the lingering question. Narrated by one of the film’s producers, the interviews are interspersed with archival and current advertisements and images of the things we are driven to acquire.

While the film is not a detailed analysis of excessive consumerism, it does present an interesting perspective on the issue. Recommended for general audiences as a starting point for a discussion of a complex and controversial topic.