Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Kitsch & Culture

Posted by metaphorical on 25 November 2007

If you need to encapsulate the entire American Christmas experience in 20 minutes, you could hardly do better than to spend your time at Fountains of Wayne.

In turn, the Fountains of Wayne experience is so weird that if you have to describe it in a sentence, you could hardly do better than the one above. It’s a place that sells outdoor furniture and other stuff during the regular year, and Christmas stuff during the season. But 30 years ago it began to create life-sized Christmas-themed dioramas. The served their intended effect — to get more people into the store — and then took on a life of their own. Downstairs there’s a fairly normal set of incredibly crafted displays.

But upstairs, the displays are beyond kitsch. Not all are about Christmas — a Parisian rodent chef cooks dinner; a pirate cove paradise hideaway, repleat with grass-skirted women. But most are.

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There’s Santa playing poker at a casino; snorkling in shark-infested waters; running for political office; sleeping in on Christmas Eve (as Ms Santa waves a calendar at him to no avail); surviving on the tv show “Survivor”; and riding a jetski while Ms Claus sunbathes. You can find Santa waiting for dinner at a sushi bar that’s also, for some reason, a hangout for Harley Davidson bikers.

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Fourtains of Wayne is such a weird place that a rock band chose its name for its own. (I don’t know how well-known they are nationally, except for a 2003 breakout hit, “Stacy’s Mom.”) The place itself has been featured on Roadside America.

The thing that makes Fountains of Wayne such as exceptionally weird place for me, and ultimately representative of more than just a uniquely American blend of kitsch and commerce — and make no mistake about it, a place that sells $1200 artificial Christmas trees is about commerce — is that its owners care almost as much for the religous meaning of Christmas as the commercial and kitschy ones. Various other dioramas depict the Three Wise Men and Joseph and Mary in the stables.

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I don’t really know what to make of it. I generally don’t have much regard for Christian values as such. They’re either the right values to hold or not, and if right, they’re only degraded by not being held for their own sake.

Then too, some people find out-of-control Christmas-shopping-mania to be inconsistent with the core Christian values behind the Bible stories of respecting the poor and throwing the moneylenders out of the temple. Fountains of Wayne doesn’t have that problem. There are collection pots to help the local poor, and for the rest, their Christmas values can presumably be discounted 15% — 20% with an Internet coupon — along with everything else in the store. Come on down.

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One Response to “Kitsch & Culture”

  1. Don’t forget it’s also appeared in a couple of episodes of The Sopranos.

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