There is no compromising the effects of style on an individual, especially a modern American individual. Even the social drop outs who claim to not care in the least about style, avow their individuality through no descript “guilt free” clothing, or clothing that wasn’t made in a foreign sweatshop. From the trendy to the punks to the goths, style is the mode of asserting identity, it is the means by which all of us proclaim our individuality (or lack thereof) and show the world what we want other people to think, and what we think of them. Style is the most visible and the most defining of our visual culture, it is the most absurd and the most everyday.
So it is only fitting that in a society that places such emphasis on an assumed reality, that style would play a large component. Style, like reality, has become the new farce of the entertainment industry. Just like “reality TV” delivers the scripted and manipulated reality of the personal lives of strangers into every living room in the first world, style has become the new mode of entertainment, and the new way in which the entertainment industry has turned towards for approval ratings by appealing to the most basic of cultural characteristics. The society we have built cannot live without style, and so, entertainment has staked its claim in the plentiful real estate of style and as uncovered a modicum of worthy subject matter and transformed it into a booming industry.
This new wave of entertainment glory came hand in hand with the boom of reality TV. In every episode of realistic fabrication that comes with American Idol, The Bachelor and numerous other reality TV shows, there is style. The symbolic nature of clothing and accessories has made of broke many familiar strangers of the reality TV phenomenon. But the fun style can bring through the big bad machine of entertainment does not stop there. Style has its very own shows that tell you what to dress, how to act, how to host a party, design your bedroom, your garden, your spouse. The greatest feat of all was the industries ability to create a network devoted to this mound of crap. The style network is a great idea, don’t get me wrong, just as much as I believe style is important to the formation and assertation of identity, I believe that our chosen modes of entertainment and the creation of such entertainment are fundamental to the human cultural experience. But why are we so eager to accept not style as representation, but style as both form and function.
I confess, I have my guilty pleasures, I thoroughly enjoyed Trading Spaces when it was fresh and funny, and I do get into the whole frenzy of American Idol every now and then; it just seems absurd to me that the ideals and attitudes of runway models, fashion mavens and designer guru’s that were once relegated to an elite group who looked down their noses at the rest of us bumbling fashion victims has not only lost a whole lot of class, but is a integral part of the average persons TV consumption. The dumbed-down versions of interior decorating, personal shoppers and grandiose makeovers are being sold to the public as the be all and end all of the ‘reality’ of life. Style is no longer seen as personal taste and expression, but that which is to be controlled and dominated, a mysterious beast that needs conquering not to mention a cast of characters to help you, worthy of Quixote himself.