Monday, March 31, 2008

HGTV in HDTV, or, Why I Hate Everyone

No double sinks in the master suite? Well, fiddle-dee-dee!

I’m over 30 and in a relationship, so I spent much of my weekend watching Home and Garden Television. If you ever want to witness everything that is wrong with America, spend a few hours watching materialistic nitwits confuse wants with needs and hurtle toward financial chaos.


There are just so many HGTV options. Want to see a kitchen undergo a stunningly modern update from avocado green to, wait for it...vomit green? Or how about watching a young couple as they adorn their living room with surfboards and fake bamboo? Care to be a witness to a striking furniture rearrangement that shows putrescent floral sofas to their best advantage? Or maybe you’d like to see a guest room go arts-and-crafts style via so much hand-sewing and fussy frippery that you wonder whether these people have anything better to do. (Answer: No. No, they do not.)


But my favorite shows are the ones where young couples shop for houses. Sometimes they want a ready-made house, sometimes they want to renovate. But either way, it’s completely fascinating. It shouldn't be, because watching other people shop usually makes me want to staple-gun my eyelids shut. But it is!


I don’t know why economists spend their days poring over dull charts and graphs. Thirty minutes of “House Hunters” will tell them everything they need to know about the housing market crash, subprime loan disaster, and recession. Each episode starts with an examination of everything wrong with their current home. Usually, it’s “doesn’t have granite and stainless steel all over the kitchen,” which is our generation's answer to avocado green and harvest gold shag carpeting. Or they don't have enough closet space for all the yuppie doodads they never needed in the first place, or it lacks a four-car heated garage complete with built-in Slip n’ Slide.


So the couple troops from house to house, carefully noting the ways in which perfectly fine, nay, adorable homes just aren’t good enough. What they really need to do is tear out a bunch of walls, build a screened-in playroom to accommodate the entire Fisher-Price line of educational toys for their hyper-indulged children, and then install at least two bathrooms for each member of the family. Including the dog.


My favorite was the young married couple in Florida. OK, she’s pregnant and they live in a fourth-floor walkup. Fair enough, it’s time to move. But on closer viewing, these people are shopping exclusively for toddler deathtraps. Tile floors? Sure, Baby’s gonna want to fall down on those when learning to walk. Oooh, how about a pool and a hot tub? Multiple places for Baby to drown! And let’s pick the place behind the golf course, so Baby can get beaned on the head by the CEO of GimmeMore Industries as he finishes up eighteen holes and four martinis.


I guess I just don’t get it. What’s so wrong with a cute three-bedroom house in a safe neighborhood near the city? How could such a nice, wholesome place to live possibly need $140,000 in renovations? How could anyone turn up their noses at a fenced yard, two-car garage, good schools, and other standard-issue American Dream items?


Instead, everybody goes over budget, confusing what they need (a roof over their heads) with what they want (a roof over their heads that’s much nicer than what their friends have). And that’s why we’ve got a housing crash, credit crunch, and recession. Because people have no clue how to be happy with what they have, so they buy more than they need. Because they’re somehow entitled to the luxury and status that earlier generations would save up and wait for.


As for us? Tim was inspired to do some spring cleaning. Hopefully he won’t staple-gun plastic palm fronds to his walls or make a faux Magic Eye painting from his vacation slides. I was inspired to go home, look around my shabby little studio, and feel absurdly grateful. I’m glad it’s not a stainless steel McMansion in an exurb, shoving me towards a life of acquisition and the fear-laden ambition I’d need to sustain all of that pointless stuff. I don't see any reason to knock myself out attaining the sort of life I never wanted.


Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to hand-stitch some faux stained-glass curtains and use a nail gun to perform a home lobotomy.

16 comments:

Kristen S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristen S. said...

You ever go out to Great Falls (the town, not the park)? Cause, man, that illustrates the needs vs. wants entirely. There's some monstrosities out there, and I can't imagine anyone that has less than 10 family members living in any of those places.

Me, I'll take a broke-down double-wide if it's sitting on at least 5 acres of land.

Justin said...

Kristen - Great Falls is a place where I imagine that at least most of the families can afford it. That is, they're not "hurtling toward financial chaos". Though I'm sure there are a few living beyond their means, here and there..

Shannon - you're in a relationship? Damnit! :)

I'd love stainless steel everything, but right now my white... I don't even know what material it is... my white countertops and my red $60 from Target microwave suit me just fine. I think there's something to be said abot investing in your home, since it's where you spend a bunch of time, but there's also something to be said for fiscal prudence.

imperialme said...

Hippie. It's our duty as Americans to spend ridiculous amounts of money on stupidy. We pay $500 for cell phones, spend obscene amounts of cash on clothes, cars and accessories for both, and I personally have rung up a small country's GNP in bar tabs by now. It's what we do. Hell, it's what we've done since the 50's. I say spend more. I need granite countertops and oak floors for my 500 square foot condo. Ooh, and I'm pretty sure I can fit a hot tub into the "den".

Shannon said...

Kristen - I don't really have an issue with rich people buying big houses. I get annoyed when normal, middle-class people buy huge houses that are way beyond their means, then complain that they're poor and that the government should bail them out.

Justin - of course people should take care of their homes, but if you were an HGTV sort you'd rip out your white kitchen and replace it with granite and stainless steel. Which I guarantee will look hopelessly dated in 10 years.

Imperial Me, a hot tub? Were you inspired by the Florida couple to turn your home into a baby deathtrap?

Kristen S. said...

Many of the folks with those houses in Great Falls can afford them, many cannot. I thought that's what you were referring to? Having "too much house" for your income?

Mike said...

I just re-did my bedroom in granite and stainless. Top that, yuppies!

ImperialMe is right. Our economy depends on people buying more useless garbage than they could possibly need. Otherwise, GimmeMore's CEO won't be able to afford that ivory back scratcher he's been wanting.

Shannon said...

Kristen, are you expecting logic and consistency again? Sheesh!

Mike, don't ever tell Imperial Me that's he's right. Even when he is (occasionally) right.

imperialme said...

HA! And HA! again. I love it when I'm right.

And simply having the hottub doesn't constitute a baby deathtrap. She can barely get off the couch, I'm pretty sure she wouldn't be able to scale the sides.

Tina said...

Congrats for hitting the nail right on the head. My 22 year old sister in law thinks she should have a 4 bedroom mc mansion 0 in spite of the fact that she didn't bother to go beyond her highschool education and has NO FREAKEN JOB. Her parents are supposed to loan her the money to build this!!! As her grandfather has already given her the land to put it on. Gimmie a break.

jeffro said...

Instead of buying more square footage to be congested with items that they don't need, why don't these people just keep the space they've got, and get rid of all of that crap they don't need and end up throwing away anyway when they move to their "dream house." Square footage created, no charge. Oh, wait, but then there wouldn't be a show!

Shannon said...

Imperial Me, I would assume Ava will learn how to walk at some point. No mind, the very idea of you owning a hot tub kills me. Very Leisure Suit Larry.

Tina, yikes. I couldn't imagine asking my family for a free meal, let alone a freakin' HOUSE.

Jeffro, I think people's stuff expands to accommodate the space they have. Having more space simply generates more stuff.

Nick said...

You are so right Shannon. HGTV has gone completely off the rails. They're out of touch with the real people. Gone are the charming little shows like Decorating Cents and Small Space, Big Style to be replaced by bloated Yuppie greedfests like House Hunters and What You Get For the Money. I swear I'm going to sucker punch the next princess who whines "It's a little small." House Hunters in Nicaragua? Yeah, right. I'm never going to VISIT there let alone buy a house there. Only the greedy bankers who caused the current financial meltdown can afford to move there now.

Anonymous said...

I'm watching Landscaper's Challenge on HDTV right now. This couple in their late 20s, early 30s live in a huge, gorgeous house in the fracking Hollywood Hills. It's gotta be worth a million minimum. Now they are landscaping their back yard with a budget of $75,000. I really want to know what they do for a living to be able to afford this stuff. I live in a house we bought for $112,000 four years ago and I think it's adorable. I could have paid another 100,000 to get the same house in a trendier neighborhood, or paid 200,000 more for the better neighborhood AND bigger house that we didn't need.

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