Mallin Rouge: Positive Versus Negative Readings

By: Olivia Hunt

The mall is said to be a transmitter of culture, a shopper's paradise to escape the chaos of daily life in a postmodern world. A mall is a space, which the individual 're-appropriates' in an effort to construct a self, and as a place where a woman might find the opportunity and space to resist the imposition of male values. This view sees a positive transaction between the mall goer and the mall, which is seen to offer more democratic hope and possibility. Malls were even likened to abstract art in that it allows free-play for the viewer, like television is said to do (as abovementioned). Shopping malls are the best place to be unknown and at the same time posses the possibility to make contact with other shoppers.

They offer customers the possibility to be anything or anybody they want to be, it gives them opportunity to be free and independent even if it's just for a passing moment ('Shopping as a Way of Life"). Mall goers are not seen as being foolish to be duped, doped, or deceived.
On the other hand, there is negative reading of the mall as a text, which employs a Marxist approach. Hegemonic domination is believed to be apparent and disseminated through the various political, social and cultural institutions-and such an institution is the shopping mall. Hegemony is hinged on such negative elements as manipulation, control, and dominance. These are said to be at play in the malls when there is "spontaneous consent" by the masses to go and adhere to impositions on social life by a fundamental group dominating them, and this group would be the capitalists (mall owners, in this case). And once hegemony is attained, it must be upheld for the dominant groups narrow needs to be met. Thus, the shopping visit to a mall is a subtle "buying into" and an active involvement with the ideological values of consumerism, consumption, and class structure, which implies that it is a good thing to shop, to buy and to own.

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