Prompt 1: Write a three-to-five page essay that analyzes (examines methodically and in detail the constitution or structure of something, esp. information, typically for purposes of explanation and interpretation) the roles that advertising and consumerism (the protection or promotion of the interests of consumers. 2 often derogatory the preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods) play in your life, using two or more of our assigned readings to aid in your analysis. For example, you could use Benjamin Barber’s “Overselling Capitalism with Consumerism” to discuss your relationship to credit, saving and spending money, etc., and Virginia Postrel’s “In Praise of Chain Stores” to analyze how, why, and where you shop.
You should also make use of Lutz, Woolfolk Cross, and/or Bryson to discuss how you look at and respond to ads and branding. You’ll have to be very rigorous and thorough here, since advertising and branding often appeal to our unconscious drives and motivations. Thus, if you say, “I like Apple products, clothes from Victoria’s Secret, and only drink coffee from Starbucks, but I’m not really susceptible to branding or advertising—I just like those things because they suit me,” I’m going to make a sad face, and sad faces sometimes lead to sad grades. Remember what Bryson says about the role of “creative manipulation” (133) and anxiety in advertising; has either of these things affected the way you value products? Have you been susceptible to the influence of what Lutz identifies as advertisers’ “weasel words”? Have you fallen prey to (or dismissed because you properly identified) the propagandistic tactics of advertisers, which Woolfolk Cross identifies and examines at length?
You can start the essay with an anecdote or even a multi-paragraph narrative showing how you (typically) shop and/or spend money. You could then segue into analysis of your values and behavior as a consumer while describing and commenting on the commercial world that tries to sell you things.