Confessions of a Shopaholic

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Poster

Let us for a moment dismiss the string of adjectives associated with this film – silly but charming, superficial, mediocre and lighter than air – and focus, instead, on the core dilemma around which the "comedy" revolves.

The heart of this story is her abjection.

It’s a variation of the fish-out-of-water tale. In this case, of a woman so self-conscious of her perceived shortcomings, hyper-sensitive to the prospect of being caught out of her depth, that she continuously finds herself at odds with herself, ever vigilant against the horror of humiliation that she turns to another source of comfort, one that the film calls an addiction. And it is precisely this love for shopping that keeps the cycle turning, as if she were stuck on a roller-coaster that refused to stop, tossing her at its will, leaving her helpless in its iron embrace.

The fact that she’s a woman in a man’s world is what "allows" this to be a comedy. Were the protagonist a male, it would merely be awkward bordering on the morose or, worse, an embarrassing exercise in the juvenile, precisely because of his failure to be a man. And it is precisely her insecurity that Madison Avenue plays upon, providing what feels like an escape – as well as an object for her passion – that leaves her trapped under the weight of accumulation.

Caught on the other side of Lady Liberty.

Brown Shoes

As the film opens, our protagonist, Rebecca Bloomwood, will narrate the origins of her compulsion. For it was when she was a little girl that she learned the difference between "real prices" and "mommy prices," the difference between bright and shiny (even if it only lasted for three weeks) and brown things that would last forever. And as she tells this story, we will see the other side of that awful lesson: her sense of poverty and estrangement, as if condemned to a life on the margins, unable to want anything for herself. As if her desire itself were put on lockdown, even as she watched all the other girls squeal with delight over what their mommies seemed only too happy to buy for them.

As little Rebecca sits there with her frumpy clothes (bought at "mommy" discount) and the plastic beads parading as something they are not, we are witness to a defining moment in her young life. For it speaks to the dilemma that all parents face when raising a child, which is: how to provide her with a sense of security and belonging, as well as the freedom and autonomy to define herself without shame. And through our protagonist, we see the failure to provide just that, normally unrecognized by others and, as a consequence, usually blamed on the "difficult" character of the young child herself.

Life is a Swap Meet

And it’s not only her mother that’s obsessed with "mommy" prices. Her father is champion of the same virtue, as well. For reasons unknown to us, it seems to have become one of the defining features of their marriage. So, on more than a single occasion, we will see him perform his favorite magic trick used to punctuate the stories and life lessons he’s prone to tell. Like the time the family was at the flea market, where he used the idea of bargain-hunting as a metaphor for life. Holding up a quarter, he pronounces that you never know what great treasures you’ll find. And for twenty-five cents, no less.

In narrating her life’s story, the (silent) accusation leveled against her parents is precisely the danger of making frugality king, as if "saving money" were the most important thing in the world. For unbeknownst to them, in clinging to this supposed virtue, they have already declared their allegiance to what they pretend to disavow. A (negative) relationship to what they really want and which rules their lives in more ways than one. One that leaves them poverty stricken, financially and emotionally.

Dream World

For it was precisely from this sense of poverty that her fantasy-world was born.

But when I looked into shop windows,
I saw another world.
A dreamy world full of perfect things.
A world where grown-up girls got what they wanted.

And as if to underscore the neediness that underlies her fantasy life, its opposition to the frugal environment which was her home, we are also introduced to the demon that will haunt her throughout this story: the debt that will accumulate as she pursues the ever elusive ideal that seeks to compensate for what she was denied. For adults no longer have mommies and daddies to frustrate their desires, and companies selling "credit" are more than happy to comply.

Put differently, when a child is robbed of her own ground to stand on, forced to rely upon her imagination to build a world that speaks to her own, she is also left dependent upon a currency that belongs to another. In the process, she gets sucked into a circuit of encounters that leaves her forever depleted. And this is the irony with which Rebecca has only become too familiar: the more she allows her desire free reign, the larger her debt grows. Which can only leave her feeling like she’s living on the edge, forever fighting against her own dissolution.

Heaven

But when she allows herself a trip to heaven, it’s pure bliss. Better than anything she might find in the real world, including a man. So, while other girls might dream of finding their one and only, Rebecca’s heaven is found in nothing other than the experience of shopping, itself.

You see, a man will never love you or treat you as well as a store.
If a man doesn’t fit, you can’t exchange him seven days later …
And a store always smells good.
A store can awaken a lust for things you never even knew you needed.
And when your fingers grasp those shiny new bags …
Oh, yes!  Oh,
YES!!

Her quasi-orgasmic thrill is but a gesture at the kind of deep-seated passion associated with any addiction, one that’s rarely allowed to show its face, even in the movies, except in the high drama of romance or, alternatively, the tragedy and horror of life gone wrong. For in "polite" society, such things are rarely spoken of which, in itself, helps contribute to the malady that is the focus of this story. For a life without passion is one reduced to nothingness, and it is precisely against such emptiness that Rebecca strives. Even if it means escaping into a world of dreams.

Such is the power of fantasy, when it works. It also demonstrates the power of the corporate machine that plays with her desire. But since the root of the problem, signaled in the film’s focus on addiction, is the problem of substitution, we need only replace the "substance" that comes closest to our own compulsions to get a sense of what she’s talking about. For in the end, addiction is about the imperative that operates from a fundamental sense of lack. Seeking to compensate for and replenish what has been lost or stolen. Leaving a deep hunger in its wake.

The Girl in the Green Scarf

And so, at the film begins, just as Rebecca rushes towards the interview for her dream job, a scarf in a storefront window will catch the corner of her eye, calling out to her as the accessory she absolutely needs, not only for the interview itself but for her wardrobe, as a whole. And as she stands in front of a mirror debating about the wisdom of this purchase, even the mannequin will begin to speak, giving material substance to her inner world, identifying all the reasons why she shouldn’t walk away.

It would become part of a definition of your psyche …
It would make your eyes look bigger.
You’d wear it with everything.
You would walk into that interview confident.

But even as she decides to go ahead with the purchase, the drama – and comedy -begins. For she’s already suffocating under a mountain of debt, and must split her purchase five ways between the cash she has on hand and the innumerable credit cards already at her disposal. And when even this is not enough, she’ll run out to a vendor on the street, offering to buy all his hot dogs with a check, if only he’ll give her twenty dollars in change, saying it’s an emergency, that she’s buying a scarf for her dying aunt. And it’s in the midst of this self-manufactured drama that she’ll meet the man who later comes to be an important person in her life.

He is also the man who helps her out of her quandry, in effect, spending way more than the cost of his hurried meal. And when he explains this baffling behavior to her – noting that the cost of a thing is very different than what it’s actually worth – we (and she) will be introduced to one of the lessons that will come to inhabit the center of Rebecca’s story. For even though she doesn’t recognize it yet, much of the drama that follows will revolve around precisely this point: what is it that she truly values? And what is it that she really wants?

Yellow Brick Road

As if conspiring to set the stage for this kind of reevaluation, Rebecca will soon discover that her dream job at Alette (the fashion magazine) has already been filled. And just as the disheartening news is relayed to her, the desk clerk will point out the one who was hired in her place, a woman who, in Rebecca’s eyes, is the very definition of perfection, striding down the hallway with the kind of confidence mere mortals could only dream of possessing. What’s more, she’s got the longest legs in the world. All of which leaves Rebecca shamed in the face of her aspirations, as if her ambitions were but a measure of her insignificance.

In consolation, the clerk will inform Rebecca of another set of interviews being conducted in the building, by Successful Saving magazine. Certainly not her first choice. And since it only pales in comparison with her desire to work for Alette, she balks at the prospect of working for a financial magazine. Until she is reminded that both belong to the same publishing family: if all goes well, a job at Successful Saving could lead to the other position upon which her heart was already set.

A stepping stone on her very own Yellow Brick Road.

Interview

Which is how she comes to meet Luke Brandon face-to-face, again.

But since she’s neither interested in nor particularly qualified for the position in question, it quickly becomes clear – to her as well as to him – that she’s a fraud, merely feigning interest in Successful Saving. And so, her fumbling and her cover stories will turn into red-faced shame when his assistant brings in the scarf she had said was for a dying relative, hurriedly hidden away before entering the room, making it clear to all that everything had been one magnificent, even if awkward, performance.

And so, as she back peddles out of the room, we – and she – are left with a sinking feeling. One that will become even more familiar as the story progresses. For Rebecca is forced to confront what feels like the ever widening gulf between who she is and where she wants to be and, more than this, the awful contortions to which she continually subjects herself in an effort just to fit in. Failing to impress the man interviewing her for a job that she didn’t even want.

How did she get herself into that position?

Desperation

When she returns home that night, and after managing to escape the umpteenth bill collector on the phone, both she and her roommate will brave the stack of credit card statements that have been hounding her for so long. Over a bottle of tequila, they will calculate the numbers, forcing Rebecca to face the awful truth about the state of numbers her life has reached. She’s over $16,000 in debt.

Obviously, the prospect of remaining jobless is unthinkable. So, buoyed by the liquor that’s flowing through their veins, her roommate suggests that she shoot for the moon: write a "proposal" for Alette magazine. An article about fashion that shows off what she’s made of and what she can accomplish, when she sets her mind to it. Which is exactly what she proceeds to do, writing a piece about what a woman’s shoes tells us about her sense of security – and her self.

And to top off their evening, Rebecca will write another letter. This one addressed to the uptight editor of Successful Savings, telling him exactly what he can do with the job she didn’t get. And to underscore what she really thinks of him, the letter will be accompanied by a $20 bill so he can buy a some decent clothes for himself.

Need it be said – for what would a comedy be if it weren’t for communications gone wrong and massive screw-ups? – that the letters will be crossed, sent to the unintended recipients? That Alette magazine will become the object of her wrath and the editor for the job she never really wanted would receive her proposal, instead? As if fate had intervened, once again, seeking to destroy her dreams and forcing her to live with what doesn’t even count as second-best.

Sprawled Panic

Which is how, in the not too distant future, Rebecca would come to find herself splayed across a conference table surrounded by serious-looking men and women, frantically grabbing for the telephone in her boss’ hand, much to her co-worker’s horror and fright.

For, as surprising as it may sound, the unintended recipient of her fashion piece,  the uptight editor, was actually impressed with the proposal meant for another. In fact, the entire staff was in the midst of celebrating her new column, financial advice from The Girl in the Green Scarf, when the phone call came. The kind of call she had become quite adept at avoiding. Except now, the debt collector was escalating his own tactics, chasing her down at work rather than only at home.

And so, in order to avoid further shame and embarrassment – to maintain the barrier between public success and her private shame – she’ll invent another lie, telling her boss that the man on the phone is a stalker, a former boyfriend who’s incapable of leaving her alone. And in this way, she manages to kill two birds with one stone. For not only does the deception protect her from the debt collector’s harassment, it also helps her avoid confronting the fact that she’s now being paid to give financial advice, despite the actual state of her bank account.

Against a Sea of Grey

But lest we dismiss Rebecca Bloomwood as a hypocrite or a poor excuse for a human being, it’s worth remembering that a comedy such as this works precisely because we’re asked to empathize with its protagonist. We find her dilemmas funny – and embarrassing – precisely because we are invited to identify with her, projecting our own insecurities onto another. And it is through the safety of distance that this other acts out the humiliations of our ordinary lives. For in the end, her body gives voice to the awkwardness that resides in us all, whether we are willing to admit it to ourselves, or not.

That is what the "slap-stick" is all about.

Through the artifice of comic exaggeration, it makes plain the seemingly impossible task of juggling two worlds, the one within and the one without. And it is through physical comedy – a body that finds itself out-of-place and beyond control – that we are able to see the conflict that lies deep within. The two faces of psyche. One plagued by uncertainty and doubt, unable to recognize its more public half, in this case, The Girl in the Green Scarf, who already shares her home.

If we hadn’t already noticed, she is a splash of color in an otherwise sea of grey, inadvertently turning her difference into a crippling sense of self-consciousness and doubt. As if the qualities that mark her individuality were also her very own prison, forever unable to live up to an inherited expectation that she learn how to behave like everyone else.

Googling for Answers

Which is how, quite unexpectedly, her boss also comes to be her teacher.

For when she receives her first assignment, specifically, when she is told her first attempt at writing (plagiarized from Money for Dummies) was too boring, her boss will remind her why he accepted her "proposal" in the first place. Which was her unique perspective, the unexpected angle she brought to analyzing ordinary experience. But despite the pep talk, she still feels at a loss, which is how she later comes to be caught searching Google for the "correct" answer. Given her state of mind, and what can only be seen as a long-held view about her own incompetence, Rebecca immediately assumes that she’ll have lost her job.

But despite her fears, he uses this as an opportunity to elaborate upon what he meant when he described her perspective as unique. And he will read from the proposal (originally intended for another) that had originally set the wheels of this story in motion.

Security can mean different things to different people.
For some, it’s going to a party wearing the right shoes.
This might leave you feeling secure for an evening,
but have a crippling effect on you in later life …

For him, this simple use of metaphor is nothing short of extraordinary. For she spoke to the issue of "security" by drawing upon the kind of experience with which all of us can relate. And in introducing this concept by way of the ordinary, she also set the stage for a discussion of different kinds of security, or the misconceptions that cloud our judgment when it comes to our own safety and protection. Of the unrecognized costs associated with chasing that temporary "high."

Ironically, this is a lesson that Rebecca had yet to fully appreciate, herself.

Interrogating The Man

Ironic, too, is the accumulation of forces that puts him in the position of "teaching" her what was original and insightful about her own writing, the conspiracy of silence that left her uncertain in her own shoes. But if we think about it, the reason why she might be surprised is that she’s never found reason – nor has she ever been told – to consider her perspective unusual, much less worthy of praise. For it comes to her naturally.

Which is one of the reasons why they take a fieldtrip to a crowded hall in which she finds herself sticking out like a sore thumb. Through his prompting, she will ask the Head Honcho how much he earns; she also pushes him to explain why he would award himself and his cronies enormous bonuses while those who have invested in him were asked to accept a loss.

The lesson, of course, has to do with the fundamentally unequal relationships that keep the Moneyed going, a lesson which Rebecca will use to inform her column on department store credit cards and APRs, including the rates at which they charge their customers. It will also inspire her to describe her outrage upon discovering that a recent acquisition was not what had been advertised, deliberately misled into believing she was getting something other than what was being offered. So, not only do "they" operate within a context of inequality, they’re cheaters, too.

Which goes a long way to explain Rebecca’s constant state of debt and depletion.

Waitress

But just because she begins to find success at the magazine doesn’t mean that everything falls into place overnight. For old habits die hard, sometimes requiring months, if not years, to learn how to undo them.

And so, despite what for us are clear signs of her rising star – the praise she receives from her boss and others, the fan mail she has begun receiving from readers of her column, and an invitation to speak on a television show – she will continue to be plagued by doubt, seemingly unable to stand her ground.

Symbolic of this is the moment she finds herself a waitress at the celebratory Ball to which she had been especially invited, a mix-up due in part to a wardrobe mishap, leaving her looking like the others serving the honored guests. But because this plays into her own feeling that she doesn’t quite belong, she finds herself acting out the role as if it were her own. Caught, once again, feeling like a fish out of water, kowtowing to those who only seem more confident and able than she.

Shopaholics Anonymous

Another site of this struggle are the meetings of Shopaholics Anonymous she has begun attending, the result of an ultimatum set down by her roommate. And it’s during one of those meetings, when she’s invited to tell her story, that we witness the dangers of exposing the passions and desires that underlie her compulsion. For in reciting the nature of her pleasures she inadvertently undermines the resolve of the entire group, reminding them – and herself – what was so addictive about their shopping compulsions in the first place.

It’s beautiful!
The sheen of silk draped across a mannequin.
The smell of new Italian leather shoes.
The rush you feel when you swipe your card … and it’s approved!
Isn’t that the best feeling in the world?
Don’t you just want to shout it from the mountaintops?
You feel so alive, and confident, and happy!

Not only is it a celebration of what is beautiful, it also points to the feelings elicited within herself by the experience of shopping: the experience of being approved (and no longer being denied), as well as the vibrancy and confidence that her acquisitions provide. Needless to say, it also speaks to her emotional state when not shopping or experiencing the glow of her latest triumph. Which makes it clear that this story of addiction is less about the exploitations of commerce than one woman’s struggle against the entanglements of desire, the roots of which reach back further than the mind can see.

De-cluttering

Which also explains the difficulty she has in putting an end to her obsession, despite the obvious trauma and pain it brings into her life. For if her life is already experienced as empty and defined by absence, how can she realistically be expected to just give up the only thing that has ever brought her pleasure? The only thing that has fed her dreams and provided her with a semblance of happiness?

Nevertheless, at the behest of her roommate, she will attempt to de-clutter her life, getting rid of those belongings she doesn’t really need. Her new watchwords, taken from a gift DVD, also from her roommate, are "control and simplicity." And her new mantra to help resist the urge to shop, Do I really need need this?

But because none of this gets at the root of the problem, she will find it next to impossible to comply. After all, these are objectifications of her desiring self, and getting rid of them is nothing short than an amputation. And so, her "de-cluttering" will making liberal use of a vacuum cleaner, instead. Her belongings squished into a closet and hidden from view, as if she actually believed that what has been stashed away no longer exists, as if the force with which what is repressed will not wreak its own form of revenge. Like a dam that’s asked to carry more weight than it was built to withstand.

Bad Investment

Which is not to say that Luke Brandon, her boss and the object of her growing affection, is not without fault, either. For it is upon her advice that they will go shopping to buy him an outfit more befitting his position. Which is also where she will discover, much to her surprise and delight, that he knows her language, too. (You speak Prada!)

And when she asks why he dresses the way he does, she will learn the reasons for his less-than-professional appearance, much of it having to do with a certain form of resistance, of wanting to succeed on his own terms rather than being defined by others. And through this narration of his life story, she will learn that he is also haunted, particularly by the reputation that accompanies his family’s name: the estrangement between mother and father he’s had to endure, and the parental (and quasi-incestuous) expectations that weigh heavily on him, as their only son.

So, when he asks her for her opinion of him, she will find herself in the unusual – and welcomed – position of passing judgment on another, rather than herself. And as they stand facing the mirror, the precision and insight he has come to appreciate about her wit will turn its focus on him, instead, seemingly without mercy.

As an investment, you pretty much suck.
You’re a workaholic.
You put in all these hours, but you don’t reap the rewards.
It goes into someone else’s pocket.

The lesson, of course, is this: despite his privileged position, he is not free from the curse of addiction and the kind of demons that hound other addicts, either. For work itself can become an addiction, most evident when it leaves the addict depleted and worn. In other words, the real debt that addicts suffer isn’t merely the accumulation of unpaid bills and the deficit of cash, but the shrinking well of one’s spirit and the desiccation of one’s soul. For in turning over the rewards of one’s work to another is nothing other than a form of self-annihilation, no different from giving up one’s energy to a cheat who’s more than happy to take it as his own.

Public Humiliation

The see-saw between Rebecca’s successes and failures will continue, each growing in magnitude, until that fateful moment when public and private meet in the glaring light of day. For just when she’s beginning to enjoy the glow of adoration, when she sits in front of a live TV audience as the author of the overnight sensation, The Girl in the Green Scarf, her nemesis – representative of the demon that’s been haunting her – shows up there, as well. So, when the show’s host turns to the audience for questions, all her dirty laundry is aired for everyone to hear – reading aloud the endless list of excuses for her inability to settle her debt – the shocked gasps of the audience an audible measure of the depth of her humiliation.

"Currently in the hospital with gallstones"
"Check is in the mail," 14 times
"Check is lost in the mail," 14 times
"Recovering from a chemical fruit acid peel"
"Called back for second tour of duty … in Basra"

Which of these excuses is true? Are any of them?
Will the real Rebecca Bloomwood please stand up?

Which, of course, gives rise to a long-deferred confrontation between Rebecca and the man she was beginning to love. For he, too, has been misled by her deceptions borne of insecurity and doubt, not least of all, by the story about her "stalker" that refused to leave her alone.

Confrontation and Confession

Fortunately, both will find the courage to fight: she finding a way to overcome her shame to challenge him, to refuse his stalking away into anger, and he finding a way to contain the hurt of being lied to, believing in their relationship enough to state his incomprehension. And although she had not been looking for a relationship she now finds herself in the midst of an unexpected battle. And through this meeting of wills, she will also find herself in the position of having to explain what it is that underlies her compulsion, his exasperation serving as the impetus to put that obsession into words.

Why do you shop?
Just for once in your life, tell me the truth!
– Because when I shop, the world gets better.
– The world is better.
– And then it’s not … and I need to do it again.

It’s a truth she’s never been forced to name, which in itself, is a revelation. At least for us, if not for her. But as we quickly discover, there’s more to come.

Well, what about honesty?  What about credibility?
– Well, I wanted to tell you.
– But I only took the job to get to Alette …

And so, almost inadvertently, just as she was beginning to get comfortable telling the truth, another aspect of her hidden life comes to to the fore: her original plan. Her Yellow Brick Road for establishing a place for herself in the world. And with this unplanned disclosure, as is evident in her body language, she will feel tiny and small, returning her to an ancient-yet-familiar feeling, as if she were a naughty girl. For what is shame other than the collision of eternal forces: the upward thrust of the current of liberation versus an age-old voice of denigration, bearing down? Together, producing a "block" that leaves its victim forever trapped in a sea of emotion, unable to find escape, however hard she may try.

Raising Financially Fit Kids

It’s appropriate, then, that in one of the scenes that follows, Rebecca’s parents begin to wonder about their complicity in creating their daughter’s woes. For we will have already witnessed her disappointment when, at the height of her struggle against depletion, her parents announced they had finally decided what to do with the money they had saved up over the years, a resource that was never spent, much less lavished on themselves or their daughter. But rather than the kind of inheritance a child may hope to receive from her family, she discovers that their hoarded cash had already been spent for a bright and shiny toy, instead.

But now, in an attempt to compensate for their shortcomings, they turn to a text her mother found at a book fair, Raising Financially Fit Kids. And in the moments that follow we will witness an turning point in their tight-fisted relation to money and their daughter. As priorities are reassessed, the effect of one generation upon another is brought to consciousness, finally allowing the block of shame to be released so that the younger’s life can be truly lived.

The fact that this is a movie – and, furthermore, one that has already taught us the power of metaphor – should allow us to find hope, even if our own families are unable to muster such a turnaround. For these parental figures are as much her own imagination as they are real, tiny replicas lodged in the brain, forever repeating unwanted lessons of childhood misery. And so, for the strong of heart who have not been blessed with a family capable of such recalibration, it becomes a task they must bear on their own, re-tuning the voice that belittles and denigrates so that, in its place, one hears what all children deserve to receive from the ones they love.

Rejecting Alette

It’s no small coincidence, then, that these "parental" figures will also be present for much of the remainder of the film which, strange as it may sound, is less a measure of Rebecca’s regression back to childhood than her maturation. For, when it appears as if Rebecca’s dream is finally coming true, when she finds the famous Alette sitting across from her in her family’s dining room, her parents will also be there. She’ll barely be able to contain her excitement, as Miss Alette makes an offer too good to be true: a column, all her own, written for the women who have come to identify with her, especially after the disaster on TV.

But much to her own surprise, she will find herself turning her (former) idol down, particularly when Alette comes to belittle her moral conscience, as if this job offer trumped any lessons she may have recently learned about the relationship between fashion and her own depletion. And it is precisely at this point, when Rebecca tries to communicate the "sense" that tells her she cannot accept the job, that her parents will join in, providing us with a pedagogy of the haunted body, describing the different signs that things are just plain wrong: for Rebecca, a funny feeling in the pit of her stomach, for her mother, a pain at the back of the neck, and for her father, heartburn. Signs that something isn’t quite right.

Meanwhile, as she’s adjusting to this new relationship with her "family" and sorting through her tortured relation to "fashion," we will see Luke Brandon – her former boss and almost lover – making changes in his life, as well. For he will also find himself faced with a decision: whether to continue along his own version of the Yellow Brick Road or follow her advice and leave the security of the family business and create something on his own. And we will see the evidence of his decision in the hoisting of a new masthead, publishing his work under a different name, opting to reap the rewards of his own labor rather than give them away to someone else.

Reunion

If this were a different kind of comedy, Rebecca’s dilemma might have been represented by two different men standing for competing ideals. But since this is a different kind of story – focusing, instead, on the nature of her addiction – the dilemma is presented to us as the conflict between her compulsion and her ability (even her desire) to establish a relationship with a man.

Given this frame, the film’s final scene will provide us with a portrait of that conflict’s resolution. For just as she’s returning from her best friend’s wedding, wearing what’s got to be the ugliest dress in Manhattan, she will find herself, once again, peering longingly into the storefront windows, face-to-face with the familiar lure of her dreams and desires. (A world where grown up girls get what they want.) But strangely enough, she will find herself declining their invitation, no longer interested in what they have to offer.

For it’s by virtue of the power of transformation that changes the Mannequins inviting her to test their wares into an audience that applauds her ability to stand her own ground. Or more precisely, the fact that she’s found her own ground to stand upon. For the lesson about her "addiction" has less to do with some puritan notion of restraint than the dilemma of finding her own feet.

And it is precisely at this point when She and He will manage to meet once again, giving us in the audience the kind of happy ending we have learned to expect.

Where She Gets Her Moves

But: as if to underscore the kind of change that has enabled this transformation and their romantic conclusion, the filmmakers will provide us with one last scene over the closing credits. Not quite inconsequential, as its placement would suggest, because it points to the recalibrated relationship with her family – in this case, with her father – that is the backdrop of this story. No longer does he serve as a stand-in for the imperative of frugal living or the shame of failing to live up to that standard of denial. Instead, "he" becomes an emblem of a different kind of inheritance: one of freedom, unselfconscious goofiness, and joy.

He goes by many different names. One tradition calls him Lord of Dance, closely related to his other moniker, Destroyer of the World (of Illusion).

For it was precisely this that had been missing, what she had sought through her compulsion. And it was her search for a perfect heaven, in whatever form it might have taken, that led to the debt and depletion that came so close to squeezing her from her own home. But once she had succeeded in making "him" her own, that endless quest will have come to an end and her attention could turn to relationships with human beings, instead.

It’s at this point that Rebecca is able to exchange her compulsions for a relationship with someone who, unlike her store-bought merchandise, actually loves her back.

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~ by mistified on October 27, 2010.

3 Responses to “Confessions of a Shopaholic”

  1. I can’t believe no one else has yet discovered this beautifully thoughtful post! You have done an excellent job of helping to peel back the layers of confusion that surround and obscure the root causes of addiction. Thank you! 🙂

  2. I agree; well said! Thank you for this intelligent and insightful analysis.

  3. it was really a great movie…
    it inspires a lot of people to know the difference of cost and value of things..
    two thumbs up for this very well done movie!!!!!!!1

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