As you walk around and see stores decorated for Christmas before Halloween, it’s hard not to think that consumerism has gone out of control in this country. Unlike other problems, there’s a relatively simple solution to this. Bill Talen, aka the Reverend Billy simply says: “Stop Shopping”. Part performance artist and part social activist, the Reverend Billy and his gospel choir tour the US performing exorcisms on Walmart’s corporate campus and liberating shoppers at the Mall of America. “What Would Jesus Buy?” captures last year’s stop shopping tour. In addition to being entertaining, it makes you think about consumption and production—both good topics this time of year. The Reverend Billy answered a few questions for us-- think of them as both a movie preview and some basic indoctrination in the gospel of stop shopping.
"What Would Jesus Buy?" Is currently playing at the Lumiere Theatre in San Francisco, Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley, and opens this Friday at the Camera 12 in San Jose.
What are some easy ways for people to shop less?
There are four preliminary steps that are possible when facing an actual product on a shelf. 1) Pausing in your grab at the product and then feeling the initial tremors of the-sex-of-no-products. 2) Stepping back from the product and feeling the wanton eyes of the product following you as you try to boldly file for divorce 3) Turning your back on the product and entering the multi-channel universe of what-the-product-sees and what you yourself may see, for instance, a thousand other products clawing for your attention and behind them a parking lot traffic jam and 4) The confusing loss of patriotic affirmation, the sound of being scolded by George Bush, when you declare your personal freedom from shopping and embark on a successful escape past the cash register, through the car-scape and out into a new world beyond, which could feel disorientingly authentic – too much TRACTION OF THE REAL - for a while. You might be on a personal journey with pockets of tough boredom, post-addictive longings, the return of memories and dreams you thought were gone forever. And then, of course, here come the new people and all the surprises that come when words gets out that you have freed yourself from Consumerism. Oh, Life After Shopping becomes, finally, “easy.” It’s a joy.
How is the Bay Area's relative level of consumerism?
The Bay Area drowns itself in cars and trucks just like cities that seem less sophisticated. iThises and iThats are stuck in the heads of SFites like everywhere else, with computers and TV’s and other media platforms sucking the life out of neighborhoods, in the manner of dead cities and suburban lakes of Monocultural Hellfire. San Francisco must resist gentrification and must do it on purpose. Gavin Newsom must declare the any person who dares to resemble a 28 year old stockbroker and likes unheard-of European beers must declare his or her identity at the border. Such a person must sign an agreement to avoid posing on balconies with white sails tilting below, on punishment of a thousand hours of community service in a bar in Gallup, New Mexico. Such a person must report to parole official and get on his knees before the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. San Francisco must be Dioneysian, rather than Apollonian. Zoning regulations must reject chain stores and protect public spaces of confusion and funk.