My ideal overcast Wednesday afternoon: Pick kids up at school. Bake brownies. Snuggle on the couch while they watch the animated movie, Robots. Fall asleep.
Unfortunately, the sleeping part failed to happen.
Somehow, I found myself sucked in to this cartoon instead of enjoying a cozy snooze with my babes. It turns out to be a fascinating commentary on consumerism and the industrial revolution that evolved from efficiently producing inventions to improve the lives of Robots–and encouraging creativity among them, with the corporate slogan “You Can Shine No Matter What You’re Made Of!”–to a money-hungry capitalist enterprise that encourages Robots to upgrade and improve themselves to drive revenue by asking the question “Why Be You When You Can Be New?”
In the process, the new CEO forces Robot City to eliminate all spare parts so none of the Robots can be repaired. They are forced to either upgrade, or face the scrap yard. Which reminds me of a story I heard from my good friend last night … my friend, bless her heart, is not what one might consider “tech savvy,” though she is slightly more tech savvy than her husband, who once Googled “Google” because he couldn’t find the search bar with which he was familiar. True story. I was there. Anyhow, my friend’s cell phone has reached the end of its usable life. She’s had it since 2007. So, when it started blinking “ERROR” at her every time she tried to use it, she decided it was time to have it fixed, only to learn that the phone cannot be fixed, because it is so OLD, and has to be replaced. Tricky part is … if she upgrades her phone, she changes her plan that she inherited from her mother, and has been grandfathered in at a rate of something like $19.95 a month. She is less than pleased. And for good reason. She takes good care of her belongings, and the phone has stopped working by no fault of her own. She didn’t flush it down the toilet, drop it in the ocean, or run over it with her car (all three of which have happened to several of my husband’s SIX iPhones in the past three years).
So, where are we now? I’m sure that anybody who has ever watched a movie with me is confused since I both–stayed awake through the whole thing, AND deciphered the plot points hidden beneath the character development. I can even tell you that Robin Williams was, as always, hilarious. See, I even recognized the real voice of an animated character. My husband will be so proud.
But again, back to the point … why are we spending our hard-earned money on material goods (especially technology) that expires before we’re done using it? Why do we have to have the latest and greatest shiny new gadgets all the time? What would happen if we, as consumers, actually used our items until they no longer functioned? What if we demanded that our corporations build quality products that would stand the test of time, and voted with our wallets to purchase only the highest quality goods? And then what if we stuck with those goods until we actually “needed” a replacement? What if we, as consumers, actually influenced the behavior of Corporate America rather than emotionally responding to the perceptions of “need” developed by all of these ingenious Marketing Executives?
Perhaps we could influence new behavior by holding on to our old goods.