1. Title, director and release year?
- Affluenza, PBS, 1997

2. What is the central argument or narrative of the film?
- This film brings out the faults of our culture as far as our consumption habits and the effects they have on the environment and society as a whole. The film shows how our culture has developed into affluence and how it has caused society to become addicted to wealth, which comes with many environmental and sustainability implications.

3. What sustainability problems does the film draw out?
- This film touches on several sustainability problems, the most obvious being overconsumption as a result of our affluence as a nation. The statistics used in this film depict the problem very well, even stating that in 1987 there were more malls than high schools in the United States. The film also does an excellent job of pointing out that affluence and spending money are not correlated to happiness, although consumer culture has given the impression that commodities can create happiness.
- Another sustainability problem associated with consumer culture is advertising. The film depicts how advertising has become a problem in affluent nations, because they create a notion of ‘want’ for goods that are unnecessary thus adding to overconsumption, debt, and increased waste. Advertising has also spread its range into the realm of children, who are growing consumers. This has a detrimental effect on society in that these children will grow up in the same way as their parents: with horrific spending/consumption habits.
- Advertising has even made its way into the education system, which has even further implications for the future of our society. As children grow accustomed to branding and being encouraged to spend (even within their place of learning), they will surely grow up valuing the presence of commodities over the well-being of the environment. As shown by this film, it is vital to get advertising out of schools and focus education on teaching children the values they will need to succeed in life and help society progress.

4. What parts of the film did you find most persuasive and compelling? Why?
- I really enjoyed how the film used ‘symptoms of affluenza’ throughout the film. These symptoms included things like ‘shopping fever,’ ‘hyper commercialism,’ ‘chronic stress,’ and ‘global infection.’ Within each symptom, the film depicted what the symptom entailed and tied it back to the affect affluence has had on our consumer culture, and consequently our society overall. This structure was conducive to displaying the matrix of problems associated with increasing wealth, as well as the stakeholders involved (ranging from industries and their dependence on consumers to consumers and their dependence on industries).

5. What parts of the film were you not compelled or convinced by?
- I was not compelled by notion of consumer culture absorbing the Green Movement as being an entirely bad thing. To some extent, it enlightens consumers about the environment (granted not all of the information is true or impartial). I agree that the mass production of ‘green’ products is not conducive to reducing consumption; however, I would say having consumers purchase steel water bottles (and refilling them), rather than plastic water bottles (and discarding them), is not all that bad. It is important, however, that advertising is put under some government control to ensure that consumers are well aware of the environmental implications of their ‘green’ purchases.

6. What additional information does this film compel you to seek out? Where do you want to dig deeper and what connections do you want to make with other issues, factors, problems, etc.?
- This film compels me to look to other affluent nations and compare experiences. There are many affluent nations who have managed to keep advertising out of schools and continue to teach their youth the values conducive to societal progress. I am curious as to how much our cultures vary as to have such different experiences with increasing affluence. It seems to me that, even with affluence, other nations have managed to keep their values in clear focus. How can it be that our nation has such a blatant disregard for the environment?

7. What audiences does the film best address? What kind of imagination is fostered in viewers? Do you think the film is likely to change the way viewers think about and act on environmental problems?
- The structure of this film best addresses students (as they can relate to the influence of advertising) as well as young adults. It is important for young students to see just how corporations take advantage of their youth in shaping them to become future consumers of their products. It is equally important for young adults to keep in mind that, although money is vital to survive, there is no need to spend money to be happy. There are other ways to create joy that do not degrade our social relationships and the environment.

8. What kinds of action or points of intervention are suggested by the film?
- I do not believe that this film did a very good job of suggesting courses of action that were plausible for the average American. Essentially, this film suggests that consumers consume less, which as simple as it sounds is not so easy of a transition for a culture that is so accustomed to living a disposable lifestyle.
- The film does imply that government intervention is necessary to keep advertising out of schools, since some schools are now dependent on corporate sponsorship to keep schools up and running. It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that every citizen is given a proper education; by allowing advertising to infiltrate schools, children are subjected to corporate influence before they can comprehend the implications associated with their buying power.

9. What could have been added to this film to enhance its environmental education value?
- This film did not directly seek to educate audiences about environmental issues, but more on what causes the well-known environmental problems, like pollution and global warming. Perhaps linking the two more clearly in the film would be beneficial to audiences. It is important that viewers understand just how significant the purchase of a plastic water bottle is to the environment (i.e. landfills, pollution, global warming, etc).

[posted May 2, 2010]