The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

March 8, 2010

Of Red Carpets, Pop Culture, and Plastic

There are environmentalists who eschew pop culture for its crassness, its commercialism, its emphasis on celebrity over authenticity. I am not one of those environmentalists. Sure, our society’s addiction to overconsumption saddens me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get excited by Lady Gaga or the Oscars red carpet gowns.

Last night was the 82nd Academy Awards ceremony. In the past, Michael and I spread out a red carpet of our own for the annual Oscar bash. Of course, our red carpet was a long red plastic tablecloth. Treacherous in the rain. And equally as treacherous for the environment afterwards. We didn’t know any better.

Beth and Michael's plastic red carpet

This year, Rachel McAdams’s dress blew me away. It’s an Elie Saab made from organza and chiffon. Real silk or synthetic? I have no idea.

Rachel McAdams's 2010 Oscar Dress

But these days, plastic and even the suggestion of plastic jumps out at me at every turn. I’m saddened when I see plastic revered by some of my favorite groups and shows. Here’s a small sample:

Mary Louise Parker from the show Weeds has an iced coffee in a plastic cup with plastic straw attached to her lips in almost every episode.

Weeds Mary Louise Parker iced coffee

One of the most creative dresses on Project Runway was made from blue plastic cups. Brand new ones purchased during the “grocery store” challenge.

Project Runway blue plastic cup dress

Speaking of plastic cups, the judges on American Idol drink from red plastic Coke cups during every show. Coke, of course, is a sponsor.

American Idol red Coke cups

During their concerts, the Black-Eyed Peas dance around huge inflated plastic robot guy things (whatever they are).

Black-Eyed Peas

So I started wondering… is it pop culture? Is pop culture addicted to plastic? Or is American pop culture simply a reflection of American culture in general? I really don’t know. And am I just a Philistine for liking this stuff?  What do you think?

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13 years ago

wow, I just noticed I spelled my own name wrong! oops! (and probably did it more than once because the comment form remembered my info)

yes, that’s the show, they are very rude but it’s endearing in a way. mostly I like watching it to see the terrible clothes they get rid of, which are often clothes I would wear myself. they once made someone get rid of a capri sun pouch purse which I was totally enamored with. I’ve never seen project runway, I’ll have to check it out.

you’re probably right about weeds, I’m a big fan of clothing and I often find myself wanting to go buy fancy colorful dresses after watching it, so I can see how seeing a fancy cappucino drink on the show would have the same effect on coffee drinkers.

13 years ago

I want to stick up for weeds here and say that the plastic cup (along with the prius) is just another way of making a social commentary on consumerism in suburban culture, but that could just be my love for the show talking. something I can’t stand is the garbage can on “What Not To Wear” they actually donate the clothing, but throwing the clothes in a “symbolic” (according to wikipedia) garbage can on the show is only encouraging people to actually throw their clothes in a garbage can… why not use a small donate bin in an effort to raise awareness of donating to charity as an alternative to throwing perfectly good items in the trash? it doesn’t make any sense to me. (I thought the donate bin could say something like “donations for the unfortunate” to be ironic, but that would be making fun of poor people and that’s just rude.)

13 years ago

My approach is to make it better. Yesterday I was biking home from the grocery store and noticed the usual litter on the street. I decided that since I have plenty of time I would stop my bike and pick up every aluminum can I spotted. After three blocks and thirty cans I decided to save the remainder for my next trip. I was only picking up aluminum, not plastic, of which there was plenty and I was only covering one side of the street.

Compared with the amount of stuff and the number of people dropping things, my effort seems puny, but compared to the number of people picking things up on their own, my effort is astounding – incredible – amazing! For all of our sense of superiority over other life, human beings are as predictable as any other animal for 99% of our lives and as often on auto-pilot as any instinct-driven creature.

When my time comes, I will gently close my eyes with my last thought being of huge imaginary warehouses full of all the things I’ve picked up over my lifetime – a giant gift to Mother Earth. Why, it brings a smile to my face even now. : )

13 years ago

I agree with most people that in the case of plastic, pop culture is just going along with what has become the norm of our society.

Speaking of … How insane would it be to have a star who was nominated for tons of awards (ie Sandra Bullock/Meryle Streep) wear the same dress all award season long. Thank about it. Between the Golden Globes and the Oscars there are a slew of smaller awards banquits that people attend. What if, for kicks the didn’t have to have a different dress every time they went to dinner?

Debbie B
13 years ago

I thought I was doing pretty well with my canvas bags, reusable coffee mug, reusable water bottle and such and then I came to your blog and I see that I’m barely scratching the surface of what I could be doing. Now I look at everything around me and there’s so much plastic. Much of it is food based but it doesn’t stop there. I think there is a lot that is out of convenience/safety (if I drop that peanut butter jar it’s plastic and won’t shatter; the IV bags in the hospital replaced larger bottles and are safer and store more easily). I think we live in a ‘convenience’ society rather than a ‘thoughtful’ society of the past. Like anything else though, awareness is the first (and likely the easier) step. Then comes the act of changing.

Excellent stuff here even for the newbie getting started on the de-plasticizing journey.

13 years ago

I agree whole-heartedly, the unrestricted manufacturing and mindless use of plastic is overwhelming and madening. I personally see to it that my family is on the “green” path at all possible times. We minimize the purchasing of beverages of any kind in plastic bottles or cups. There’s nothing wrong with taking your own drink in your own, reusable travel mug from home on any trip, short or long. I’ve seen to it that nearly all of my groceries are packed into my own shopping/tote bags. As soon as I started seeing these bags in places like Walmart, drug and grocery stores for as little as .50 cents to $2.00 each, I started buying them. One, sometimes two at a time, each week until I had enough, about 10. The cashiers and baggers have come to expect my bags and me each week. However, I do still prefer putting raw meat products into plastic bags. I don’t like contamination from leaking meat juices. I save and reuse every glass, aluminum, or plastic container with a good lid that I get from food products, even some things from fast food and take-out resteraunts can be reused many times. This way I almost never have to buy any other kind of storage containers. Going green can help you cut back on daily expenses if you think about it, you’ll become quite thrifty in a very good way. I’m a crafter also, I crochet and sew. These hobbies help the green movement, too, by allowing you to repurpose old clothes and fabrics as well as creating new ones. The ideas are limitless and it’s time for more of us to put these ideas into practice, habitual practice. Lead by example, rather than preaching, or at least practice what we preach.
Thank you for your insight into our “plastic culture”, you would think Hollywood and the Entertainment industry would take note of these things and be more proactive in the “Green” age.

13 years ago

I think that a lot of people have no idea of the impact plastic consumption has on the environment ( just like meat consumption). Or they still don’t care…

13 years ago

Oh my gosh! The plastic cups on Weeds drive me CRAZY! Especially since she drives a Prius. How hard would it be for the prop guy to find her a reusable cup.

I know Starbucks made a glass version of their plastic cup for the holidays.

13 years ago

There you go, Beth “it is not possible for a mortal to tread upon embroidered fineries without fear.” But maybe plastic fineries…
I believe people just don’t think. Then, it seems impossible to live without it…

13 years ago

It really saddens me how addicted to plastic and one time use containers our society seems to be addicted too. I don’t see too many young people caring either. I never realized how much waste eating places make until I started recyling from one dumpster behind a restaurant in my little town. All the salad dressings come in plastic containers, the oil used for frying comes in plastic containers encased in cardboard, most dairy products come in plastic right down to the little creamers etc. You have really made me think about all the plastic around us and I am so trying not to buy anything I don’t need, but it’s so hard not to buy food stuff’s in plastic from peanut butter to milk it’s all in plastic containers. I think the oscar’s are just an example of our society, can you imagine all the after party’s and the trash generated.

axelle fortier
13 years ago

I was interested in the backdrops at the A’ Awards show. I just know those gargantuan pieces that towered over the humans and twiddled and twisted and sparkled were made of 100% man-made materials and held together with amazing and mind-altering adhesives. After the show, I went YouTube-ing and enjoyed watching clips from shows of 50 years ago, when the one backdrop was a plush curtain and the awards were presented on a stage with a short little runway made of plywood.

13 years ago

Supposedly the dress that Suzy Amis, wife of James Cameron (formerly married to Kathryn Bigelow — I guess he likes them tall and skinny) wore to the Oscars, besides being the same blue as the complexions of the Na’vi, was eco-friendly. (I think she keeps her eco-footprint small by not eating anything. Doesn’t she look just like Eric Stoltz, though?)

The Black Eyed Peas giant robots would appear to be modeled on Gort in “The Day the Earth Stood Still”.

Walking on red carpets is a very bad idea. See Aeschylus, Agamemnon, around line 895. )

Condo Blues
13 years ago

One thing that I find extremely funny (funny=odd not funny=ha ha) is that most award show fashion and jewelery is lent out, not purchased for the event. Since the stars are borrowing, it’s greener than buying jewels and gowns and tuxes they’d wear once and never again.

13 years ago

Pop culture addicted to plastic? LOL!


Let me explain why this is funny. When you say “plastic”, I (being a girl and former shopaholic/accomplice) instantly think of one type of plastic in particular: credit cards.

Long, un-political story short, when it comes to pop culture and being in or with it (yes, trying to use hip language here), it’s all about having things that are new, shiny, sparkly and fast. Oh, and then there’s the pricetag for having all the baubles that deem you “in”… and for the majority of us not making a fraction of what a starlet does, it takes plastic to be in and with it.

So yes, anyone trying to keep up with the pop culture life is attatched to plastic in more ways than one.

13 years ago

I think it’s just people not realizing the ramifications of their actions. They haven’t woken up yet, you have. Even as hard as I try, I sometimes sleepwalk through aspects of life, only to realize that I’m hurting myself and those around me with mindless non-decisions. Like my “oh, oreo pie looks good” lunch, the boyfriend and I will both have to deal with the blood sugar consequences tonight :( . If I’d shopped and cooked yesterday instead of futzing with a puzzle for three hours, I wouldn’t have gone to the cafeteria hungry. This evening the puzzle will still mock me, half finished, on the table, while my fridge and pantry are empty. That puzzle is not serving me well at all.

susanna eve
13 years ago

I also think it is a reflection of culture. I am old enough to remember when a lot more things came in glass bottles from OJ and peanut butter, to mayo and relish, none of those things were in plastic bottles. Not to mention items like vaseline or noxema, all came in glass bottles too.

13 years ago

I think that pop culture is a reflection of all culture. The consumerism and the drive to buy more stuff more cheaply is something that all of us have to take some responsibility for. Pop culture just takes it to the extreme, and amplifies it.

I was thinking about this when I attended the Olympic closing ceremonies. It was a GREAT time, and my daughter and I enjoyed ourselves immensely. But there was also a big environmental impact. No outside food or beverages were allowed, but all of the Coke products that were for sale came in plastic bottles. Everyone got an ‘audience participation kit’ which was hanging from the seats by plastic bags, and contained mostly plastic items. I didn’t feel totally good about the consumption, but I did enjoy the event, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

I suppose what I’m saying is that you are not a Philistine, and I wrestle with some of the same issues, too. I enjoy things that aren’t particularly green or even necessary, but I have some qualms about it all the same.

13 years ago

after i look up Philistine, i’ll let you know ;-)

13 years ago

I think people just don’t think. Plastic has become such a part of our lives its often not even noticed. The idea that stuff can/used to be made out of other material is just hard to imagine.