Seemingly along with every other industry, American shopping malls are slipping into the Slough of Despond that they helped to create, leaving Romero's zombies and incompetent teenaged cashiers with nowhere to go and nothing to buy- the American equivalent of nihilism. This news would mark a gala day for me, were it not for the depressing note that a dead mall, "can devastate the surrounding community". Many small towns are at risk of going belly up without the local mall anchoring their economy, huge swaths of the nation having gone from farms and factories to Abercrombie & Fitch in just a few decades.
Think I'm kidding? One of the characters in Dawn of the Dead has to have a shopping mall explained to him because the 1978 audience couldn't be expected to have seen one yet. Three decades later, and European friends tell me how amazed they were to travel the country and see nothing but vast exapnses of these cubic shrines to consumption.
According to the article, something like 400 malls have gone under, and there's now only one big mall being built- what its developer refers to with the non-term "shoppertainment" complex, although it's not clear if that word came from his mouth or the other end. And from the sound of it, there might be no end to the collapse of malls. Admittedly, my natural response to that is to squeel ''Oooooh, yes!!''
Malls are the natural habitat of a bourgeois middle class that might well be vanishing in the United States. Wal-Mart is now thriving. For the most part though, malls offer very little of real value, outside of a certain ''experience''. Experiences have been the common currency of bourgeois life since the 1800s. This is the story of modernity- separated from any real political objectives, the middle class tries to live as if they're dreaming- cultivating experiences- the more theatricalized the better- becomes more important than satisfying real needs. So, maybe this hollowing out of the middle class and their malls will mean a return to seriousness. On the other hand, the idea of Americans experimenting with seriousness makes me as uneasy as a monkey experimenting with a handgun.