The League of Young Voters

The “Shopocalypse” is upon us — By Melanie Horton
December 14, 2007, 1:32 am
Filed under: Uncategorized


Directed by Rob VanAlkemade; written by Mr. VanAlkemade, based on a story by Savitri D, Morgan Spurlock, Bill Talen and Mr. VanAlkemade; narrated by Alan Sklar; directors of photography, Alan Deutsch, Daniel Marracino, Martin Palafox, Alex Stikich and Mr. VanAlkemade; edited by Gavin Coleman, Stela Georgieva and Mr. VanAlkemade; music by William Moses; choir director and choreographer, James Solomon Benn; produced by Peter Hutchison, Stacey Offman and Mr. Spurlock; released by Warrior Poets Productions. In Manhattan at the Cinema Village, 22 East 12th Street, Greenwich Village. Running time: 90 minutes. This film is not rated.

What is it about Christmas holiday shopping that causes a 60-year-old woman to spit at a Best Buy clerk because they are sold out of Xboxes? Why is everyone so stressed out, feeling like they have to get everyone they know a gift they can’t afford and that the recipient probably doesn’t need?

I have come to view the winter holiday season with dread. Of course, I like the time off from work, being with friends and family and having many fun parties to attend. It’s the rampant consumerism and overindulgence that have come to characterize our holiday celebrations that leave me empty, wondering why we keep celebrating in this way—with frenzied and excessive shopping, a plethora of unhealthy foods and little time to actually relax and enjoy our loved ones. What Would Jesus Buy reassures me that that I’m not alone.
What Would Jesus Buy follows mock evangelist Reverend Billy (Bill Talen), his wife Savitri Durke who organizes his Church of Stop Shopping, and the Church’s gospel choir as they perform guerilla theatre in Times Square, the Mall of America and Disneyland the month leading up to Christmas in 2005. The Church is on a quest to get Americans to stop shopping.

“Telling people to stop shopping is a way to get their attention and get them thinking about how to shop with a conscience,” choir director James Solomon Benn explains.

This film gives plenty of reasons why it is imperative that we curb our current national shopping habits—whether for the 5-million tons of extra waste generated around the holidays, the $2.4 trillion in U.S. consumer debt or the violence that breaks out when people are fighting over the season’s latest must-have.

The film glosses over issues that are exacerbated by rampant consumerism such as child labor, sweatshop conditions, depletion of resources, and the loss of vibrant downtowns and decent-paying jobs to big-box retailers. In one scene, three random tween girls—who they are and where they come from is never explained—search the Internet to learn about sweatshop conditions in Bangladesh, where one of their shirts was made. They find out that girls their own age regularly endure beatings and are forced to work 19-hour days for a pittance. The viewer is left to ponder who suffers so that we can have the goods we want.

While I appreciate writer-director Rob VanAlkemade’s attempt to highlight these serious issues, what I enjoyed most in this film were the scenes where the Church is preaching its gospel in malls, city streets and the parking lot of a big-box store. I wanted to jump out of my seat and join the choir as they caroled from one McMansion to the next spreading their gospel to the tune of familiar Christmas songs. Whether the Church has been able to get a significant number of people to change their consumption habits is questionable, but their brand of zany, high energy activism is inspiring to watch and illustrates some creative and humorous ways to draw attention to an issue.

One thing is for sure, we are being consumed by our consumption. The “shopocalypse” is that discounted luxury item we are always buying in the hopes that it will make us happy as we head further down the road to eternal debt. We are at a critical point where we seriously need to examine our shopping habits, where things come from and the environmental and human rights implications of our purchases. The message that the film wants us to take away is that by changing Christmas we would change the whole year.

Click here to watch the trailer.


1 Comment so far
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Very solid review, Mel. I’m glad we saw this. We should do more film night adventures.
Happy Holidays. Celebrate more…BUY NOTHING!

Comment by T$

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