In The New York Times Magazine: Hummer Owners

Posted by Rob Walker on October 31, 2009
Posted Under: Consumed

How do the drivers of a widely loathed vehicle see themselves?

Hummer loyalists come across as a beleaguered lot. Less predictably, Luedicke and his fellow authors, Craig J. Thompson and Markus Giesler, argue that Hummer drivers position their ownership at the center of a “brand-mediated moral conflict” in which Hummer enthusiasts are not only innocent but also heroic. Conflict with vehement critics turns out to play a key role, with the Hummer owner casting himself or herself as a “moral protagonist” who must, according to this theory, “defend sacrosanct virtues and ideals from the transgressive actions of an immoral adversary.” And what sacrosanct virtues would those be? To oversimplify a bit: American exceptionalism, rugged individualism, love of the frontier, community and freedom.

Read the column in the November 1, 2009, New York Times Magazine, or here.

NOTE: I am in receipt this morning of an email alerting me to the existence of a 2006 documentary called Hummerland. According to its distributor: “In this humorous documentary, the director went looking for the appeal of this modern-day tank. She returns with a tragic-comic send-up of our consumerist society.” Sounds interesting. As you know, once I’ve written about a topic in Consumed, I am on to the next one. But if you want further thoughts on Hummerthink, this might be worth checking out.

ANOTHER NOTE: I am also in receipt of another email from someone who did Hummer-related research: “Vehicle of The Self,” Journal of Consumer Culture, 2006. Again, my interest was in the points made in the specific research that I cited, and what it implies about the disconnect between how we think of our own consumption decisions and how others “read” them, not in offering a comprehensive assessment of Hummer-ness. But if you’re interested in the latter, there’s more fodder for you.

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Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

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