Before coming to our title screen, filmmaker John de Graaf opens with a scene from a spoof of a once popular soap opera Lives of Our Days. A patient in a surgical gown and comically ornate jewelry begs her doctor for a pill to fix her disaffection. Regretfully, the doctor informs his patient that she is suffering from affluenza; ironically calling it “the new epidemic.”
To further explore the effects of affluenza, the film is subdivided into sections using title cards—which are in a retro style similar to the 1950s—each title communicating a symptom of American affluence.
Material (Boys and Girls) begins with children riding around in shopping carts, pushed by their parents, eagerly reaching for certain products in the grocery store. Affluenza then highlights American children learning about counting pizza or other junk foods provided to them in their schools—furthering their conditioning with material goods.
We learn that affluenza is a noun used to describe the unhappy condition of waste, debt, and anxiety which come from the dogged pursuit of more. Narrator Scott Simon explains, “People that have a lot, want more, and almost feel themselves empty inside once they get more.” You too may have a sense of relief that some interviewees in this documentary believe Americans are on the verge of a second counter-cultural revolution.
OVID.tv film highlights the consequences of American affluence
Dr. Richard Swenson, dubbed an affluenza epidemiologist, explains the effects of affluenza range from emotional to physical defects—“headaches, heart palpitations, and hyperacidity” to “depression, anxiety and sleeplessness. Your life is being taken up by maintaining and caring for things instead of people.”
We follow two Washington state teenagers whose trip to Mexico inspired them to write an award winning play titled Barbie Get Real. The message of the play is in stark contrast to the messages overheard by advertising executives captures in the next scenes talking about children at a large conference as “assets” and figures to be “own[ed]
Later we see seagulls hanging low and circling bulldozers that roam over the mountains of plastic waste. Footage of massive trees being torn down and clips of speeches from American leaders such as Theodore Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter extorting us to cherish the wilderness and environment .
Most likely, this documentary—with a runtime just under an hour—will highly appeal to those interested in social justice and psychology. Affluenza will likely also interest those attracted to the ideas of minimalism.
John De Graaf (director, writer, and producer), Vivia Boe (co-producer), Sheila Espinoza (music)
Scott Simon, Joe Dominquez, Jennifer Gallus, Kalle Lasn, Olivia Martin, Vicki Robin, Glenn Stanton
Visit the OVID.tv page for AFFLUENZA for more information and to watch the film.
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Images courtesy of OVID.tv.
About the Author: Camille Aguilar
Camille is a senior at the University of Chicago where she studies Literature and Philosophy. There, she is a reporter for the Maroon, as well as a photographer for the student run culinary magazine: Bite. Her activism extends largely towards youth education, and she is currently an organizing executive of MUNUC the Model United Nations conference put on by UChicago students for over 1,500 international high school students annually. After college, Camille plans to continue writing creatively and professionally as she pursues a career in international human rights reform.