not buying it

I just got my Crate & Barrel Holiday Inspiration 2012 catalogue in the mail. Not that I wait for it, but it shows up, so I flip through it.

The first page has a big heading—Home&Holidays—followed by a letter from the president. It feels more like a magazine than a catalogue, and her words encourage the reader to believe that this publication is more than a giant advertisement. “The pages that follow are not only a guide to our new collection, but a celebration of the experiences we have shared in our homes at this special time of the year.” I don’t hate this. Actually, I don’t even entirely disagree with it. My own home is arranged in such a way that (I hope) it is inviting, warm, relaxing. It’s just stuff, sure, but the stuff as much as my husband and I’s demeanor helps our guests feel comfortable and at home.

What I do hate is the juxtaposition of sections of this catalogue. Adding to the magazine feel, the editors divided the catalogue into sections with heartwarming titles such as “Love&Light” and “Friends&Giving”. The first of these is “Grandpa&Grandson.” Two men are shown lounging on leather furniture on either side of a fireplace, with close-ups on scotch glasses and whisky decanters. There are no pressures on these men: they appear relaxed, both with mid-conversation smiles.

The next section is “Mom&Daughter”. No leather, booze, or relaxation here. The one shot of the woman and girl show them focused on cookie decorating. Many of the shots have snippets of busy hands, blurred in activity as the photographer’s lens attempts to capture their work. The section is pages of baking items—mixers, ramekins, rolling pins—and finishes its last page with dishtowels, no doubt to carefully dry all the scotch glasses used in the next room.

Which raises the question: What are we really being sold?

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