three-piece bubblewrap suit

I don’t make a habit of regurging other people’s writing, but this is really nice non-fiction – from the ‘Unwrapping Use Value’ chapter of Susan Willis’ A Primer for Daily Life (1991) :

“Of all the attributes of mass-produced commodity packaging today, the most important is the use of plastic. The plastic cover acts as a barrier between the consumer and the product, while at the same time it offers up a naked view of the commodity to the consumer’s gaze. Sometimes the plastic covering is moulded to fit the contours of the commodity and acts like a transparent skin between the consumer’s hand and the object. Shaped and naked, but veiled and withheld, the display of commodities is sexualised. Plastic packaging defines a game of cache – cache where sexual desire triggers both masculine and feminine fantasies. Strip-tease or veiled phallus – packaging conflates a want for a particular object with a sexualised form of desire.”

“Packaging prolongs the process of coming into possesion of the commodity. A buyer selects a particular item, pays for it, but does not fully possess it until he or she pulls open it’s plastic case or cardboard box. Possession delivers a commodity’s use value into the hands of the consumer. Packaging acts to seperate the consumer from the realisation of the use value and heightens his or her anticipation of having and using a particular commodity. Packaging may stimulate associations with gift-wrapped Christmas and birthday presents. However, plastic commodity packaging reveals what gift-wrapping hides. The anticipation we associate with the gift-wrapped present is for the unknown object. In anticipating a plastic-wrapped commodity, we imagine the experience of its use since its identidy is already revealed.”

“In all our experience of consumption, we are little different from the child who convinces his mother to buy the latest Ghostbuster action figure. From the moment he picks the packaged toy off the shelf, to the moment he passes through the checkout, he will trace the contours of the package with his hands, attempt to scrutinise the toy’s detail with his eyes, and lose himself in imagining how it will finally feel to push the lever that makes the Ghostbuster’s hair stand on end and eyes pop out with fright at the delightfully cold and gelatinous slime – also included in the package, but not yet available to the touch.”

My question is, what does this say about those people who collect toys but then don’t open them?

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