Are Shopping Malls Our Modern Day Cathedrals?

Perhaps the word “hate” is a a little strong: I actually really @$%&# detest shopping malls with every living fiber in my being. God, why the hell do people hang out in these places? So depressing, so shiny and gleaming, so, so bland… Someday, maybe 500 years into the future, when space aliens descend onto Earth and ask what these building represented for the societies that built them, will they assume that our Malls were the equivalent of the Medieval cathedrals that one finds leering over most European towns? Were our ancient Gods those of mass consumerism? If so, the Gods we prayed to were petty, vengeful ones at best; clearly created by our primitive monkey-brained ancestors since they were so blindly ignorant of science, learning and independent thought.

The saddest thing about shopping malls is that they are almost unique in their uniformity. The only other edifices I can compare them to are International Airports: you could be anywhere on Earth and still be completely unable to identity what country or city you’re in when you arrive at an airport. They’re all literally indistinguishable from one another. Airports’ only saving grace is that they almost universally guarantee a trip on an airplane to a new and exciting destination, like say, Pittsburg. Plus: Cheap, Trashy, Paperback Novels. Nothing beats reading John Grisham’s latest legal page turner while waiting around for your flight to deplane and restock up on generic honey roasted peanuts. Heck, every airport at least has bar in it where you can watch the little luggage carts run around on the tarmac while you sip your overpriced beer. In the end, everyone’s just passing through to somewhere else more important.

Not so the almighty Temple of the Shopping Mall. Just like airports, they’re completely homogeneous in appearance and facilities. Blindfold me, spin me around and then magically deposit me onto the ground floor of any mall in the world and, besides the native dress of the patrons, I’d be at a complete loss to geographically situate myself where I was in the world. Take a gander at the following photos below of four shopping malls: (1. St. Paul, MN, 2. Miami, FL, 3. Houston, TX, 4. San Diego, CA)

Would you be able to identify in which cities these malls are if I hadn’t told you?

Ha! In fact these malls aren’t even located in good ol’ Murica at all, Suckas! They’re actually photos taken in 1. Dubai, 2. Bangkok, 3. Sao Paulo, Brazil & 4. Bristol, UK. But in the end, what damn difference does it make? They all have the same insipid architecture, the same globalized chain stores, the same fluorescent lighting, the same cheesy music piped in from hidden speakers: an empty tableau of nothingness. You’re everywhere and nowhere at once. Malls represent the death of human culture. Westernization completes its innocuous spread across the earth like so much silent, colorless, odorless chlorine gas creeping into the enemy’s trenches at daybreak. They’ll be asphyxiated before they wake…

The patrons who stroll these halls apparently have nothing else to do with their lives besides…spend money on junk made cheaply in China and Bangladesh that they don’t really need. Some folks work their asses off all week only to spend their free time wandering around like automatons in the local mall. Their greatest (or only) discernible pleasure in life being to spend the same money they slaved all week making. To what end? How many pairs of shoes do we really need? Jeans: 2 pairs really should do you for a whole year. How much do you really need to be happy?

Don’t even get me started on the food court. Is this really where you want to be eating? Endless buffet steam trays of sugary, syrupy, deep fried pigeon meat spewed out by the same international fast food chains you can find in the same shopping malls all over the world. I guarantee you: there’s a really cheap and delicious family-run Eritrean restaurant somewhere in your town. Spicy, buttery, fragrant, and connected to a culinary tradition probably thousands of years old. Why not take a walk on the wild side and inject some cultural stimulation into your life? You might just avoid ending up an obese diabetic.

Whenever I’m feeling in a particularly bad mood (which is usually brought about by being forced to see a movie at the local shopping mall multiplex), I always find solace in this website DeadMalls. Here you can peruse through myriad photos galleries of once great, thriving retail paradises, now decaying and empty of people. No more clogged parking lots, no more escalators bringing people up one flight of stairs because they’re too lazy to walk up themselves, no more security guards rounding up rebellious teenagers. Just…blissful silence. Ah, to gaze at these montages makes me feel like I can breathe again- perhaps there’s hope for humanity after all. Or will the space aliens rebuild these great edifices in an attempt to seduce us puny humans into blindly worshiping their cruel masters once again? Only time will tell…

So, are Malls the death of human culture? Do you avoid going to the mall like the Black Plague? What is about them that inspires such hatred?

2 thoughts on “Are Shopping Malls Our Modern Day Cathedrals?

  1. I heard on the radio a woman say she was sad when the big box store Walmart closed in her town as she used to go there to wander the aisles and would bump into friends there..it became the community center in an impoverished town, denuded of a local Main Street,as the walmart moved in, the little mom and pop stores could not compete and closed. people up and moved out til even cheap goods Walmart had to close. Big malls are warm in winter and cool in summer high heat, so I suppose that may be a draw for some.

    • Post Author Greg Goldblatt

      Blech, “Wallyworld” are even worse. The cheapest of the cheap products manufactured by slave labor imported from China. The prices then undercut mom & pop business who could never hope to compete. Yeah, Walmart is another place I think I only ever set foot in once and never intend to again. People are supposed to run into their friends and neighbors on the streets of their neighborhood and on the center shopping street, not at a big box on the outskirts of town you’re forced to drive to. Its nice that Malls are climate controlled, I’m sure it’s great if you live in humid Miami, but somehow the rest of the world’s population gets on just fine with out them…

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