August 6, 2010

The Commercial Hijacking of Eat, Pray, Love.

Eat, Pray, Shop?

I’m not sure how much publicity the movie Eat, Pray, Love has been getting across the country, but as a New Yorker, I’ve been seeing it everywhere. On the sides of buses, giant posters, and tie-ins with magazines and other lifestyle brands.

And it always makes me a little bit uneasy, this commercialization of a book about spirituality and happiness. But the above ad from the Home Shopping Network made my blood boil.

If you haven’t yet read the outrageously popular book, here is the synopsis: writer Elizabeth Gilbert goes through a divorce, and is painfully unhappy. She decides to seek pleasure through pasta in Italy, seek peace through yoga in India, and seek personal redemption through connecting with a medicine man in Indonesia. Oh, and she falls in love while she is there—hence the “Love” in the title.

Nowhere in the book does she find happiness through shopping. There is a scene where she is trying to find a pair of jeans that fits her pasta—plumped rear end, memorable in that she can laugh and joke about her weight in a way many woman cannot. But there are no jaunts to Milan for leather goods, no days spent buying crafts at the bazaar with which to fill her home, and no splurges on exotic jewelry because she thinks she deserves it.

In short, “retail therapy” is not part of her odyssey.

Eat, Pray, Love owes its popularity to the message that every woman can find happiness if she just has the bravery to step outside her comfort zone, live thoughtfully, and embrace life.

Do any of us really believe that we can achieve spiritual depth by buying prayer beads and a fancy glass teapot? Are we really that empty?

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