It stands, still, savagely waits to serve. Its use remains uncertain, cut, cook… kill? sit and observe.
TV-shows, movies, soap operas have illustrated middle class habits, habitats, even habitus* for years now. Watching them, our conception what the middle class’ possessions, its members’ life, the amount of money they make shifts; we no longer rely on reality as unique source of truth. We tend to forget these universes are completely constructed by screenwriters, directors, producers and we associate so deeply with the characters it affects our own life. Why do lower-middle class people buy expensive useless items? Why do we spend so much on anything else than food, water and accommodation?
Nowadays, we mainly respond to secondary needs and treat them as absolute priority. All these possessions help us create an image of ourselves, easily interpretable in terms of social class. We do not buy to live anymore, we live to buy. We live to work and we work to buy, we buy to appear and sometimes we appear to be able to live (certain looks correspond to certain high-paying jobs). As a 90’s kid, I’ll allow myself to quote fight club to support my argument:
“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”
As cliché as the reference sounds, it sums up my point with utmost accuracy.
The kitchen knife set stands out as perfect example. Whenever I spot it in a scene, I expect a bloody murder. Why don’t I think, “Someone is about to get one hell of a dinner” instead? In most recent TV shows and movies, the characters hardly ever cook. They mostly order in and confine the kitchen paraphernalia to a decorative role. It is risible and paradoxical for an unused kitchen to contain such expensive equipment. The knives and their role, in the audiovisual world find themselves redefined: the sharp cutlery cuts through more skins than through vegetables or meat.
On many levels, the history of this set of knives unfolded in parallel to our consumerist manners. The meaning of it shifted from useful item to decorative object and bladed weapon. This pressure to appear and possess that pushes us to consume in order to “be ourselves” destroys our personalities, dissolves our intrinsic characteristics and our human status slowly fades as we turn ourselves into consuming machines, obeying to the market’s commands instead of our basic needs. Knowing some cut on their food expenses to buy a bigger TV horrifies me; not only do these behaviours put the consumer at risk, they also testify of his indifference towards the planet.
Therefore I wonder, “Isn’t our set of knives stabbing us in the back?”
*Concept enounced by Bourdieu following which our perception of life, our tastes, the way we classify people and objects surrounding us depends on the social environment we were raised in.
By: Alex Barbier