Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

A Gift or a Curse?

Posted by Drake Kizer on February 15, 2017

Today’s selection covered the second half of last Thursday’s reading, which was the first half of chapter one, or “Where Web 2.0 Went Wrong”. This section was not quite as dense as some of the other sections we have been assigned out of Spreadable Media so far, and it actually had some very interesting points to make. The entire assignment spoke a lot about gift-giving and its status in our society. It was quite thought-provoking, and that made it more enjoyable to read if nothing else.

One of the most insightful comments that this selection makes is on page 67, and it says that “[t]hough we idealize “gifts of the heart” and “labors of love,” most gifts these days are manufactured and store bought.” That is a really great thought, and I think that is something society is not cognizant of very often. The book mentions the moment where tags and packaging are removed from a purchased item and it suddenly transforms from an item on a shelf to a gift for someone. It does take some degree of thoughtfulness to purchase the gift, but that thing is still just something from a store.

Another great section is pages 69-71, which discusses a “2008 episode of the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory entitled “The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis.” The episode is a perfect example of the complexity of gift-giving in American society. Sheldon gets upset that Penny got him a gift, because due to the fact that she got him something, he now has an implied obligation to get her something as well. There is no law that Sheldon has to reciprocate her gesture, but he feels like society is forcing him to give her a gift of essentially the same value as the one she got him. Just like in real life, the process of trying to match the worth of an unknown commodity proved fruitless, and Sheldon ended up with an item he deemed priceless but Penny deemed worthless. This example showed that gift-giving really is a difficult process.

One Response to “A Gift or a Curse?”

  1. Kimberlea Ferrell said

    The realization that the gifts we give are really just commodities transformed into gifts by the removal of a price tag really fascinated me. We give a gift to show kindness or love, and return the favor out of thanks, but at the same time are enforcing social rules without truly realizing it.

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