A phenomenology of the mall: If the mall makes us feel bad, why do we keep going back? In a world poisoned by capitalism, is shopping what makes life worth living?
In less than a century, the shopping mall has morphed from a blueprint for a socialist utopia to something else entirely: a home to disaffected mallrats and depressed zoo animals, a sensory overload and consumerist trap.
Kate Black grew up in North America's largest mall: West Edmonton Mall – a mall on steroids. It’s the site of a notoriously lethal rave for teenagers, a fatal rollercoaster accident, and more than one gun-range suicide; it’s where oil field workers reap the social mobility of a boom-and-bust economy, the impossibly large structure where teens attempt to invent themselves in dark Hollister sales racks and weird horny escapades in the indoor waterpark. It’s a place people love to hate and hate to love – a site of pleasure and pain, of death and violence, of (sub)urban legend.
Can malls tell us something important about who we are? Blending a history of shopping with a story of coming-of-age in North America’s largest and strangest mall, Big Mall investigates how these structures have become the ultimate symbol of late-capitalist dread – and, surprisingly, a subversive site of hope. Ultimately, a close look at the mall reveals clues to how a good life in these times is possible.