Material Culture: More Status than Personality

by Ryan Weiner

It can be fair to say that most houses in America have furniture, pictures, food and many other objects that make up the domestic space. Without a person to occupy the space and call it their “home,” there would be no objects. Therefore, the objects in the domestic space are a good representation of the resident’s personality. However, the objects tend to become more of a representation of status and the lifestyle that the residents live. Jackie Siegel’s way to express herself and lifestyle was to buy as many things as she could. Even in struggling financial times, she still had the desire to buy many toys for her children even though most of her kids ended up not even utilizing the toys (Queen of Versailles). Jackie’s “shopaholic” personality is created by her desire to fill her mansion-size house so that people realize and understand the wealthy lifestyle that they live. David Siegel expresses the same desire when discussing the building of his new house, which would be the biggest in the country. He explains that the reason he is building the house is, “because I can” (Queen of Versailles). Throughout the Queen of Versailles documentary, David Siegel is mostly seen in a small cluttered office, which shows his discontentment with that space. He does not need the bigger house: he simply wants to improve his status as a wealthy person. Status is also shown by the Tredwell family in the 19th century. The family insisted that guests came through the mid-level door so their first sights would be the magnificence architecture and furniture of the house. Downstairs was where the family room and kitchen were located, which were isolated from the guests. The Tredwells wanted to make sure their status of wealthy people was seen and that was not to be done in the family room or kitchen (Merchant House Museum).  Even though the Siegels and Tredwells are from two completely different centuries, they share the same characteristics. Each family thrived on the importance of status in society. Both families made sure that the inside of their houses expressed their wealthy lifestyles to the public. Therefore, it shows that even in a private domestic setting, society can still have an impact. People have the opportunity to do whatever they want inside their own homes, but instead tend to make sure they satisfy society.

Ryan Photo 1

This is a 60 inch High Definition Television set that has AppleTv and an XBox system. This is the first thing a person sees as they walk into my college apartment. It blows the minds of everyone who walks in the apartment, college students or not, because college students are supposed to be “poor” and not have anything nice in their living spaces. However, my roommate and I decided to spend the money and buy these things because we wanted our apartment to be “the place to be.”

Ryan Photo 2

This lamp that is located in our apartment has never been plugged in. The lamp is there for decoration because it is unique from any other college apartment. If we were going to have our apartment be “the place to be” then we decided to decorate it with a unique taste like this Sea-Shell lamp.

Ryan Photo 3

This golf club set sits in the corner of the apartment. I am a golfer myself and do use the clubs, but when not used my roommate and I wanted to use the set as a decoration in the apartment. We did this because golf can sometimes be associated with high status and that is the decoration style we wanted in our apartment. College students are not known to have high status, but we wanted to decorate our apartment with objects that represented that type of status.

This post was completed as part of an assignment interpreting the “material culture” of home, and how objects, keepsakes, and ephemera from our domestic lives contribute to our social identities. For additional information on the assignment, please visit: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-the-archeology-of-home/

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