Welcome to Vulgaria: the ‘Real’ (Irreal) Suburban Simulacra of Blankety Blank

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INTRODUCTION

This is a 4,500 word essay I wrote for my Literary and Cultural Studies class called Reading the City. I chose to write about the representation of suburbia in D. Harlan Wilson’s Blankety Blank. It’s a third year LCS essay, so it’s pretty heavy on the LCS academic jargon, but I usually try to keep things relatively easy to understand, regardless of your background. If anything needs clarifying, I’d be happy to oblige.

Also, the topic is quite specific, so I really hope people are interested enough in it to read through the whole thing. I submitted this in second semester last year, so I’ve really got nothing to gain from this, and it was just going to sit idly on my computer, so I thought I may as well put this up here. It should at least give you guys a bit of a picture as to what I’ve been doing at uni for the past three years.

At the very least, it’s great to feel passionate about things. And I guess that’s one reason why I feel like putting this essay up here instead of some other essay I wasn’t really interested in.

On another note, if you’re writing an essay on a similar topic, you’re welcome to reference this essay, but remember, I’m an undergrad and this essay is a little rough around the edges. It’s no honours/PhD thesis, and it’s not published in any academic journals. If you’re after solid, reliable reference materials, maybe try hunting down some of the stuff in my “Works Cited” list.

HOMOGENEOUS SUBURBIA AND POSTMODERN IDENTITY:

CONFLICTING IDEOLOGIES

The suburbia as we know it exists in two realms: the real, where suburbia is defined by physical location; and the imagined, where suburbia is constructed in our minds as an ideology, or the ‘suburban ideal’. In this project, we will examine how the imagined suburbia encroaches on the real, where ideology conflicts with physical suburban spaces. In order to do this, first we must retrace our steps back to the origins of suburbia as an escape for the bourgeois families of London, to the suburban ideal as a product of America’s post-WWII migration to the suburbs – the ‘American Dream’. From there, the homogeneous suburbs begin to conflict with the commodification of postwar America and the suburbs are transformed into a space of intense commodification as a means of establishing an identity. What a house says about the family living in it, and how one house distinguishes itself from the others, become important questions for those living in a suburban community and centres around anxieties of surveillance of private/public spaces; ‘what do my neighbours think about me?’

The suburban family takes on a performative role, where their private life is projected out onto the neighbourhood as a display of their social class and success within a capitalist discourse. The suburbs therefore require the ability to function on two levels; to be generic enough to develop housing on a large scale – a limited choice in architecture; yet it must remain flexible enough (customisable) to allow for commodification – a limitless variety of aesthetic design choices, furnishings, etc. As the concept of suburbia becomes reinforced in the media (through countless TV sitcoms), ideology becomes integrated with culture and the nuclear family becomes the norm. Real life suburbia becomes a simulation of television suburbia, of the (imagined) suburban ideology. We will examine how postmodern texts highlight and subvert traits of suburban ideology such as commodification, and social activity, to provide an uncanny (sometimes gothic) juxtaposition between the imagined suburbia and the performed. D. Harlan Wilson’s Blankety Blank: A Memoir of Vulgaria represents a hyperreal suburbia called ‘vulgaria’ – which simulates ‘reality’ in its attempt to imitate ideology – and signifies the death of suburbia in postmodernity; it only exists as simulacrum.

THE SUBURBAN IDEAL: RETRACING THE HISTORY OF SUBURBIA

Suburbia wasn’t always the performative/ideological construct it is in postmodernity. The postmodern suburbia is a response to the commodified suburbia of post-WWII America. The postwar American suburbs were a response to the middle class shift away from the working class industrial areas of the city to a more private, pastoral setting. In the suburbs, they could maintain a close proximity to the city, yet they were distanced (both physically and ideologically) from the working class slums and the unsightliness of the urban sprawl. The suburbs trace back to eighteenth century London, where overpopulation in the inner city industrial/business districts caused the merchant class to move out of their shops and into the pastoral countryside just outside of the city centre, separating family/home life from work life. It was the bourgeoisie, and not the working class, that made this move because they were the ones in the position of wealth; they could afford to buy land, build homes, and travel to and from the city for work. This contextualises suburban ideology around class and wealth, and the desire of the middle class to distinguish themselves from the working class, in terms of location, quality of life/luxury, and ideological position.

Robert Fishman posits that “[suburbia’s] form and function reflect many of the most pervasive cultural elements in eighteenth century civilisation, but the suburb also reflects the specific conditions of the city in which it was born,” (18) London. The cultural elements and conditions Fishman refers to are of industrialisation, economy (international trade), and urban growth. “It was also the political capital of the British Empire and its center for the production and consumption of luxury goods,” (19). The economics and urban growth meant that London was “attracting an increasingly wealthy elite to an urban core that was, at best, crowded, dirty, noisy, and unhealthy,” (23). For the ‘wealthy elite’, the solution to this problem called for the “radical decentralization of bourgeois residence that we have come to call suburbanization,” (23). To the London bourgeoisie, the city is aesthetically unpleasant, the quality of the urban lifestyle is much lower than what they require to raise their families. The solution to move away from the city signifies the desire to distance themselves from the crowded, dirty streets and the working class citizens that live in the urban centre, contributing to its unpleasant nature. In the suburbs, the wealthy elite have the time and space to indulge in the consumption of luxury goods. The economic growth in this market signifies not only that merchants of such goods are at a financial advantage, but also that there has been an increase in bourgeois residents able to afford luxuries, and by extension, they can afford the suburban lifestyle.

From eighteenth century London, the suburbs began developing in other cities and countries. In America, the suburbs didn’t just appear right after World War II as a fully formed ideological construct. The suburbs only appear to have a close connection to that era of American culture because it “offered a sympathetic world of security, stability, and space for creativity” (Wong, 446) in an America trying to recover from the Great Depression and World War II. The suburbs existed in America before the war, yet it wasn’t until the collective national trauma of post-WWII America that a large scale migration to the suburbs took place. Where the eighteenth century London suburbs were ideologically constructed around luxury and the distancing of bourgeois culture from the working class, the suburbs of postwar America were constructed around safety and community; the class distinction became less rigid as a much wider population gained access to the privileged middle class. The suburban ideal became an integral part of the middle class American dream, the home became “a repository of dreams – [where] spaces, intimate but expansive, are imbued with memories and images,” (Wong, 446-7). The suburban ideal is about creating an image (an illusion) of suburbia which reflects the ideologies of security, stability and creativity.

While those were the primary ideologies of American postwar suburbia, there was another important element that was present back in eighteenth century London that was vital to the American suburbs: the consumption of luxury goods. However, the distinction between the two is that London’s bourgeoisie consumed out of luxury, where America’s middle class consumed out of necessity, to stimulate the economy to restore a prior state of capitalist normality. This necessary consumption implies that normality is an ideological construct that is to be performed, as luxury, too, must be performed to provide the illusion of a perfect (utopian) suburban lifestyle. Kim Dovey suggests that “the house as a symbolic package both establishes status and communicates it to others through the ‘impact it will make on all future visitors,’” (141). It does this through the size, location, aesthetics, and furnishings acquired through the capitalist discourses of choice and consumption. The house then transforms from an architectural building into a space of commodification. How well the suburban home reflects the ideologies of the American dream relates directly to how well the home owners perform the American dream.

The 1998 film, Pleasantville, explores the ideologies of 1950s suburban America, framing the story around two teenage siblings from the ’90s who get sucked into a ’50s sitcom called Pleasantville. The trailer states that the fictional town of the Pleasantville sitcom is “a place that’s as far from reality as we can imagine,” and that it is a story about “the loss of innocence.” The film constructs suburbia as an ideology that is comforting, yet totally unrealistic. The characters from the sitcom are safe from any outside threats because to them, literally nothing exists outside of Pleasantville. It is only when the two ’90s teenagers enter their world that the suburban way of life comes under threat. The characters in the sitcom gradually become aware that not everything that is foreign or different is bad, they have just been naturalised by the suburban ideal. The creativity that Wong mentions is non-existent in the town of Pleasantville, it is only performed, imagined, as is the safety of the suburbs. As hard as the parents try, they can not protect their children from the youth culture their ’90s counterparts introduce them to. Pleasantville suggests that the world of 1950s suburbia is far removed from 1990s American culture, and possibly that the 1950s suburbia never existed at all, that the suburban ideal was only accessed through the performativity of suburban ideologies to appear ‘real’.

The suburbs as we know them have developed from the bourgeois desire to distance themselves from the working class and indulge in a private and luxurious lifestyle. The suburban boom in post-WWII America saw a shift that brought the suburbs to the mass culture and represented a suburban ideal that constructed the home as a space of “security, stability,” and “creativity.” These ideologies were enabled through a capitalist discourse, where the commodification of the home reflected on the family, or (more accurately) reflected how the family wanted to be viewed by the rest of the neighbourhood. However, the suburban ideal and the American dream are ideological constructs that can only be accessed through performance; suburbia, and its subsequent comforts of safety and stability are imagined, and yet it seems real through the mass culture engagement with suburbia as a result of postwar America’s collective desire for suburban utopia.

THE POSTMODERN AND THE GOTHIC:

RECONTEXTUALISING SUBURBAN SPACE

Suburbia, from a postmodern context, has become radically altered from its setting in the American ’50s. As Pleasantville questioned the authenticity of 1950s suburbia, it could be argued that everything relating to the suburbs after the ’50s never really happened either. What is suburbia, if not a bunch of 1950s American values that have since been exhausted on television and merely performed in real life? That would then signify that acting out suburbia would have a similar effect as acting out anything else as seen on TV. After the initial postwar stage of suburbia ended, the following generations were informed of the suburban ideal through culture and the media. They began to simulate the suburbia of television sitcoms, representing the Baudrillardian concept of simulacra. As the suburban sitcom became more prominent, there was an increase in the production of media that subverted the suburban setting, or represented it in a different light. Postmodernist texts shift the suburban ideal away from its utopian setting into a more flawed, uncanny, and sometimes gothic setting, which raises the reader’s awareness of their position within the discourse of suburbia.

The representations of suburbia in postmodern texts (as products of the postmodern era) are ideologically constructed to reflect the suburban ideal, where postmodernist texts (those employing postmodern techniques) are ideologically constructed to challenge this. Suburbia in the real world has become a hyperreality, nothing more than a simulation of TV suburbia.

“Everywhere we live in a universe strangely similar to the original – things are doubled by their own scenario. But this doubling does not signify, as it did traditionally, the imminence of their death – they are already purged of their death, and better than when they were alive; more cheerful, more authentic, in the light of their model, like the faces in funeral homes,” (Baudrillard, 11).

The suburbs are still around only because they are “better than when they were alive; more cheerful, more authentic,” and regardless of whether they are real or not, the suburbs have become a source of comfort. The suburban ideal must exist because it has become immortalised on TV. When postmodernist texts begin to challenge suburban ideologies, the suburbs appear less utopic, less authentic, and the illusion of security and stability falls through. The simulation is exposed as a double, a replica that is “strangely similar to the original,” both vacant and hollow.

In the suburban gothic, we see “the depiction of suburbia as a placid and privileged locale beneath which terrible secrets and irrational forces lurk, waiting their chance to erupt violently into the open,” (Murphy, 166). Where texts usually position the threat to the suburban ideal as ‘other,’ an external force that obviously doesn’t belong, the postmodern gothic places the threat within the suburban community. The idea that any one of your neighbours could pose a threat to the suburban ideal and you have no means to identify them is unsettling. The home is transformed from a space that is ideologically constructed as safe and secure to a place that could be open to attack at any moment. It is a literal interpretation of Freud’s ‘unheimlich‘ (uncanny), the home suddenly becomes ‘un-homely’ or ‘un-home-like’. The real suburbia is more flawed than its ideological representation, yet this position is foreign to us because our experience of suburbia is acted out to be utopian, its flaws are hidden from us because we do not wish to see them.

Freud posits that “the uncanny is that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar,” (340). It is that which frightens us because it is connected to what we are already familiar with, yet it is different, unsettling. The suburbs are familiar to us, if not through direct experience of living in suburbs, then at least through television, through any number of cartoons and sitcoms, new shows and reruns. We grow up knowing what the suburbs are, and we are familiar with the nuclear family and what roles each member of the family typically performs. Even when the traditional roles are subverted in a traditional sitcom, we are aware the subversion signifies a dysfunctionality that is utilised for comedic effect. Postmodernist texts can create a sense of uncanniness by changing the nature of suburban spaces to appear familiar, yet different, frightening in their representations of suburbia, where the wholesome utopian ideologies are absent. As with the gothic, postmodernist texts provide an alternate reading of suburbia that goes beneath the surface, beneath the simulation of the suburban ideal, to expose the flaws and weaknesses that come with an unrealistic (utopian/hyperreal) perspective on suburbia.

The Sims is a computer game which simulates suburban lifestyle and interacts with its environment on a postmodernist level; it presents the player with a suburban setting that has the potential to fulfill the suburban ideal, yet it also allows for the simulation to fail, for suburbia to act outside its ideological positioning. To clarify, the game will only reflect the suburban ideal if the player him/herself performs the role of the ideal suburban character – if they buy the right furniture, appliances, if they decorate the house fashionably, and if they maintain an active lifestyle for the ‘sim’ characters which they control. Ann McGuire argues that The Sims “offers the experience of exploring spatial and social arrangements that seem to improve on the contemporary context, and thus the game potentially constitutes a site for active speculation about the ways in which the contemporary social environment positions its subjects,” (55). The player, in their process of performing a simulation of suburbia in a virtual environment, becomes aware of the possible ways in which they may be positioned in real life.

Postmodernist (and gothic) texts, in their representations of suburbia, highlight the flaws of the suburban ideal – that it represents security and stability based on the concept that the middle class are a particular type of subject sharing a particular set of (non-threatening) values. Suburbia is a utopian ideology which is an entirely simulated experience, yet when confronted with texts that represent suburbia in an insecure or counter-productive way, the illusion becomes threatened and the ‘reality’ of suburbia becomes exposed as simulacra. When postmodernist texts explore beneath the surface and highlight the performative nature of suburban life, they create a sense of uncanniness, they threaten a suburbia which has been integrated with middle class culture where every child is raised believing the ideologies of the patriarchal, nuclear family, that the suburbs are a space of safety and privacy, and that you can always trust your neighbours. Texts like The Sims and Pleasantville represent a suburbia that is ‘too simple’ to be real (we recognise its artificiality, its constructedness), and the idea that the suburbs aren’t as ‘real’ or as ‘authentic’ as initially expected is gradually becoming more common.

THE ULTRAVIOLENT DESTABILISATION OF SUBURBAN UTOPIA:
THE MEMOIR THAT IS NOT A MEMOIR THAT IS
BLANKETY BLANK

DISCLAIMER

This is a memoir, which is to say, a collection of my personal thoughts, feelings and experiences, which is to say, a work of absolute truth, which is to say, a work of unadulterated fiction, which is to say, a wild extrapolation of people, places and things that may or may not exist in the real world, as in a novel, or a movie, or the news, or history, or a dream, or, as it were, a memoir…” (Wilson, 5).

D. Harlan Wilson’s Blankety Blank is not a memoir. It is a work of fiction, of a genre which the author himself calls ‘irrealism’. It utilises the memoir genre, and uses various other literary techniques such as parody, self-reflexivity, ultraviolence, and absurdism, to construct a hyperreal suburbia called ‘vulgaria’. Vulgaria is constructed around similar ideologies as the suburban ideal – commodification of the home, the nuclear family, the security and stability of the suburbs – yet its ideologies are are an uncanny simulation of suburbia. What is normal in vulgaria is far more violent and destructive than in suburbia; it has taken sex and violence from popular culture and television and made it part of ordinary life. The utopian ideology of this world is destabilised when the main character obsesses over what the neighbours think of him, resorting to ludicrous displays of hyper-commodification and ultraviolence (the threat from within), meanwhile a serial killer called Blankety Blank enters the community and starts butchering people (the external threat).

Wilson uses the memoir genre to blur the liminal space between fact and fiction. The memoir is a genre that is based off the author’s personal experience; it is a subjective perspective of events that is both fact and fiction at the same time. It is ideologically constructed to present the author in a particular light. Helen Garner states that “I don’t feel exposed – because in this mysterious way I’m trying to describe, the ‘I’ in the story is never completely me,” (42). Garner recognises that the ‘I’ in her story is (to some extent) fictionalised. Wilson’s ‘memoir’ is very obviously fictional, yet the ‘I’ in it is nearly invisible. The story is told from the third person point-of-view, and it is only through the collection of ‘facts’, ‘quotes’, ‘definitions’ and ‘articles’ (complete with appropriately styled formatting) that the story imitates the real, and even then the majority of ‘authentic’ material is fictional. They appear to ground the narrative in the real world, to validate the memoir, yet “A Short History of the Silo,” (11), “A Short History of the Werewolf,” (17) and “A Short History of the Man Who Created a New Kind of Pickle,” (156) are parodies of the feature article, yet occasionally a genuine article appears in the text imitating the feature article style much the same as the others, such as “A Short History of Vulgarias,” (158). Where the conventional memoir is a work of non-fiction that contains traces of fiction, Blankety Blank is a work of fiction that contains traces of non-fiction.

As Blankety Blank subverts the memoir, it likewise subverts utopia in recreating a suburban setting that is familiar, yet is neither ‘ideal’ or ‘utopic’. “The word ‘utopia’ punningly combines the Greek words ‘eu’ (good), ‘ou’ (no) and ‘topia’ (place) to signify ‘the good place that is no place’,” (McGuire, 55), so the suburban utopia in Blankety Blank is constructed around “spatial and social arrangements which, by improving on those of the author’s own context, positions the reader to think critically about the inadequacies of that context for its subjects.” The improvements that Wilson has made were not to the real world, but to the imagined space of the suburban ideal, which are enabled by balancing out the utopia with excessive violence and highlighting the flaws of this imagined space. Vulgaria aspires to be a utopian community, yet it is a place without cohesion, with no collective ideology or shared community, it is (like suburbia) only a community through performance, a collective simulation of culture and ideology. Darko Suvin states that “some basic structural characteristics of utopia seem to flow logically from its status as a discourse about a particular, historically alternative, and better community,” (133). The vulgaria of Blankety Blank is a historical alternative to suburbia, yet as suburbia is already ideologically constructed as a utopia, its “better community” is a parody of an already non-existent place, the “good place that is no place.”

Blankety Blank provides a juxtaposition between a featureless, homogeneous suburbia and ultraviolence which is indicative of the mundane and everyday, yet it is uncanny in its transition between the mundane and the ultraviolent. This style of understated violence reflects Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho:

“I drag her back into the living room, laying her across the floor over a white Voilacutro cotton sheet, and then I stretch her arms out, placing her hands flat on thick wooden boards, palms up, and nail three fingers on each hand, at random, to the wood by their tips,” (235).

In Blankety Blank, Wilson writes:

“After slashing her throat, he rinsed the blood from the Buster sword in a stainless steel sink and waited for her to die. It didn’t take long. He had cut her exactingly, deeply, down to the spine, and she dashed around the kitchen for half a minute like a chicken on fire, blood exiting her neckhole in thick, oily spurts,” (63).

Wilson’s absurd matter-of-fact tone carries throughout the book, where such violence does not belong in the over-protective bubble of suburban culture, the residents of vulgaria are desensitised to ultraviolence, they disregard the serial killer and think nothing of the fact that he has a barbershop pole for a head. Blankety Blank is bland and affectless, and there is no clear motivation for the excessive violence, as there is no clear explanation for many other things in the book. Vulgaria simulates violence as it does identity or culture, as an imagined ideology, a hyperreality that is dangerously like the ‘real’ suburbia. The fact that not everything has a meaning signifies that vulgaria is more like the ‘real’ suburbia than its ideological representations.

Edward W. Soja argues that the postmodern city is what he calls the “carceral archipelago,” a place consisting of many micro-communities that have formed their own means for maintaining order according to their own ideological positioning within the city. The suburbs are patrolled by the members of the neighbourhood, they watch out for each other, they are self-policing. Yet this only works if everyone shares a set of communal ideologies. In postmodernity we are already aware that the suburban ideal is not as solid as the ’50s would have us imagine. Surveillance of the neighbourhood then shifts from making sure everyone is safe to making sure no-one is ‘acting out’ from their role as ideal suburban subjects. In Blankety Blank, these postmodern anxieties are expressed by various members of the community in various different ways. The main character assures his neighbours he is the ideal suburban subject by building a giant (and totally pointless) silo in his front yard, buys a luxury car, and throws dinner parties to impress the neighbours with the aesthetics of his commodified McMansion. Another character is a neighbourhood superhero by night, watching over his neighbours as a masked vigilante, should they come under harm from strangers or each other in the night.

Suburbia is simulated in Blankety Blank through a postmodern subversion of genre and culture which highlights the anxiety that a threat imposes suburbia from within – a threat to identity; and an external threat from that which does not belong – the foreign subject that doesn’t fit in with the ideological construction of suburbia. The characters in Blankety Blank are like any other person in suburbia; they engage with the suburban space on an ideological level, constructing an imagined utopia by acting out the notion of ‘suburbia’. Their performativity simulates the performativity of the ‘real’ suburban space in that they are ultimately flawed. While the characters attempt to construct a utopia from their neighbourhood, they are jaded by their own personal needs and desires; they can not all collectively share in the suburban ideal. This leads to their eventual self-destruction, as their suburbia is merely a hyperreality, and their false sense of security fails to keep Mr. Blankety Blank out of their neighbourhood. Their death, as a result of their misguided security, signifies the death of suburbia.

POSTMODERN REPRESENTATIONS OF SUBURBIA (SUBURBAN IDEAL)
AND REPRESENTATIONS OF POSTMODERN SUBURBIA (COMMODIFIED CULTURE)

One of the last scenes in Blankety Blank involves the main character reflecting on a newspaper article titled, “Man brings cow to testify for him,” (Wilson, 181).

“There was something familiar about the article. He had read it before. Years ago. In a different paper. And the story had taken place in a different city. And instead of a cow, it had been a donkey. A male donkey named Buddy… How many years ago was that? Over ten. Why did he remember it? Was the newspaper recycling its stories? Of course. Narrative regurgitation is the flux capacitor of all media. But why did it bother him? It had never bothered him before,” (181-2).

As the donkey has transformed into a cow over time, the suburbs have transformed from place into ideology into simulation. But the suburbs in Blankety Blank are just not quite right. Vulgaria is not quite right in the same way the world of The Sims is not quite right or the way the town of Pleasantville is not quite right. There is nothing beyond them. They are constructed around the utopia of the suburban ideal, or a more flawed manifestation thereof.

These texts reflect on the real suburban space only as sitcoms do, as a simulation of the 1950s American ideology. They are a response to this ideology, as the suburbs can only exist as part of a larger industrial network, and the ideologies can only be engaged on a superficial/performative level. The suburbs, as an ideological construct are not real; they are simulating the suburban ideal of TV sitcoms. Blankety Blank engages with the suburbs on this level, of an enacted ideology that tries, but fails to conjure up a reality where the suburban ideal exists; it highlights the flaws in 1950s suburban logic while it mourns the death of the postmodern suburbs – an imagined space that never really existed and a physical space that is gradually slipping away from the utopia it was built around.

LIST OF WORKS CITED

Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Faria Glaser. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1994. Print.

Dovey, Kim. “Dreams on Display: Suburban Ideology in the Model Home.” Beasts of Suburbia: Reinterpreting Cultures in Australian Suburbs. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1994. 127-47. Print.

Ellis, Bret Easton. American Psycho. New York: Vintage-Random House, 1991. Print.

Fishman, Richard. “London: Birthplace of Suburbia.” Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia. New York: Basic Books, 1987. 18-38. Print.

Freud, Sigmund. Art and Literature: Jensen’s Gradiva, Leonardo da Vinci, and Other Works. Trans. Albert Dickson. London: Penguin Books, 1985. Print.

Garner, Helen. “I: Helen Garner explores the new and different persona a writer must adopt in each successive work.” Meanjin. 61.1 (2002): 40-45. Print.

McGuire, Ann. “Simplification: The Sims and Utopianism.” Papers: Explorations into Children’s Literature (special issue: New Media and the (D)igital Generation.) 14.2: (2004). 55-64. Print.

Murphy, Bernice M. The Suburban Gothic in American Popular Culture. Houndmills, Basingstoke; Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. 166-92. Print.

Pleasantville. Dir. Gary Ross. New Line Cinema, 1998. Film.

Soja, Edward W. Postmetropolis: Critical Studies of Cities and Regions. Malden: Blackwell, 2000. Print.

The Sims. Designer: Will Wright. Developer/Publisher: Maxis/Electronic Arts, 2000. Macintosh/PC Game.

Suvin, Darko. “Defining the literary genre of utopia: some historical semantics, some genology, a proposal and a plea.” Studies in the literary imagination. 6.2. (1973): 121- 45. Print.

Wilson, D. Harlan. Blankety Blank: A Memoir of Vulgaria. Hyattsville: Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2008. Print.

Wong, Yoke-Sum. “Modernism’s Love Child: The Story of Happy Architectures.” Common Knowledge. 14.3. (2008): 445-71. Project Muse. Web. 23 Aug. 2011.

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2 thoughts on “Welcome to Vulgaria: the ‘Real’ (Irreal) Suburban Simulacra of Blankety Blank

  1. Great article! Do you have a reference of this part of your essay? Or did you do it yourself?

    “The suburbs as we know them have developed from the bourgeois desire to distance themselves from the working class and indulge in a private and luxurious lifestyle. The suburban boom in post-WWII America saw a shift that brought the suburbs to the mass culture and represented a suburban ideal that constructed the home as a space of “security, stability,” and “creativity.” These ideologies were enabled through a capitalist discourse, where the commodification of the home reflected on the family, or (more accurately) reflected how the family wanted to be viewed by the rest of the neighbourhood. However, the suburban ideal and the American dream are ideological constructs that can only be accessed through performance; suburbia, and its subsequent comforts of safety and stability are imagined, and yet it seems real through the mass culture engagement with suburbia as a result of postwar America’s collective desire for suburban utopia.”

    1. I think the part discussing “security, stability, and creativity” might have been from the Kim Dovey reading (or perhaps the Yoke-Sum Wong reading), but I wrote this too long ago to remember exactly. Other than that, I was drawing on some of Baudrillard’s ideas here, with suburbia as performance, and unpacking the rest of it myself.

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