Hey, Texas, how was your holiday weekend? Eat some turkey? Spend some time with the family? Watch some football? Trample your fellow shoppers in a consumption-induced frenzy of abnormally low prices on high-end electronics? You know, the standard Thanksgiving/Black Friday stuff.
On Thursday night—that is to say, Thanksgiving, while many were watching Texas play Texas Tech—shoppers at the Walmart in Saginaw, just north of Fort Worth were on their way to becoming Internet famous. A three-minute video entitled “Black Friday Madness,” shot inside of the store, features agitated customers pushing and shoving each other, yelling at the police, swearing at store employees, and generally behaving poorly in pursuit of Blu-Ray players, 32″ televisions for $99, and other in-demand electronics. At the moment, the video is closing in on 1.3 million views on YouTube.
The comments on the video itself are—perhaps unsurprisingly, given the nature of YouTube comments—pretty awful, full of self-satisfied users talking about the stupidity of Black Friday shoppers, the tragedy of valuing material goods so much, the crappiness of the products, and general snark about poor people, people of color, and people with health problems, among various other stereotypes.
Viewing this type of video during the Thanksgiving weekend has sadly become its own tradition. Seemingly on Black Friday, half of the country rushes out to Walmart/Best Buy/Target/wherever has the biggest electronics for the cheapest prices, and the other half of the country smugly judges those people. More than one million people didn’t watch the video because they empathized with the shoppers who injured one another as they crashed about the store in an attempt to nab a cheap Blu-Ray player, after all.
But what are we really watching when we watch the mobs of shoppers get involved in shoving matches over electronics? There’s something hypocritical about people who already own flatscreen televisions, laptops, and tablets using those devices to watch videos of people fighting for the chance to have those things, and then making fun of them for wanting them. Both groups are part of a culture that insists that having a tablet, a smartphone, a flatscreen, and their various accessories are indicators of status and the keys to a happy life—but only one group can afford to buy them.
Then, for one hour a year, those things go on sale at prices that allow people who line up at the Walmart in Saginaw on Thanksgiving to actually own them. The video of what happens next might not be flattering, but it’s not a good look to mock people for wanting things that the people who make the jokes already have.
Ultimately, the “Black Friday Madness” video is a reflection of a culture that places such a high value on fancy devices and high-end electronics, and the lengths to which people will go to feel like a part of that culture. If you already have those things, you’re a part of it, too—you’re just one of the lucky ones who didn’t have to suffer bruises to get them.