Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Shopping Mall: A Religious Site

Today, my family and I attended mass at a local Roman Catholic parish. Afterwards, we "attended" two shopping malls, not to mention a grocery store and a gas station. And I would have bought a Lego version of the beloved Disney/Pixar character Wall-E had it been in stock at the local Lego Store. I should also mention that I took my photo at the Apple Store, at which I mentioned to my family that "we should all be happy. It's like Walt Disney World."

Smith seems to take a page from Jon Pahl in referring to the shopping mall as a site of religious ritual (I like that he talks about the mall parking lot as a kind of moat, as there is no real way to get to the mall a pedestrian. This is ironic as the mall acts as a kind of sanctuary for walking in the wintertime). I appreciate Smith's discussions of the visual semiotics of the mall, the architectural codes that he calls "catholic" (that is, universal), those things that indicate that this building is, in fact, a shopping mall. Smith calls the various shopping seasons a sort of religious calendar, while he calls the stores "shrines." This is closer to truth for me: I've done pilgrimages to various Apple Stores in my lifetime (Polo Park, Rideau, Eaton Centre, Sainte-Catherine, Mall of America, Square One, Soho and Carrefour Laval, off the top of my head). He writes,
While other religions are promising salvation through the thin, dry media of books and messages, this new global religion is offering embodied pictures of the redeemed that invite us to imagine ourselves in their shoes--to imagine ourselves otherwise, and thus to willingly submit to the disciplines that produce the saints evoked in the icons. (21)
Smith's description of the mall as religious site, along with acolytes (greeters) and priests (cashiers), is compelling. And very familiar.

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