an essay i wrote when i was 16:
"At every stage in our lives, we are forced to succumb to consumerism. Whether it is through
advertisements, music, film, or simply word of mouth, we have been exposed to it since day one.
When I was very young, I had an almost unhealthy obsession with the then-popular recording
artist Britney Spears. I made up dances to all of her music, knew every lyric, and even tried to
dress as scantily as she. The moment the Pepsi commercial featuring Britney aired, I refused
to drink anything but “the drink Britney likes”. Looking back on this, a clear indication can
be made as to how all of us become so blatantly lifestyle-obsessed. From an early age we are
forced into trends by what is simply the most marketed. At the time of my early childhood, the
main attraction was an artist like Britney Spears. Now, a 6 year old girl may turn her admiration
towards someone like Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber. The Orange Fish looks at consumerism
from a superbly straightforward angle. At one point or another, everything is original and new.
However, as time goes on things are copied over and over. The simplest way one could view it
is with a copy-machine. One copy can be made, and it will come out nearly perfect. However
if that copy is copied once again, and so on and so forth, the image will eventually become
unrecognizable and unrelatable.
The Orange Fish is an obvious example of the way our possessions can connect us to each other,
while at the same time pushing us further apart. The story beings with a 30-something couple
who are both drowning in a middle-aged rut.
This couple is on a hunt for something that will change their lives, but their search is to no avail.
That is, until they find a print of the orange fish. This painting creates a warmth and feeling of
unity inside their household almost immediately. Soon after purchasing the Orange Fish they
attend a meeting of people who also own prints of the painting. They feel connected to these
people because of the joy the painting has brought them collectively. However, the narrator
soon comes to the realization that the orange fish will eventually be downsized into posters and
stickers and stamps, and soon enough will become meaningless altogether. The story ends with:
“There can be no turning back at this point… the orange fish, without a backward glance, will
begin to die.”
The same thing can be said for something like the internet. Initially, the internet was created to
connect army bases and soldiers. Conversely, as time went on and technology progressed, office
computers were built, and then PC’s, until the internet became a necessary part of our lives.
Today, there is no novelty whatsoever when it comes to the internet. People use it for everything,
and it connects everyone. On the other hand, aside from connecting people in a positive way, the
internet has aided in the progression of hate groups, violence, child-pornography and bullying.
As with everything in this world, at one point or another, it becomes overused and exploited.
Along with this, it is quite fascinating how the age of 30 is almost always associated with
depression and being “trapped”. A character like Jack of the novel Fight Club is a classic case
of a rut-ridden 30-something. He refers to himself as a “slave to the Ikea nesting ground” and
describes how instead of reading pornography he reads the “Horchow furniture collection”.
The difference that these two stories have is that in Fight Club it is physical possessions that are
tearing people apart; while in The Orange Fish, the painting brings people together.
The first line of The Orange Fish is “Like others of my generation I am devoted to food, money
and sex…and have been unhappily married… for 12 years.” Reading this line, the first question
that comes to mind when faced with this statement is “If you are so unhappy, then are you still
doing what you are doing?” This story is, while among other things, homage to the married life
and all of the difficulties that tie into it. On television we constantly see that generic, boring
couple picking out lamp-shades at Home Depot. Things like this are easily mocked until we
realize that the people in that Home Depot commercial are us. Yet, the human race leads our
individual lives as the consumers that we are because it is simply what we are used to. If we have
learned anything from our past couple thousand years in existence, it is that humans hate change.
The Orange Fish itself is a symbol of the connection so briefly made, and so quickly lost from
human to human because of the advancement in technology and material things. “What we
need,” I said, gesturing at the void, “is a picture.” shows the lifestyle obsession that the people
of our generation have adopted and are clearly unwilling to shake. The Orange Fish provides
a glimpse into the future of all material possessions that were once valuable, if we do not treat
them with care, and make sure not to exploit them. Though, as we have noticed throughout the
years, this is one of the hardest things for one to do."