Wednesday, June 3, 2009

History is, like, so OLD or whatever

Recently, I was watching TLC's Clean Sweep, a show that tackles the cluttered lives of various homeowners, forcing hard choices on what to keep and what to toss. On the surface, it seems an innocuous enough premise: get rid of the detritus. However, I was dumbfounded by what self-proclaimed organizational therapist Peter Walsh had to say to one couple regarding some treasured family items.

Wielding pop psychology like a sledgehammer, Walsh relentlessly chipped away at the emotional bonds and sense of legacy one couple holds for their family's antique furniture. At one point he even pantomimed a strangle-hold around the woman's neck. Walsh intimated that these heirlooms have been choking her emotionally and that it might be better if she chucked them to the curb and made room for... That's right. The crew's own cheaply-constructed MDF monstrosities! Lacking character and warmth (much like the show), this veneered particleboard has been a staple of nearly every TLC home makeover show since the trend began. I mean, c'mon, how can solid oak or maple compare to that, right? Somehow I'm reminded of the remodel in the film Beetle Juice.

As each beautifully wrought piece was carted off by nameless crewmen, the tears began cut rivulets down the homeowner's face. Regret had sunk in. It began to look less like family-friendly TLC and a more like Sophie's Choice. "Take my dresser!"

I wonder if this isn't what we do with other cherished old things that "clutter" the American landscape. Is history simply biding its time until another cheap prefab McMansion can sprout like a weed in the wake of its demise?

Apparently those hard lessons learned from "Urban Renewal", which reared its ugly head in the wake of postwar housing booms in the middle of the 20th century, have yet to sink into the hearts and minds of some. How many more historic treasures will be lost in time simply because they're, like OMG!, so old and stuff?

4 comments:

kap said...

Timely post for an old fart like me. Don't let them cart me away, Cullan. I like it here.

Cullan Hudson said...

You're now a famous and powerful author. They daren't cart YOU away. I, however, am still struggling to breakthrough the paper ceiling.

Blogess said...

Way back in the 1960's, I recall a scene from a Loring novel where the "old couple" delightfully unloaded a solid oak table and chairs handed down for four generations. They wanted one of those nice "new" formica and aluminum tables.....

One of the problems I have with those design shows is the sense of God like power they want to inflict you and your home with in the name of design. Designer struts in and - does not actually learn about the home or its needs - but just voila! Cookie cutters them into something like everyone else. Another show that really gets my goat is the one where they are auctioning off the soon to be demolished houses and its guts. Nine out of ten times the house is new!!!!! Why are they gutting it and why are they tearing it down? One reason - a member of the 'it is so good to be green' and 'save the resources of the planet' crowd have decided it is too small....GRRRRR! People who forget history as a culture are doomed to repeat....unfortunately for personal family history - once the tangible and real are gone - they are gone.......
A really ticked off historian and family researcher who knows first hand about lost personal history!

Cullan Hudson said...

Yes, it annoys me when shows rip up homes to replace flooring, etc. with "green" materials. Is it me or does that logic not vibe. Wouldn't it be MORE green to keep the flooring and live with it? Now, you've uprooted it and tossed it in the landfill AND on top of that produced MORE flooring that wasn't needed in the first place. I'm not talking about replacing something damaged but just replacing because... Um... I like don't like it anymore. This is why design should never be capricious and only as much as an ephemeral fad as the media used to creat it. That said, save trendy design looks that are "over" in two seconds for digital media. Make wise, well-thought out choices for homes. Who wants the soap box next?