The Shopping Maul

Eric Benson
4 min readNov 26, 2022
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

In Canada and America, “Black Friday” is the day after Thanksgiving. The ominous sounding name is hardly a bad moniker for multi-national corporations, as hoards of consumers flood parking lots, lining up sometimes as early as midnight to gorge themselves on salivating sale items. It’s the biggest shopping day of the year, and that means seemingly everything to most of the country. Black Friday was named in 1961 Philadelphia as city policeman used the term to describe the unorganized mess of people and cars lined up to shop early for the holidays. “Black Friday” slowly grew in popularity and was strategically marketed as vital to American culture (and more covertly necessary for economic prowess) until it secured the honor of “holiday” around 1975.

When director George Romero introduced the modern idea of the zombie in 1968, he created an enduring metaphor depicting the societal impact of rampant conspicuous consumption. His allegory for the consumer is a mindless empty shell connected to its fellow man only by its incessant need to be satiated by living flesh and blood. The zombie ingeniously represents the demise of free thought and critical analysis in society. Romero shows the horrors of humanity as well as the isolation and banality of our existence in a corporate-driven world. His 1978 sequel Dawn of the Dead was set in a bustling shopping mall. It was not by accident that he chose this setting to broaden his commentary on the mindless consumption that drives much of humanity.

Romero uses the phrase “they’re us” to describe the zombies. He doesn’t say they “were us,” but instead makes the distinction that we have become inhabited by corporatism mindlessly needing to devour. So consumed that on “Black Fridays” all over the country, violence is common. Shoppers have been beaten, trampled, mauled, and pepper sprayed by their own in order to be the first to feast on the best deals of the day. So consumed that “Black Friday” now has spawned cousins like “Black Thursday” and “Cyber Monday” allowing the masses more opportunity to satiate themselves on the sales that help promote quarterly shareholder profits and CEO bonuses.

It is human nature to need; however we are being tricked to buy more than we need. Advertisers have been complicit in the creation of the droves of rabid consumers that pile into malls and big box stores on Black Fridays…

Eric Benson

Associate Professor and Chair of Graphic Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Co-founder of Re-nourish & Fresh Press Agri-Fiber Paper Lab.