Ordinary Lifestyles: Popular Media, Consumption and Taste

By David Bell; Joanne Hollows | Go to book overview

8 It was beautiful before you
changed it all
Class, taste and the transformative
aesthetics of the garden lifestyle media

Lisa Taylor

The ‘ordinary’ domestic garden has become the site where most garden lifestyling in the British media is staged. Arguing that the ‘ordinary’ people and places of lifestyle are always classed, this chapter interrogates the transformative aesthetics of the lifestyled garden. With reference to British weekend lifestyle journalism, such as Observer Life, and lifestyle programmes like Home Front in the Garden (BBC2, 1997— ), it asks: if the lifestyled garden is more ‘ordinary’ who, in class terms, is the implied ‘ordinary’ viewer? Is there a dominant set of garden aesthetics or are there competing versions vying for authentication? And whose aesthetics are given national legitimation and whose are relegated to the local margins?

The sustained popularity and expansion of the lifestyle media needs to be set against the backcloth of a wider cultural shift: the ascent of ‘lifestyle’ must be seen as part of the transition from civic to consumer culture (Bauman 1987). Locally, social agents have experienced this shift through the decline of traditional, communal ‘ways of life’ which have been replaced by consumer lifestyles (Chaney 1996, 2001). For subjects no longer reliant on the stability offered by the traditional way of life, lifestyle projects are utilized as coping mechanisms in face of the changes delivered by modernity (Chaney 2001). Seen in this way, the lifestyle media offer viewers the stabilizing potential to help them cope; the formal construction of lifestyle hooks into the ordinary rhythms, practices and sites of everyday life. In the context of late capitalism, the media and culture industries have a vested interest in providing a central arena for the organization of the transition Chaney describes. Hence, there is an interlocking, mutually lucrative relationship between the lifestyle media, the display of lifestyle ideas and consumer culture.

In his most recent work on lifestyle, Chaney (2001) argues that traditional ideas about culture are no longer tenable in social theory. Whereas culture was once conceived as a firm set of beliefs and normative expectations, shared within a relatively stable community, in mass societies there are a ‘multiplicity of overlapping cultures with

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