In "Americanized" by Bruce Dawe, what ideas about consumerism is Dawe trying to convey?
In "Americanized," Bruce Dawe is trying to show how consumerism controls every aspect of a person's life, from birth to death. Even as the baby in the first stanza is first entering his house, he hears "Bobby Dazzler on Channel 7," which stands for a showman. His first days are not occupied with conversation with his parents; instead, he experiences television and other aspects of commercialism. Even his family is described in the following way: "economy-size Mum, one Anthony Squires-Coolstream-Summerweight Dad, along with two other kids straight off the Junior Department rack." His parents and siblings are compared metaphorically to products that come off the assembly line ("Anthony Squires" is an Australian suit brand at the time) and that are characterized by efficiency rather than love or affection of any kind.
As he matures, the boy's every move is monitored by electronic signs that tell him, "WALK. DON'T WALK," and issue other commands, and he hears the "beep, beep" of the car horn and his mother responding to traffic. His life is littered with commercialism rather than with conversation or love. However, the boy is still young enough to yearn for the delights of nature, and he marvels at "a pure unadulterated fringe of sky, littered with stars no-one had got around to fixing up yet" when he goes to the drive-in movie theater.
As he ages, commercial products again eclipse any experience he could have of a natural life. Even in death, he is a manufactured product, as the morticians give him a "healthy tan he'd never had, living, gave him back for keeps the old automatic smile with nothing behind it." Pervasive commercialism makes him unable to experience life or love; instead, consumerism clutters his life with artificial experiences and things he doesn't really need.
"Americanized" presents the paradigm that many destructive ideas are associated with consumerism. In the poem, Dawe depicts consumerism has having constructed an emotional barrier between mother and child. She is driven by the tenets that consumerism has imparted to her. They are self- indulgent and narcissistic elements that preclude any real emotional embrace of motherhood. "The vague, passing spasm of loss" from the child is largely ignored as the mother is more concerned with her toys.
Consumerism has supplanted any real connection between them. When the mother allows the child to "play" with toys that are hers, what is found is the world of brand name products like Pepsi, chewing gum, and spam. The only human connection that exists between them is one that is commercially generated and for profit. This presents consumerism as a destructive force, hollow at its core. It is designed for individuals to believe that it can be a force of communion, when in reality it is a force that is shown to facilitate emotional separation and emptiness. In this light, Dawe's critique of consumerism as a emptied- out testament that is passed from mother to child, generation to generation, is chilling.