On a typical lazy weekend, I came across an Amazon Prime flick called The Joneses. All I saw from the description was “a perfect family…” and stopped reading. I don’t like spoilers and I also know that there are no perfect families, so it intrigued me.
I was pleasantly surprised to see some of my factor actors, Demi Moore, David Duchovny, and Lauren Hutton, and as the story progressed, it sent my money-brain thoughts into motion.
The movie opens with the Joneses moving into a new home. It’s in a polished, upscale neighborhood where the possibilities of a charmed life await. With their stately peaks, each house’s exterior represents the image of suburban nirvana.
“Keeping Up With The Joneses” is, of course, the familiar cliché. Actually meeting them can subliminally alter your psyche, which is the premise of the movie. The family is a pure version of Mom, Dad, daughter, and son, and they are a vision of perfection. They answer the door in unison, smiling on cue.
Once they split into the night, it becomes obvious to the viewer that this is an artificial family. From little bits of dialogue, their conversation is anything but familial. The viewer learns that Demi Moore is the ring-leader of this bunch who reports to a higher power for the roles that they are assigned.
As part of a sophisticated marketing scheme, each of the Joneses has been strategically placed in the neighborhood to boost consumerism. They are dispatched to make friends, network through the community, aggrandize their lifestyle, and evoke envy. Mom lives an enchanted existence of yoga classes, facials, and massages. Dad plays golf all day with the best clubs that money can buy. Son parties constantly and owns everything that will impress his friends. Daughter’s life would make a princess jealous. By parading their perfect image, the impact of their subliminal cues is reflected in the amount of product sales. At evaluation time, Lauren Hutton rates each player on the amount of sales that they generate.
I won’t spoil how the movie unfolds, but while these stick figures raise revenue, the people they affect are challenged with real-life potholes. Ultimately, the players re-connect to their humanly qualities.
Big mistake, thinking that “things” are going to make you happy. The Joneses find out that having “things” can’t replace human connections. The last time I was influenced to buy something, I was twelve. Thankfully, the maturation bus stops at Saturation Point, where material goods don’t provide all the happiness we expect. Those who haven’t reached full maturity haven’t reached the satiety point, but they will.
I remember when my personal bus stopped there. It was when I hit the 10-year ownership mark on one of my cars. That’s my personal car ownership minimum. Even though I satisfied my car-ration goal, I felt that a new car probably wouldn’t make me happier. I’d still have job stress, sleep problems, family rifts, train delays, bad hair days, and indigestion from Mexican food.
Another time was about a year into home ownership. I bought so much stuff that first year, I had problems storing things. Did I really need a bedspread that mimicked every outside season? Of course, each bedspread came with a set of matching curtains. I ran out of room quickly. Now I only buy household items when something breaks. And, my bedspread is a solid color.
Money is connected to our happiness and, yet, it’s not – completely. That’s a paradox that needs to be bifurcated. Money is necessary for our basic needs. After that, excesses lose their glitz. The mistake is thinking money satisfies every need.
On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, money is a necessity for the bottom two levels, our physiological needs of air, water, food, and physical safety. Money isn’t required for anything north of that. Love, self-esteem, and self-actualization are not life aspects that can be bought. Regardless of what society dictates to us, money cannot buy friendships, family bonds, compassion, empathy, and companionship. Hopefully, anyone who buys into the money = happiness equation will learn that it’s a lie before it’s too late, before they ruin too many relationships. Once relationships are broken, they can’t be re-bought as easily as a broken set of Beats.
Basically, I don’t care what others own. When I see new cars, I see endless monthly payments and money thrown away on insurance. If I did drive a brand-new car, what would that do for me? Would it matter if the driver behind me thinks I’m well-to-do or good enough (Good enough for what, exactly?).
Would it help how they think of me? Not really. They wouldn’t know anything about me, my name, my preferences, or my struggles. A car is a shell, a shell that we cart our emotional being around in. Just like vinyl siding that masks a family’s complex dynamics, material goods are all shells. Hard on the outside to shield our insides from visibility, vacant in the middle.
There’s no stopping the endless moguls of life’s affairs to navigate. No amount of money erases all that away. C’est la vie. I value how I spend my time, where and with whom. No Jones family can ever convince me otherwise.