The Concept of the “Dream House” in Relation to the “American Dream”

Property ownership has been an overarching theme of the semester thus far. From The Old Man and the Storm, which follows an eighty-two year old man as he rebuilds his home after Hurricane Katrina, to Michael Lewis’ The Big Short, which depicts the build-up of the United States housing bubble in the early 2000’s, to Angela Flournoy’s The Turner House, which tells an account of an African American family living in Detroit struggling to keep their childhood home, the concept of housing is an important element to consider. Furthermore, it is also crucial to keep in mind that in all three of these cases this notion of home is accompanied with sentiments of melancholy.

The idea of a “dream house” juxtaposes the disheartening idea of home seen in the varying art forms aforementioned. This notion of a “dream house” is largely highlighted in mediums such as magazine advertisements and television shows and connects notably to the “American Dream” throughout time. Rather than focusing on compartmentalizing, many times a key component of a “dream house” is expansion, as depicted in Mr. Blandings Dream House. In the film (seen thus far), Jim Blandings and his family are cramped in a New York apartment. After seeing an ad in the paper about new homes in Connecticut, he and his wife decide to purchase what they continuously call their “dream house,” regardless of the apprehensions of their lawyer.

However, Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s lecture “Small is Beautiful” highlights the importance of modesty and ecological efficiency. He calls attention to the contemporary “Tiny House Movement” gaining popularity, as magazines and television shows are beginning to bring this shift into popular culture. An excerpt from the the television show Portlandia, shown during the lecture, exemplifies, in a greatly exaggerated manner, the efficiency and capability of a “tiny house.” Dr. Kenneth Cooper went on to reexamine the notions of the “American Dream,” calling attention to other countries, such as the Netherlands, that use bicycles, drive smaller vehicles, have tinier food portion sizes, and overall have less grandiose ideals within the culture. This sense of more, and bigger and greater has me thinking, when did the “American Dream” begin to constitute gluttony? Or has it always had?

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