Good Guys Don't Wear Polyester: Consumption Ideology in a Detective Series

Cathy Goodwin, University of Manitoba
ABSTRACT - Consumer researchers have studied consumption ideology in movies and television series. Best-selling novels have been recognized as mirrors of contemporary consumption values. This analysis focuses on another well-recognized medium of popular culture--the hard-boiled detective story. While previous research identified a secular/sacred dichotomy, this analysis identifies a bipolar opposition based on elements of taste and style. Analysis of three novels reveals themes which have been identified in social analyses of contemporary American culture. These themes of cognitive acquisition and lifestyle therapy suggest directions for further consumer research.
[ to cite ]:
Cathy Goodwin (1992) ,"Good Guys Don't Wear Polyester: Consumption Ideology in a Detective Series", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 19, eds. John F. Sherry, Jr. and Brian Sternthal, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 739-745.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 19, 1992      Pages 739-745

GOOD GUYS DON'T WEAR POLYESTER: CONSUMPTION IDEOLOGY IN A DETECTIVE SERIES

Cathy Goodwin, University of Manitoba

ABSTRACT -

Consumer researchers have studied consumption ideology in movies and television series. Best-selling novels have been recognized as mirrors of contemporary consumption values. This analysis focuses on another well-recognized medium of popular culture--the hard-boiled detective story. While previous research identified a secular/sacred dichotomy, this analysis identifies a bipolar opposition based on elements of taste and style. Analysis of three novels reveals themes which have been identified in social analyses of contemporary American culture. These themes of cognitive acquisition and lifestyle therapy suggest directions for further consumer research.

INTRODUCTION

Recent consumer researchers have analyzed popular media vehicles, such as films and television series, as myths which communicate and represent consumer social values and ideologies. This paper examines consumer ideologies in the contemporary detective story, focusing on texts from Robert B. Parker's popular novels featuring Spenser. Analysis is based solely on the novels; the television series, "Spenser for Hire," bore little resemblance to the original.

While a sacred/spiritual -- secular/profane opposition emerged from several film analyses (Hirschman 1987, 1988), a structural analysis of specific Spenser novels suggests a binary opposition relating to what Lears (1983) and Agnew (1983) call acquisitive cognition. Inept, tasteless consumption is associated with inappropriate social and family behaviors, while people who "know how to act" also consume appropriately. Mediating between these oppositions of appropriateness and inappropriateness are characters, actions and consumption which will be called incongruous: they know society's rules but break them deliberately.

THE DETECTIVE STORY AS POPULAR CULTURE

Friedman (1985) observes that best-selling novels can be useful vehicles to study consumer norms and values. Detective fiction "has long displaced the cowboy novel as the staple of American popular writing" (Winks 1980). An English professor writes:

"As the most popular of popular forms of fiction, and as a central mythology for the age of the individual lost in the crowd, the detective story serves as a barometer for our changing conceptions of ourselves, and as an important, perhaps even central, model for the more 'serious' fiction produced in our age." (McConnell 1988).

The genre mirrors American myths and aspirations (Winks 1980) and influences American values, such as values associated with alcohol consumption (Filloy 1986). The private detective is a contemporary hero figure (Rickman 1983), "a person of special powers, a shaman or even a savior" (Nelson and Avery 193, p. 465). In general, mythical heros "tend to represent goals to be approached rather than definable human figures" (Norman 1969, p. 3). Similarly, detective heroes emerge ex nihilo, with minimal references to their past lives. Their characters contain elements of implausibility, such as Spenser's single name and his invincibility in slaying modern-day dragons.

Scholars of the genre tend to distinguish the hard-boiled detective, who gets involved in situations that end up in murder, from the cerebral detective uses clues to uncover the identity of a murderer. Examples of the latter include Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe; examples of the hard-boiled school include Marlowe, the Continental Op, Lew Archer, Travis McGee, and Spenser. Spenser is immensely popular. According to one critic, he is also a "state of the art" example of the tough detective's evolution "from cynical, professionally efficient operator to observer and personification of the noblest popular insights of his day" (Gray 1984).

A STRUCTURAL APPROACH TO THE SPENSER NOVELS

Hirschman (1988, 1989) has identified structures in film and television vehicles based on a binary opposition between sacred/spiritual and secular/profane elements. In her analyses, sacred consumption is associated with attributes such as home-made, inexpensive, or close to nature. Sacred characters value loyalty, friendship and family.

When this approach (Levi-Strauss 1965, 1973) is applied to the Spenser novels, a bipolar opposition emerges based on elements of taste and style. The poles can be labelled "appropriateness" and "inappropriateness." Appropriateness is associated with suitability, goodness of fit, congruence, lack of artifice and wise choice. Well-fitting clothes, sophisticated food, and in general "knowing how to act" are appropriate. Inappropriateness is associated with a lack of taste or fit due to ignorance or ineptitude: overweight, sloppiness, clothing or furnishings in poor taste, and food that Levy (1981) would categorize as lower class. White bread and polyester are symbols of not knowing any better; in one scene, Spenser teases the police, "Don't get marshmallow fluff on those photos."

Mediating between the poles of inappropriateness and appropriateness are situations and people who can be labelled incongruous. Incongruity is associated with a lack of harmony which is deliberate, conscious, unexpected, even playful. A well-tailored suit is appropriate; a hard-boiled detective who knows how to cook is incongruous. A corrupt police chief is inappropriate; a tough policeman who looks like a shoe salesman is incongruous.

Incongruities often derive from the juxtaposition of Spenser's consumption style with the qualities he shares with traditional genre hard-boiled dicks. For example, in Ceremony, he accepts teenaged April's determination to be a prostitute: "Her morals are her business." However, he wants April to be the "right kind" of prostitute--i.e., a knowledgeable consumer who knows how to eat in restaurants, order wine and dress appropriately. On a stake-out, Spenser stocks up for a long night--with feta cheese and Syrian bread, or with Hebrew national salami and pumpernickel.

In Early Autumn, where his philosophy is most explicitly stated, he says:

"Lots of people need certainty. They look around for the way it's supposed to be. They get a television-commercial view of the world. Businessmen learn the way businessmen are supposed to be. Professors learn the way professors are supposed to be. Construction workers learn how construction workers are supposed to be. They spend their lives trying to be what they're supposed to be and being scared they aren't." (pp 139-140)

Spenser, of course, is different. He seems to agree with his girlfriend's verdict: "I work too hard to thwart people's expectations" (p 140). To thwart expectations, one has to know what those expectations are.

Thus, the appropriate person knows the rules and follows them; the inappropriate person doesn't know s/he's violating the rules; and the incongruous person knows the rules and chooses to break them--even makes up new rules. These positions can also be defined in relation to abductive logic (Eco and Sebeok 1983; Holbrook 1987). Abductive logic involves reasoning from rule to case to result; to take Holbrook's example:

Rule: All people who drive Cadillacs are elite.

Case: Jane drives a Cadillac.

Result: Jane is elite.

Abductive logic will probably lead to accurate results when applied to instances of appropriate and inappropriate consumption, but will be less useful when applied to incongruities. The incongruous person deliberately creates misleading clues--thwarts expectations, as Spenser would say. It is hard to imagine a rule about men who wear pastel colors, soft fabrics and lavender silk shorts that would encourage one to infer that the wearer is Spenser's associate--the dangerous leg-breaker Hawk.

HEROIC CHARACTERS

Three figures recur in the series: Spenser himself, his ally Hawk and his girlfriend Susan Silverman. Like the stereotyped hard-boiled dick, Spenser has a remote past which features the standard firing from the police force for insubordination. He wise-cracks, philosophizes and imposes his own order on situations. However, while the classic private eyes were satisfied with coffee, hamburgers or steaks, Spenser's meals are described in loving detail; in some novels, food descriptions appear every ten pages, with leisurely digressions for menus and recipes (Saylor 1984). While the personal pleasures of classic private eyes were limited to drinking, women and "self-destructive" activities (Porter 1981), Spenser reads good books, follows sports teams, creates gourmet meals even when alone, and has a steady girlfriend.

The stereotyped tough private eye doesn't color-coordinate his wardrobe, or wear Brooks Brothers shirts, but Spenser does. Spenser's clothes fit because he knows where and how to shop ("You don't have much choice for a 48 long") and because he is in shape. He doesn't need expensive tailoring to cover flaws in his physique, like the Father in Ceremony. However, Spenser emphasizes functionality: a linen jacket is appropriate for the suburbs, blue jeans for working. He jokes about covering up his gun because it doesn't match.

Spenser's ally Hawk, the hit man and leg breaker, also has heroic properties. His appearance is striking, his powers seem limitless ("Could Hawk guard you alone? Hawk could guard Yugoslavia alone," Spenser says in Early Autumn) and his background is even vaguer than Spenser's. He needs his mystery: "We could not invite Hawk for Thanksgiving," Spenser says in Ceremony; he'd be "compromised." Hawk values friendship and loyalty: he will risk his life to help Spenser without asking why; when an out-of-town hood offers Hawk money to kill Spenser, Hawk not only refuses but offers to stick around for awhile. However, he has no qualms about cold-blooded killing for hire.

Hawk drinks Taittinger champagne and drives a Jaguar. He dresses impeccably with full awareness that he violates role expectations. His taste features pastel colors and soft fabrics, such as a powder blue suit and pink silk shirt (Promised Land); a white cashmere sweater with white denim jeans (Ceremony); a dark gray three-piece pinstripe suit, with diamond accessories (Ceremony). He takes exquisite care of his clothes and he wears lavender silk shorts (Judas Goat). When Hawk wears a pink suit, Spenser drily notes that nobody comes up to call him a sissy (Early Autumn).

Susan Silverman, Spenser's girlfriend, is presented as a heroine. Susan is good-looking, sexy and intelligent: her clothes, always well-suited to the occasion, show evidence of fashion in good taste and her make-up is described as "flawless." She eats "with style" and her personal interaction skills are phenomenal. Even Hawk likes Susan: she is the only person he shows any feeling for (Early Autumn).

While Susan's consumption is thoroughly appropriate, she does show elements of lifestyle incongruity. She lives in a conservative neighborhood in a conservative suburb, where she works as a high school guidance counselor, yet she dates a hard-boiled private detective. Although she gets exasperated when Spenser brings his cases home (sometimes literally), she is cool under fire. After a machine gun sprays her Bronco in Early Autumn, Susan dusts herself off, begins fixing dinner and asks Spenser calmly, "What was that all about?"

EXHIBIT

ANALYSIS OF THREE NOVELS

This paper will focus on the consumption ideology articulated through these dimensions in three Spenser novels: God Save the Child, Early Autumn and Ceremony. The plot similarities of these novels suggest that they may be analyzed together, analogous to three versions of a single myth. The Exhibit demonstrates their common structure. Each novel opens with a scene of inappropriateness. Inappropriate actions are paralleled by inappropriate consumption behaviors. The victim moves from inappropriateness to appropriateness with the help of Spenser and Hawk, the incongruous heroes, and sometimes with incongruous actions.

In each novel, the young victim's transformation from an inappropriate state is developed (Early Autumn) or suggested as a future development (God Save the Child and Ceremony). When read in order of publication, the three novels show a progression away from traditional family values toward Spenser's own code. In God Save the Child, a family is reunited; in Early Autumn a son is separated from his family, but financially supported in an endeavor that is antithetical to parental values; in Ceremony, a fifteen-year-old girl is permanently estranged from her family, engaging in an occupation antithetical to societal values but which Spenser finds suitable to her own. The next section of the paper will provide plot summaries, highlighting examples of appropriateness, inappropriateness and incongruity.

PLOT SUMMARIES

God Save the Child

Distressed parents Marge and Roger Bartlett ask Spenser to find their missing teenage son, Kevin. Their concern accelerates after they receive ransom notes from an alleged kidnapper. They are presented as inappropriate parents. Marge's acting, art, and sculpture lessons have enhanced her self-centeredness rather than evoked creativity; to pay for her activities, Roger works so hard he has little time for family (Geherin 1980).

The Bartletts' parental ineptness is paralleled by their inappropriate consumption behaviors:

Residence: "You don't often see a red refrigerator."

Entertainment: While Kevin is still missing, the family lawyer is murdered in the Bartletts' living room. Marge decides not to cancel a dressy, catered cocktail party, which is held only a few hours after the murder, on the very spot where the body was found.

Clothing: As narrated by Spenser: "Just below [Marge's] rib cage I could see the little bulge where her girdle stopped and the compressed flesh spilled over the top."

Dressing for the inappropriate party, reference is made to her"uninterrupted gleam of make-up," and "Everything fitted very snugly, and one got a sense of Latex stretched, of pressures tightly contained. Her bright blond hair was...doubtless sprayed in place."

Roger, the father, wears blunt-toed stacked-heel shoes "that made him walk a little awkwardly. His tailor looked to be Robert of Hall."

While investigating Kevin's high school, Spenser meets the attractive guidance counselor, Susan Silverman, who remains his girlfriend throughout the series. Spenser soon learns that Kevin has disappeared voluntarily and has staged the kidnapping. Marge Bartlett displays more inappropriate consumption behavior:

Clothing/Grooming: Spenser arrives to take Marge to pick up her son from the alleged kidnapper. The mother's first reaction is, "But my hair's a mess." Spenser underlines the inappropriateness of Marge's attitude: "We're not going dancing." Undeterred, Marge changes to a double-breasted blue pin-striped paints suit with a blue and white polka-dot shirt and 3-inch platform shoes, appearing fully made up and "hair stiff with spray" (God Save the Child, p. 307).

Situation: Spenser shows the Bartletts the apartment where the kidnapper, Vic Harroway, has been staying with their son; Marge comments approvingly on Vic's attractiveness and the neatness of the apartment.

At the novel's end, Marge and Roger Bartlett tearfully reach out to their son. Transformation is suggested when Susan says that this family relationship may be transformed through therapy, although there are no guarantees. The ending of this early novel suggests that appropriateness will be achieved through the traditional family structure. The inappropriateness of the family is contrasted with appropriateness of an ideal family.

Early Autumn

Early Autumn appeared about eight years after God Save the Child. Spenser is hired by Patty Giacomin to get her son, Paul, back from her divorced husband Mel. The father's parental inappropriateness is suggested by the presence of his attractive young mistress as well as his use of hired thugs to gain illegal custody of his son. His ill-fitting polyester clothing is also inappropriate; Spenser teases, "You can't look tough when you're wearing Ban-Lon."

Spenser finds Paul easily by following the father's mistress. Paul is brought back to a scene as inappropriate as the Bartletts' cocktail party in God Save the Child. The mother's young, self-consciously-dressed boyfriend (whom Spenser labels "Disco Steve") expresses inappropriateness not only by his presence but by his genial, country club greeting to Spenser ("Good to see you"). Patty hands Spenser $20 to take Paul to dinner as she is "too busy." Her clothing is loud, featuring pink and lavender colors in carefully selected outfits.

A few months later, Spenser is hired to guard mother and son from thugs who have been hired by the father. Spenser's incongruity contrasts directly with Patty's inappropriateness during his sojourn as household bodyguard: the hard-boiled detective is a better parent than the real mother. Patty doesn't bother to make breakfast for her son and leaves him alone on weekends while she goes to New York; Spenser tries to help the boy. Patty awkwardly tries to seduce Spenser, who dismisses her effort as "contrived;" Spenser remains faithful to Susan. Patty serves Boursin cheese and shredded wheat squares to her boyfriend, while Spenser shows Paul how to order and eat Szechuan food. Patty's "idea of fancy cooking was cheez-whiz on broccoli," but Spenser prepares innovative gourmet meal from odds and ends he finds in the cupboard.

After husband Mel hires thugs to invade Patty's home, Spenser agrees to hide out with the boy on Susan's country property in Maine. The staging of the scene reinforces Patty's inappropriateness as a mother: Patty can't take Paul because she's hiding out with boyfriend Steve, who doesn't like Paul. ("Is he afraid his cashmere sweaters will wrinkle?" Spenser wonders.)

Spenser expresses his concerns. The kid doesn't know how to do anything. He's not especially bright or good-looking. His clothes don't fit. He can't order in restaurants. Susan, his guidance counselor girlfriend, asks, "Why is it so important to know how to order in a restaurant?" Spenser's answer holds the key to his philosophy: knowing how to order in a restaurant is a sign that one has been taught how to act in life.

Up in Maine, Spenser teaches Paul how to cook, work out, perform carpentry tasks, listen to music and appreciate good books. He takes him to Louis of Boston to buy clothes, to North Conway to buy running shoes. This section of the novel further clarifies the way Spenser's consumption values clearly differ from sacredness in a television series (Hirschman 1988). While Dynasty/Dallas suggests that sacredness is identified with the outdoors, Spenser admits he'd rather be in the city. While Dynasty/Dallas characters fill traditional gender roles as they approach sacred consumption, Spenser thoughtfully encourages Paul to value androgyny. As Paul quotes his traditional father ("Men don't cook" and, "Only fags do ballet") Spenser corrects him ("He was only half right" and, "I don't know about their sex lives, but they're magnificent athletes)." By the end of the summer, Paul has acquired muscles, carpentry skills, and a sense of direction--and he knows how to order in a restaurant.

While some reviewers dismissed Spenser's role as a "baby-sitter," Spenser appears to have practiced what Cushman (1990) calls life-style therapy. Cushman suggests that contemporary psychotherapists often serve as models for their clients, filling the clients' empty selves with values and activities. Advertising, he notes, serves a similar purpose by holding out consumption ideals for the uncertain. Both the lifestyle therapies described (though not necessarily advocated) by Cushman (1990) and Spenser's theories suggest that knowing how to consume can lead to a better life: salvation can be found in consumer socialization.

While Spenser is hiding out with Paul, Patty runs out of money and Spenser realizes that neither parent wants the boy. The novel's resolution is filled with incongruities. Spenser plans to blackmail both parents to help Paul. In return for silence about some arson insurance scams, the father agrees to support Paul's education. Paul chooses a dance-oriented school--a choice that must have appalled the father who dismissed male dancers as "fags." Spenser uses the mother's parental inappropriateness to help Paul: the weekend "shopping" trips alone in New York turn out to be occasions of sexual indiscretions which must be kept secret from Mel, the husband, and especially from Steve, the boyfriend.

Thus, using the parents' own ineptness as leverage, Spenser replaces the traditional family structure with a distant, financially-based relationship. He is an incongruous social worker. Spenser allows Mel Giacomin to continue his mob-related business: "I don't want him in jail. I want him earning money to support his son."

Ceremony

Ceremony appeared two years after Early Autumn. Once again, inept, uncaring parents call Spenser, this time because they believe their daughter, April Kyle, has run away to "turn tricks" in the Combat Zone. The father, Harry, claims April is no longer his daughter. Guidance counselor Susan encourage the parents to hire Spenser to find April, saying, "You can't reject a child simply because she doesn't please you." Susan's words convey an image of returning unwanted items to a store, suggesting that April has become a piece of merchandise to her father as well as her clients. The mother, Bunni, is presented as tearful and ineffectual. In the language of twelve-step programs, she enables April's drinking. A cop tells Spenser he's brought April home drunk several times; the mother will "take her in and clean her up...so the old man won't know."

Once again, inappropriate consumption parallels inappropriate parenting:

Residence: The Kyle house ("a perfect house in a perfect development") features furniture in "massive Mediterranean oak," and "you could tell they'd bought it all at once." Spenser speculates:

"I was willing to bet my new blackjack that there was a dining room set in the living room and at least four bedroom sets upstairs. The cellar probably had a cellar set, all coordinated with the furnace." (p 10)

Spenser sees the whole neighborhood this way:

"new colonial houses....expensive variations of the same architectural plan like the Kyles' furniture on a larger scale, a neighborhood set: functional, costly, neatly organized, and as charming as a set of dentures." (p 25)

Clothing: The mother, Bunni, wears pink pants, shirt and shoes. The father's expensive clothes do not compensate for his overweight appearance. Spenser shows his own awareness of the father's expensive suit: "Fat as he was, there was no gap between the vest and the pants."

Spenser learns that April's entry into prostitution was facilitated by a corrupt educational administrator, Poitras, whose appearance also parallels his professional inappropriateness: "an ugly fat guy...dresses like Woolworth's;" his home features mass-produced paintings of mountains.

Both Paul in Early Autumn and April in Ceremony are shown initially as lost teenagers, shabbily dressed, neglected by their families. While Paul is transformed by the end of Early Autumn, April remains unchanged. She resists both Spenser's offer of release from her "employers" and his offer of high-quality food: she is dismayed to learn that there is no white bread in Spenser's apartment, where she is taken after Poitras is arrested. Spenser realizes that April lacks motivation to leave prostitution, but he does not want her back on the streets with a pimp. Therefore, he calls an old friend, Patricia Utley, a high class madam in New York. Utley was introduced in the third Spenser novel, Mortal Stakes, where she reported helping another young woman:

"She was eighteen when I took her. She didn't know anything. She didn't know how to dress, how to do her hair, how to wear makeup. She hadn't read anything, been anyplace, talked to anyone...I gave her books to read, showed her how to make up, how to dress." (p. 402).

Echoing Utley's words as well as his own goals for Paul in Early Autumn, Spenser says to April:

"If you're going to be a whore, at least we can upgrade your level of whoring...You'd be dealing with a relatively civilized clientele. You'd learn how to dress and talk and order wine in a restaurant."

Spenser convinces Susan Silverman, the guidance counselor, that this incongruous solution is tolerable, though not ideal. The solution also represents an evolution within the three novels. In God Save the Child, both Spenser and Susan hoped that a particularly inept set of parents would benefit from psychotherapy. In Early Autumn, Spenser did his own therapy. Here, Spenser suggests that a high-class madam may serve as April's agent of transformation, explicitly dismissing the therapy option Susan suggests. Susan's own role has shifted from conventional guidance counselor, to reluctant advisor in Early Autumn, to a skeptic willing to risk her job by helping Spenser take April to the call girl operation in New York in Ceremony.

DISCUSSION

The analysis of these Spenser novels offers some interesting contrasts to analyses of other vehicles of popular culture. Most obviously, the contrast between sacred and secular has been replaced by a contrast based on sophistication of consumption. A number of themes can be identified.

First, the ideology presented here is distinguished by emphasizing not what is consumed, but how. It echoes the role that has been ascribed to advertising vehicles. Lears (1983, p. 23) argues that advertisers began to "promise the maintenance of domestic harmony through intelligent consumption." In the same volume, Agnew (1983, p. 73) suggests that

"Each advertisement promises a fix on the complexities of the market by appealing to the power of purchase as a mental power, a matter of possession and leverage in an indeterminate situation. For every actual purchase, countless contemplated purchases prepare the way...What modern consumer culture produces, then, is not so much a way of being (profligate, miserly, reserved, exhibitionist) as a way of seeing--a way best characterized as visually acquisitive."

Belk (1983) identifies possessiveness with "control or ownership of one's possessions." The Spenser novels emphasize control over not only what is consumed, but an understanding of how consumption objects will be interpreted by others. Appropriate and inappropriate consumption is undertaken with conscious awareness of the audience. Inappropriate consumption leads to unintended impressional consequences, just as inappropriate actions lead to actors' downfalls.

However, Spenser distinguishes between behavior arising from genuine knowledge and "other-directed anxieties" vividly described by Lears (1983). Exaggerated attention to impression, which is inappropriate, will create an unintended impression of artificiality; this style is exemplified by the seamless make-up and sprayed hair of Marge, the mother in God Save the Child, and Patty's boyfriend Steve in Early Autumn, who sits carefully to preserve the crease in his pants and whose shoes are "artfully broken in."

Similarly, unthinking adherence to stereotypical categories is rejected. Throughout the series, criminals are not necessarily distinguished by appropriateness of consumption, let alone specific objects of consumption. Red, a notorious pimp in Ceremony, drives a Jaguar; so does Hawk. Indeed, criminals aren't clearly labelled: Spenser tells Paul in Early Autumn, "Hawk's not good, but he's a good man." He later tells Paul that his father's sexual stereotypes ("Men don't cook") emerge because people aren't willing to think about who they are: if the father acknowledged that men cook, he'd have to think about what's involved in being a man.

In summary, the theme of this Spenser trio is that knowing how and what to consume is evidence of goodness. Knowing how and what to consume, but sometimes consciously choosing to be inappropriate, is evidence of superiority, strength or originality. The person who is merely appropriate cannot aspire to heroic status (Anonymous 1991). At the other extreme, people who don't know the rules are destined to be unhappy.

CONCLUSION

As Hirschman (1989) observed, culture vehicles can be interpreted in a number of ways. For instance, in this series, one could focus on class distinctions and the role of detective as service provider: Spenser uses his consumption style to attain equal status with his clients. The sacred-secular dichotomy seems less applicable because these novels are very middle-class. Fathers are a contractor, a casualty insurance broker, and a life insurance agent. They are very comfortable but not wildly rich. The sacred-secular distinction might apply to other Spenser novels; for instance, in Judas Goat, Spenser is hired by a very wealthy man to avenge a terrorist bombing which killed innocent victims.

The themes identified in this analysis suggest new avenues for consumer researchers. These themes unconsciously echo trends identified in social research studies of contemporary American culture: the "therapeutic ethos," or emphasis on process and self-development (Agnew 1983); "acquisitive cognition," or salvation through consumption knowledge (Lears 1983); and "lifestyle therapy" (Cushman 1990). Research of these trends may be useful to supplement current research on possessiveness, materialism and symbolism associated with possessions.

Finally, consumer values are generated and represented by a variety of vehicles: advertising, television, film, and popular literature. Because these vehicles attract different audiences, they may express and represent differing consumer values and ideologies. An understanding of these values and ideologies will deepen our understanding of consumer behavior.

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