Monster Jam! Here at the bleeding edge of Hyper-Consumer Capitalism

Monster Jam

My buddy came back to his seat carrying two pounders of Summit EPA. He handed one to me and cracked open the other. I was confused. But I was not disappointed.

I pulled out an ear plug. “What happened?” I asked, accepting my cold can. “I thought you went to get cotton candy for the kids.”

“I did.” he said, taking a sip from his beer. “The cotton candy lady said it’s 20 bucks. I told her, ‘No. I just want one bag.’ And she said, ‘Yeah. 20 dollars… It comes with a mask.'”

“So, I got these instead.” He said, holding up his beer. “And this.” He pulled out a box of $8 M&Ms and handed it down to our two boys to share.

“Good call.” These were the frugal choices here.

I remembered passing one of the cotton candy stands on our way in. Surrounded by your typical blue and pink clouds of prepackaged sugar fluffs. Come to think of it, I did notice some cheap plastic masks stapled to each one of the those plastic cotton candy bags. A mask for each one of the most popular characters at Monster Jam. Only a couple of those characters showed up for our event. We had the B-squad, apparently. At least I had never heard of most of them. One of the Grave Diggers was there (didn’t seem like the best one). When did Bigfoot retire?

I see what you did there, Monster Jam. I thought to myself a little later. Kids can share a bag of cotton candy. But what kind of soulless unfeeling shell of a parent is gonna get an El Toro mask for one kid and not get a Max D for the other. Boom! $40!

Did I mention we paid $50 each for the tickets? For each of our boys too! What ever happened to “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! Kids only 10 bucks!”?

This! Is! Monster Jam! 2019!***

Welcome to the edge of your seat at the bleeding edge of Hyper-Consumer Capitalism. Where shit-tons of worthless crap is sold at a three-hour infomercial masquerading as a sporting event you paid an obscene amount for the privilege to see (plus convenience fee) in a billion-dollar tax-payer-funded stadium. Where absolutely every penny must be wrung out of every single bi-fold wallet in every foldable seat.

And dammit! Not one truck managed to land a back flip! Amateurs.

Is this it? Is Monster Jam 2019 the inevitable end-game of Capitalism? An economy based on trinkets and sugar-highs?

I hope not. Because I don’t hate Capitalism. I’m not even mad at people for making a buck. Free-Market Capitalism in its purest form where people exchange money for a value decided on by all of us in “the market” and where any individual can own their own business is the best economic engine humanity has ever come up with. But, this twisted kind of Capitalism kind of frustrates me.

Sure, Monster Jam 2019 is entertaining. $50 per ticket is a little steep, but it is entertaining to see a 12-ton truck do a 2-minute handstand on its 2 fat front wheels (sorry for calling them amateurs a while back. They’re talented individuals behind the wheels of amazing machines). And it was fun to see that wide-eyed look on my son’s face. It would have been perfect if it stopped there.

It’s the other 2 hours and something minutes of “the show” that really got under my skin. Constant bombardment by the greatest hits of cheesy product pitches. Has Monster Jam always been this way? Is this what’s driving the economy now?

Here’s Julie our in-crowd “reporter” rushing from end to end of the stadium to “report” on the big screens how great a time everyone is having and that this “biggest fan ever” is smiling from ear to ear because he’s decked from head to toe in 20 years worth of Jam gear and has been coming to every event since his grandfather was 12 but this guy over here is an even bigger fan and bought his 11 kids all the “limited-edition” schwag get yours before it’s all gone how about some $20 cotton candy yay!…

… back to Steve at the side-line “sports desk” who’s “dying” to talk to Paul who drives one of the not Grave Digger trucks but he snapped an axel on a left turn and it’s taking 20 minutes for a backhoe to tow his truck off the track giving us just enough time for this live exclusive interview with Todd from your local Brooklyn Center T-Mobile store who has great deals on the latest Samsung Galaxy phones so you can afford to buy some $20 cotton candy yay!

Did I forget the commas? Nope.

Did I mention $20 cotton candy?

Cabbage! What’s with this unprovoked take-down of this most sacred and manliest of American institutions? And isn’t it written into the Constitution that “Thou shalt have the unalienable right to sell teaspoons of air-fluffed sugar and throwaway heat-formed facegear at 10,000% markup at loud events in big stadiums…”?

Sure is. You and I are free to be suckers. Business is free to take advantage. That’s what makes this country great.

But, $20 cotton candy is the last straw for me, people. Even if it comes with a sweet Scooby Doo mask. This is where I draw the line. This particular strain of Hyper-Consumer Capitalism can go no further. Surely we’re doomed if it does, right? Destined as a society to be bloated and broke and buried in unending waste piles of last year’s limited editions.

I’m not really mad at Monster Jam. How can anyone be mad at Monster Jam. $20 cotton candy (with a mask, mind you) is just kind of a perfect metaphor for the wrong kind of Capitalism that gives all other kinds of Capitalism a bad name.

This Hyper-Consumer Capitalism is fueled by fake exclusivity and false scarcity. It’s fueled by marketing that targets the FOMO part of our brains to sell us the instant gratification of shiny new breakable things. It’s fueled by planned obsolescence. It’s fueled by addiction. And once the attention of a captive audience is tapped into, it’s the easiest of easy money for sure.

Some would say Hyper-Consumer Capitalism is the inevitable end result of a failing economic experiment eating itself to death. Capitalism had its day. It was destined to be this way. Those greedy SOBs are ruining the world. It’s high time for price controls and nothing but socially conscious hemp co-ops as far as the eye can see!

Others would say, Dude, you can’t have 12-ton pickup trucks doing sweet car-crushing backflips without $20 cotton candy and annoying advertisements. So, if you want that sort of maximum destruction, fork over the damn money and shut the hell up if you want your freedom!

Call me naive, but I’m still thinking we can all be perfectly happy living in a universe that exists somewhere in between these two extremes.

But what I’m really saying is this. Monster Jam. Gimme $5 cotton candy and just crush the cars the way I remember. And bring back Big Foot and also the big grand finale clanky dinosaur contraption that breathes fire and picks up and gently bites the cars. That’s what I really brought my son to see.

*** I actually attended Monster Jam with my son in December 2018. But I wrote this in 2019, so…

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