Because high-end laptops alone don't scream "I'm stinkin' rich!"
"I'd build a big tall house with rooms by the dozen,
Right in the middle of the town.
A fine tin roof with real wooden floors below.
There would be one long staircase just going up,
And one even longer coming down,
And one more leading nowhere, just for show"
Nothing says success like excess.
In a nutshell, conspicuous consumption is any extravagant spending that has no real purpose other than just to show off someone's wealth. Sometimes this leads to a vicious cycle of "keeping up with the Joneses", when two people or families each feel that they need to buy more things to show they're just as wealthy as the other, sometimes going Up to Eleven
(even if what is bought is Simple Yet Opulent
Anyway you look at it, these people are just spending money for the hell of it. You aren't buying a luxury car. You're buying a gold plated one. You don't just have a private jet. You have a private aircraft carrier (and not for your private army
Yes, there can be at least somewhat understandable reasons to spend a lot of money. If you see an expenditure for a reason like these, it's not
- Sometimes it's just a bigger and better version of a thing we need anyway. We need a car, and they buy luxury cars.
- Sometimes it's expected, or even required, for cultural reasons. Ermine Cape Effect mentions it wouldn't do for royalty to dress like slobs.
- Sometimes what these people do actually requires a large expense. A CEO of a multinational corporation often deals with people who just need to be spoken to in person, so he/she needs a private jet to accomplish that.
- Sometimes someone is trying to buy him/herself out of trouble.
This can apply just as often in Real Life
as in fiction, but with fiction, some of the spending can even defy reality, thus overlapping with Fiction 500
. Also common among the Nouveau Riche
(often leading to A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted
A retailer who targets this demographic is Up Marketing
A Super Trope
, Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry
, Pimped Out Cape
, Pimped-Out Dress
, Pretty in Mink
, Big Fancy House
, Maid Corps
, Gold Makes Everything Shiny
, Glam Rap
, If I Were a Rich Man
, Pooled Funds
Compare Money Fetish
, Upper-Class Twit
, Up to Eleven
, Bling of War
, City of Gold
, and Suspicious Spending
Contrast Bankruptcy Barrel
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Anime & Manga
- In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Dorothy Catalonia seem to have a thing for gold-plated vehicles: a limousine, a space shuttle and a truck.
- In Speed Grapher, there was a Euphoric who literally eats diamonds. If she eats enough, she becomes a walking, talking diamond.
- Aria from Seitokai Yakuindomo comes from a family that is rich that her mansion has a room made of solid gold.
- Richie Rich had gold-plated, gem-studded everything. Conspicuous consumption is the only joke in his comics: mundane gadgets festooned with precious metals and minerals, landscaping feature like hedges and swimming pools shaped like dollar signs, the immense size of the Rich estate (requiring multiple ZIP codes, needing its own transit system), and so on, ad nauseum.
- Two Carl Barks stories ("Hound of the Whiskervilles" and "The Status Seeker") show the miserly Scrooge clashing with the other wealthy snobs of Duckburg because he doesn't use his wealth this way; to his surprise, it's not how much money you have that impresses people but how you flaunt it, which is not his style at all.
- This trope is actually a recurring plot in the Italian Disney comics, where John Rockerduck appears more often than Flintheart Glomgold. A common setting is the Duckburg Millionaire's Club, who occasionally expel Scrooge because they consider his thrifty personality to be against club standards.
- In Disney's Pocahontas, Ratcliffe envisions himself wearing a suit of armor made of solid gold, beset with gemstones.
- In Ocean's 13, Al Pacino's character receives a gold plated and diamond encrusted cell phone as a gift. He's obviously been desiring one for a while.
- A long sequence in Apocalypto highlights the conspicuous consumption of the Mayan royalty to construct their ostentatious buildings. The damage this causes to the environment and their peasants is shown to be terrible. The nobility is also shown to be covered practically from head to toe in jade jewelry. In the DVD commentary, director Mel Gibson uses the name of the trope frequently to point out his thinly-veiled commentary on modern society.
- The buildings, at least, are Truth In Movies. The Mayan city-building culture almost certainly fell due to deforestation (to provide the fuel to make the plaster for the ornately decorated buildings) becoming so extensive that it altered regional rainfall patterns, leading to drought, agricultural failure, and systemic collapse.
- The title characters in Fun With Dick And Jane are very much concerned with what the neighbors think — and what the neighbors think is that it's best to show off one's wealth. This intersects brutally with their poverty.
- Laura actually got a scene cut from the original run due to the consumption going against war time rationing.
- Melancholia features an extravagant wedding at a castle as the world ends. The director actually contacted a wedding planning service and let them go wild.
- Casino: Expected since it takes place in Las Vegas, but especially anything to do with Ginger, from her clothes and her furs to her Big Fancy House and her vault full of jewels.
- Brazilian Based on an Advice Book movie Até que a Sorte nos Separe ("Til Luck Do Us Part") has a guy who won the lottery 15 years prior finding out his fortune is basically gone after years of spending in things the bank makes sure to make a montage of: yearly travels both stateside and on the Vomit Comet, buying a yacht that sunk after 30 minutes (without insurance!), celebrating a birthday in a private rock festival, having the wedding anniversary in a French castle... Hijinks Ensue when he has to hide it from his wife who is still fond of spending because she can. (Note that this fate often befalls people who win the lottery in real life. It just usually happens a lot faster.)
- James Bond:
- In Scarface, Tony Montana spends the second half of the film in a hideous, gaudy mansion with various signs of his ill-gotten wealth. In particular he has a spinning, neon-lit globe in his lobby (boasting "The World Is Yours") and a pet tiger.
- In Trouble in Paradise, the filthy-rich Mariette spends 125,000 francs on a diamond-encrusted handbag. Lily, one of the two con artists out to swindle her, is disgusted. (Of course, Mariette also refuses her corporate board's demand to cut employee salaries.)
Live Action TV
- In the HBO series Silicon Valley, Hooli is a big perpetrator of this. After Jared defects to Pied Piper, Gavin offers Big Head a promotion, pretty much in retaliation for this (and Richard turning down a $10 million buyout in favor of Peter Gregory's offer of a $200,000 5 percent investment) and given an annual salary of $600,000 a year. One character refers to him as the VP of spite.
- The next episode he appears in it's quickly realized he knows nothing useful about Pied Piper so he's removed from the nucleus project and put into the unassigned category. He then meets about half a dozen other unassigned guys who pretty much hang out all day on the roof. some have been their for quite a while.
- Discussed by Monica who tells richard that the standard MO for billionaires is to throw a bunch of money some times millions into no other purpose other than humiliating their rivals.
- Interestingly averted by Star Trek's Ferengi. Their entire society is capitalism taken to the point of parody, but their profits seem to go mostly toward making more profit rather than getting wasted on ostentatious frivolities. Even the most obscenely wealthy Ferengi wear relatively modest clothing and only minimal bling. Although Ferengi occasionally engage in some form of debauchery, their vices are surprisingly minimal. In one episode of Deep Space Nine, Quark is amazed that humans would buy their own poison in the form of cigarettes.
- On LOST, several characters, especially evil tycoon Charles Widmore, make a show of drinking the fictional MacCutcheon whiskey, a bottle of which costs several thousand dollars.
- On Chappelle's Show, one MTV Cribs parody sketch had an insanely rich celebrity (Dave Chapelle himself) who ate dinosaur eggs and sprinkled diamonds on his food because it made his "doody twinkle".
- In The Office Michael Scott manages to do this in the absence of actual wealth. When Oscar examined his finances to explain his debts he ended up dividing his spending into three categories, of which the third was the largest: Things that he needed, things that he didn't need, and things that no one, anywhere, ever needed.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 noted this in the short film Design for Dreaming, made in 1956 to advertise GM's Motorama expo. As the heroine and her man drive away in their fabulous Firebird II, Mike Nelson quips, "Conspicuous consumption makes our love stronger!"
- On Parks and Recreation Tom and Jean Ralphio start their own entertainment company after Jean Ralphio gets a lot of money. They primarily spend the money on extravagant furniture and hire pro basketball players and beautiful women to just hang around the office (since nobody in the company is doing any actual work). They even give everyone who visits them a free iPad. Naturally the business fails.
- On Downton Abbey Martha Levinson does a major one of these: if it's not the furs, then it's the pearls and jewelery; if it's none of the above, then it's the seriously posh car that is very posh for the time with white wheels (even Robert is impressed), and her "generous" income that proves it. This woman... is STINKING RICH!
- My Super Sweet Sixteen was all about this.
- Billy Joel's Movin' Out (Anthony's Song) is a criticism of blue-collar and lower-middle class New Yorkers who are prepared to literally work themselves to death, in order to be seen to keep up with the Joneses.
- Nickelback's "Rock Star" is one long ode to just what the singer's going to buy when he's successful.
- "Gangnam Style", by Psy, is about out-of-control conspicuous consumption and overpriced coffee in Seoul's trendiest district.
- Glam Rap is the hip-hop subgenre responsible for the average person's stereotypical image of some obscenely-wealthy "gangsta" showing off his gold-plated rims, diamond-encrusted swag, and beautiful women that service him daily and nightly within his opulent mansion. The fact that this is one of the only subgenres of hip-hop with mainstream popularity is a bit of a sore spot for fans of other, more underground subgenres who have to contend with people claiming that all rap is Lil Wayne or Soulja Boy.
- Lorde's "Royals" is about how pop music glamorizes conspicuous consumption, but in the end, who needs it?
But every song's like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin' in the bathroom.
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin' the hotel room,
We don't care, we're driving Cadillacs in our dreams.
But everybody's like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash
We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair.
- "Minnie the Moocher", made famous by Cab Calloway (with a little help from Betty Boop), especially the second half;
She had a dream about the king of Sweden;
He gave her things, that she was needin'.
He gave her a home built of gold and steel,
A diamond car, with the platinum wheels.
- Common in Exalted's Yu-Shan and Underworld; since the former has prayer form into a substance that can be formed into practically anything, and the latter has items used in burial rites carry over as idealised (and sometimes magical) versions of themselves (such as a wooden cart painted gold becoming a magnificent golden carriage), excessive and blatant luxury is the norm.
- Cyrano de Bergerac
Le Bret (with the action of throwing a bag): How! The bag of crowns?...
Cyrano: Paternal bounty, in a day, thou'rt sped!
Le Bret: How live the next month?...
Cyrano: I have nothing left.
Le Bret: Folly!
Cyrano: But what a graceful action! Think!
- At Act II Scene I, We see Raguenaeu’s Bakery, where Ragueneau is giving free his pies to his friends, the starving poets… who in retribution give Ragueneau their poems and hear his own poetry (and they flatter him). Ragueneau buys a lyre made of pastry from one of his own apprentices, and when he shows it to his wife, Lisa, she lampshades that is a silly consumption. Also, when a multitude of invaders comes to his bakery at Act II scene VII and break all, he doesn’t ask them for paying the damages. This attitude explains why he is ruined at Act III.
Another Apprentice (also coming up with a tray covered by a napkin): Master, I bethought me erewhile of your tastes, and made this, which will
please you, I hope. (He uncovers the tray, and shows a large lyre made of pastry.)
Ragueneau (enchanted): A lyre!
The Apprentice: 'Tis of brioche pastry.
Ragueneau (touched): With conserved fruits.
The Apprentice: The strings, see, are of sugar.
Ragueneau (Giving him a coin): Go, drink my health!
(Seeing Lise enter): Hush! My wife. Bustle, pass on, and hide that money!
(To Lise, showing her the lyre, with a conscious look): Is it not beautiful?
- An oil tycoon in Elite Beat Agents is prone to this.
- In Team Fortress 2, a Heavy Weapons Guy achievement for eating 100 Sandviches references the trope, mixed with Funetik Aksent, as Konspicious Konsumption.
- Several of the purchasable items in the game (for example, Something Special for Someone Special) do nothing except show off that its owner has money to blow on a video game.
- Grand Theft Auto IV parodies it with the in-game TV show "I'm Rich", including obvious parodies of people like Paris Hilton and others.
- The Ballad of Gay Tony introduces Yusuf Amir, who spends his money on Bling-Bling-BANG!, Hookers and Blow, and ridiculous vanity projects like building the tallest skycraper in Liberty City. Since he apparently has the money to buy anything, the only use he has for the player character is to steal "the things they won't sell him", like military hardware.
- In EarthBound, Pokey Minch and his father have offices in the Monotoli building made entirely of gold.
- In the third act of Path of Exile the player visits the ruined city of the fallen empire. The empire was known for having endulged in a lot of Conspciuous Consumption shortly before it's fall. It's nowhere more evident than in the Solaris Temple where everything is made from polished white stone, red fabrics and covered in gold. The nature bound Ranger character even comments on how creepily unnatural it all looks.
- A lot of Simulation Games allow the player to purchase pointlessly expensive things because they can.
- Tropico allows the player to build a play gold statue of yourself along with other such needless expenses while your people starve and live in ramshackle houses.
- In the original Mercenaries; Mattias Nilsson expresses a desire to spend his share of the bounty on General Song's head on a custom Lamborghini with diamond-encrusted wheels.
- In Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town, you can acquire golden lumber. Place it on your farm, however, and everyone in town will get angry at you for showing off.
- Both Ricci and his manager in Fite! sport solid gold jewelry once Ricci gets the belt.
- In Commedia 2X00, Mr. Pants' family has been earning royalties on their patent on pants for centuries. His sidekick/attendant is a solid gold robot named Goodz. Several early updates are spent in his treasure room, which includes things like a Polybius arcade machine, the Chaos Emeralds, and an electric guitar autographed by Mozart.
- Mentioned by name in Snow By Night. One rich family puts on a contest involving shooting at expensive glassware containing expensive wine.
- The concept of conspicuous consumption was first coined by Norwegian-American economist Thorstein Veblen in his book Theory of the Leisure Class. His work was at the same time both Anti-Marxist and critical to capitalism, and he insisted conspicuous consumption and lavish display of wealth is an innate trait of humans in all cultures and all eras of the world (it is). Items that violate the law of supply and demand by being more sought the higher their price (thus indicating that people are likely buying them simply to show off their wealth) are called "Veblen goods" in his honor.
- Live-in servants. The development of household appliances through the twentieth century reflects the increasing difficulties of finding decent hired help. The proliferation of the flush toilet in middle-class households, for instance, was due in large part to the burgeoning reluctance of increasingly better-paid servants to regularly empty and clean receptacles for other peoples' shit.
- This can apply to excessive Pimped Out Dresses and Costume Porn.
- The topic illustration of the gold-plated Macintosh laptop is from an actual company that gold-plates consumer electronics, among other customisation options. (Most of which, it must be said, are considerably cheaper and less tacky and actually look quite good.)
- Macs aren't alone. For a while, VoodooPC, which makes high-end gaming PCs, offered a model called the Omen AU. "Au", of course, is the chemical symbol for gold. Not only was the PC top-of-the-line for the time, the case was plated with 24k gold. Sale price: $15,000.
- This, in particular, is very Conspicuous Consumption, as 24k gold is 99.99% pure gold, which is quite soft for a metal and very easily scratched or otherwise damaged.
- "I Am Rich", a short-lived iPhone app, costing $999.99, consisted simply of a glowing gem displayed on the screen. It was literally made for buyers to show off that they can blow a thousand dollars on nothing. The creator sold six before the app was pulled by Apple - mainly because some geniuses clicked on it to see whether it was real.
- The Golden Opulence Sundae. A $1,000 sundae that's covered in 23k edible gold leaf, the sundae is drizzled with the world's most expensive chocolate, Amedei Porceleana, and covered with chunks of rare Chuao chocolate, which is from cocoa beans harvested by the Caribbean Sea on Venezuela's coast.
- Serendipity-3, the creators of the Golden Opulence Sundae, outdid themselves by making what Guinness has declared the most expensive dessert in the world, the Frrozen Haute Chocolate tips the scales of Opulence at $25,000.
- This is common with societies that combine extreme wealth with extreme inequality. The Victorian Era was notorious for this, as was the (very appropriately named) contemporaneous Gilded Age in America. It continues among the American super-rich, with Donald Trump and his tasteless gold-plated everything being one of the most egregious examples. Oil wealth has enabled Mideast oil tycoons to take it to new heights: a tennis court atop a skyscraper, artificial islands in the shape of a world map, and canals in the shape of a one tycoon's name (HAMAD) are some examples.
- Culturally most of East Asia is prone to this. Japan has traditionally had the most status-conscious, fanatical luxury shoppers. And China who for decades had a ridiculously low standard of living has been recently experiencing bouts of conspicuous consumption, where they buy items that shout out status (e.g. factory workers spending two months worth of salary on designer bags). In fact, when abroad the average Chinese tourist will spend more time/energy shopping than any other activity put together.
- Studies show that conspicuous consumption is mostly practiced by the middle classes in an effort to look rich, especially when it comes to boats, houses, ATVs, cars, and electronic devices.
- The entire concept of World's Tallest Building is very much this trope. From the Eiffel Tower to Empire State Building to Burj Khalifa, this is essentially an enormous (pun intended) method of saying "screw you" to the rest of the planet.
- Par for the course for the Gaddafi family, as their fall made all clear. The patriarch himself was captured with a golden-plated Colt on his hands and also owned a golden AK-47 and a golden sniper rifle. But perhaps the most iconic was his daughter Aisha's couch, entirely made of gold and shaped like a mermaid with Aisha's face.
- Nokia's Vertu line of cell phones feature such things as genuine gemstones and precious metal cases. Prices have ranged as high as $300 000 each for the most expensive models. For a period (before Nokia pulled out of the country entirely) these were the only Nokia-made phones available in Japan.
- This story describes how the rich man in question apparently had nothing better to do than post pictures of himself using his cash in remarkably crass ways.
- The traditional Western wedding dress color originally had nothing to do with the bride being (or not being) a virgin, but rather this trope. Up until the Victorian Era, there was no "traditional" wedding dress. When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, she wore a white dress. Back then, a white dress with a train and a lot of trimmings would have been a symbol of her family's wealth and status, especially considering that it was only going to be worn once. Naturally, other women started copying Queen Victoria. The (now discredited) connotation about "purity" didn't come about until The Fifties or thereabouts.