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"
If you can imagine it, rich people have purchased it.
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).
Any way 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 either).
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 this trope:
- 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).
It also is often the case that a Mock Millionaire will use Conspicuous Consumption to portray themselves as super-rich; after all, they wouldn't be throwing that kind of money around unless they had a lot more in the bank, right?
A retailer who targets this demographic is Up Marketing.
A Super Trope to Bling-Bling-BANG!, Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry, Gem-Encrusted, Pimped-Out Cape, Pimped-Out Dress, Pretty in Mink, Big Fancy House, Maid Corps, Gold Makes Everything Shiny, Glam Rap, It's Snowing Cocaine, If I Were a Rich Man, Pooled Funds.
Compare Money Fetish, Upper-Class Twit, Egopolis, Up to Eleven, Bling of War, City of Gold, and Suspicious Spending. This trope also goes very well with Awesome, but Impractical, as the stuff that costs the most frequently has the least practical usenote ; the point isn't to use it (since anyone can afford something useful), but to show off that you can afford it.
Compare and contrast Simple, yet Opulent, where an item is obviously high-quality but not ostentatious or tacky.
- 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.
- In another example, Suitengu smokes cigarettes literally rolled in 10,000-yen bills.
- Aria from Seitokai Yakuindomo comes from a family that is rich that her mansion has a room made of solid gold.
- Zigfried von Schroeder from Yu-Gi-Oh! has a fancy castle, an army of maids, private jets, and swimming pools filled with fresh milk... to hide the fact that his life of luxury is in jeopardy since SchroederCorp is going broke.
- 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. On at least one occasion Richie pointed out to his mother how impractical much of this was, such as in the case of a washcloth so encrusted with jewels that you scratch your face when you try to wash with it.
- 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.
- Former trope namer, Keeping Up With the Joneses, an early comic strip about a family's obsession with social climbing. The title characters, their neighbors, were never seen. Also a case of Grass Is Greener.
- 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. This is Flaw Exploitation by the protagonists, who have put an app on the phone that allows them to hack his security system, something that no other person would be able to go near with a personal device.
- 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 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 wartime 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.
- Bigger Than Life is a Melodrama Unbuilt Trope that criticizes this mentality in The '50s (the decade with which it is highly associated). A poor-struggling family go on a shopping spree to feel good about themselves and the result is a day of excitement and exhilaration followed with anxiety and guilt about living beyond their means.
- 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... Hilarity Ensues 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 (1983), 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.)
- Jewel Robbery: Teri is obsessed with getting the Excelsior diamond; it's worth about $50,000.
- In Maps to the Stars, past-her-prime actress Havana Segrand is quite vocal about how expensive it is to maintain her Hollywood lifestyle: after a shopping spree on Rodeo Drive, she publicly moans "I can't believe I just spent eighteen thousand dollars!"
- Subverted in The Sting. After Hooker pulls off a big con at the start of the film, he takes out a woman with a promise of showering her with luxuries during the evening (Specifically, that he will spend $50 on her). However, he blows the entire take on a single (rigged) roulette spin and she leaves in disgust at the wasted evening.
- In Mermaid, Aleksandr has decked out his apartment with the finest furnishings including multiple remote-controlled systems. It's a general theme of the movie, with Russia embracing capitalism in all of its facets.
- In Mad Max: Fury Road, the three head warlords, Immortan Joe, The People Eater, and The Bullet Farmer, all make a big show of their wealth and status in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. Whereas most have a simple tricked out car and primitive explosive weapons, Immortan Joe has two Cadillacs fused together into an impressive monstrosity and about two or three magnums, as well as a mobile soundstage in his fleet. The People Eater has a (mostly) intact three piece suit and a giant limousine that also acts as a mobile oil rig. The Bullet Farmer has a tricked out all-terrain vehicle and a massive amount of guns and ammunition, so much so that he uses bullets as teeth and to form a judge's wig. All of these are used to impress their followers, ensuring even more fanatical devotion.
Collin Gibson, production designer: In a world where there's barely one of anything, to show you had power, he's the man who's got two of everything.
- In In Time, time is literally money, so the rich show off their wealth by just doing everything very slowly.
- Zabriskie Point by Michelangelo Antonioni, deals with the omnipresence of this in America, from the giant billboards, advertising, the display in the malls and the tacky and insipid proposed commercials for the real estate project that Allen's company wants to install. The finale likewise focuses on the destruction of all the household objects in the house, which is played as a kind of liberation.
- Star Wars does this very effectively with Chancellor Palpatine's office on Coruscant. It's huge and empty and on a city planet like Coruscant, it would have been mind-numbingly expensive to rent or buy that real estate. It is a subtle display of his wealth and power that he can have a huge office and not need to fill it with anything.
- Done in Blade Runner 2049 to highlight the wealth of Niander Wallace. In a dystopian future where space is at a premium, clean water is a luxury (even Officer K can only afford a shower for five seconds at a time, at least if he wants it mostly non-toxic), and trees are so rare that a toy wooden horse the size of your hand is worth as much as a real one, the Wallace Corp is not only massive but consists mostly of huge, empty rooms, and Wallace's office consists of a platform paneled and furnished in wood that's surrounded by crystal-clear water. Wallace is blind, so he can't even appreciate the luxuries that he surrounds himself with.
- From a BBC article about Russian jokes:
Late 1990s. Two New Russians meet in the street. One says to the other: “Hey, look, I bought a new tie. Paid $200.”“You idiot. Just around the corner you can get the same tie for $500.”
- Lewis Black had an extensive bit about real world examples of this around the time of the Enron scandal. It ends with his own idea of how to one-up them by hiring an "executive ball washer" which amazingly *isn't* sexual.
"That's my personal BALL WASHER! What did you guys buy? Another car?! Hahahahaha!"
- In the ancient Hindu epic the Ramayana, several entire chapters are devoted to explaining the over-the-top splendor of Ravana's palace, of which everything constructed is constructed of rare metals and stones, and everything natural (i.e. gardens) is of only the finest, purest quality.
- The Great Gatsby, which also deconstructs the American Dream and The Roaring '20s into teeny, tiny pieces. Gatsby regularly throws the biggest parties just to show off, in hopes of attracting the attention of his childhood crush. In one notable scene, a guest enters his impressive library and wonders if all the books are fake. He examines them and sees that all of the books are quite real, but none of their pages have been cut. It's an entire library of unread books, just for show.
- In A Brother's Price, when Jerin is shown the husband's quarters in the palace, he learns that the princesses' late husband Keifer planned to have the floor ripped out and replaced by the most expensive marble, and have the ceiling gold-plated. Fortunately he died before he got around to actually doing it - the princesses didn't approve of so much luxury, as they're aware that they're already living in much more comfortable surroundings than their subjects.
- Nobility tends towards this, with expensive outfits that are only intended to be worn once.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Be Born", Salome goes in for this.
- The Satyricon by Petronius, written in Roman times, is full of this. In the chapter describing the banquet of Trimalchio, a heavy silver platter is dropped by one of the household slaves, and the wealthy Trimalchio commands that the platter be left on the floor and swept out with the rest of the garbage. Between courses, the guests have their fingers washed with wine instead of water. The narrators are obviously party-crashers, but no one cares.
- The yuppie characters in American Psycho go to fancy restaurants, order impractically extravagant food, and then don't actually eat it.
- Dark Future: There's a lot of this, with the cosmetic genetic enhancements offered by GenTech, including up to five implanted sets of teeth to replace your own as they wear out, but Gavin Mantle, winner of the ZBC Blotto Lotto prize of 100 million dollars goes on a spree of spending to live up to this including a gold-plated Rolls Royce shaped like a penis, a huge mansion shaped like a pair of breasts with a swimming pool the bottom of which is covered in gemstones and a small army of personal Sexbots turns the dial up a touch more.
- In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, one of Grandpa Joe's anecdotes of the legend that is Willy Wonka is the story of how an Indian prince commissioned the chocolatier to build an entire palace out of chocolate for him — and he intended to live in it! The prince didn't see the folly of his ways until the hot Indian summer rolled around and the castle melted around him.
- Note that Wonka himself in an aversion to this trope. Though he says repeatedly he's rich, it says in the book that most of his fortune is used to maintain his business, research new candies, and care for the Oompa-Loompas. In fact, in the above anecdote, Grandpa Joe says Wonka was absolutely shocked at the prince's declaration that he'd live in the chocolate palace.
- In Frederik Pohl's The Midas Plague, the US went through a period of severe shortages, which strongly inculcated a strong "thou shalt not waste" ethic in the population, followed by a period of cheap fusion energy, and automatic production, which created huge surpluses. But people couldn't "waste" things, so they had to consume them, which leads to an inversion of consumer culture, where "poor" people have higher consumption quotas that they have to meet.
- In The Stars My Destination, (almost) everyone can teleport themselves, so the rich show off their wealth by "conspicuous transportation"—traveling the old-fashioned way (which not only shows that they're rich enough to afford it but also important enough to make people wait for them). At one point a character arrives at a party by steam locomotive, on a track laid just for the occasion.
- In Sewer, Gas & Electric, a corporate executive prepares for his upcoming date by ordering, among other things, a $50,000 ten-pack of condoms.
- The Bible: This practice was often railed against by the prophets, especially when fabulous wealth existed side-by-side with crushing poverty.
- Occurs frequently in The Stormlight Archive. The currency in this setting is "spheres", small glass beads with chips of gemstone in them. However, one of the reasons gemstones are valued is that they are the only things capable of holding the titular Light for more than a few minutes. Therefore, the rich often use spheres for illumination, as Stormlight illumination is brighter and more steady than firelight. This, of course, doubles as a way of showing off how many spheres they have. Unusual for this trope in that this is actually more cost-efficient than the "poor" alternative - candles and torches are consumed and must be replaced, but a sphere can be recharged for free in the next highstorm.
- Duty Calls: Amberley Vail is undercover as a blue-blooded Socialite. One of the ways she reinforced her cover was to rent the penthouse suite of the most exclusive hotel on the planet, and demand they replant the suite's roof garden with her favorite flowers.
Nothing convinces people you've more money than sense quite as effectively as indulging a ludicrously expensive whim.
- Nibelungenlied features buhurts (spellings vary), jousting tournaments in which the knights wear fine clothing instead of armor. Even with blunted lances, this clothing will usually be ripped to shreds, thereby demonstrating the knight's talent for conspicuous waste.
- In the Citizen series by David Drake and John Lambshead, the protagonist actually thinks that this trope can be a good thing: Encouraging the ultra-rich to spend large amounts of money on expensive and frivolous things is an easy way for wealth to be redistributed back into the lower social classes without the need for figurative or literal class warfare (this assumes that some poor people will be hired at a decent wage to produce/deliver the expensive items the rich man is buying to flaunt his wealth).
- This is the root of the Elliots' financial troubles in Persuasion. Sir Walter thinks he has to live up to the style of a baronet, which means buying expensive, flashy things until he runs into such deep debt he's forced to rent out his estate to an admiral. Which brings Anne's sea-captain ex-fiance back into her life.
- Wolf Hall
- Cardinal Wolsey was known for enjoying a very lavish lifestyle. His loyal protege Thomas Cromwell glosses over the excess by either not thinking much about it, joking about it with Wolsey by pricing him by the yard, or saying that he's a public man and should keep up an appropriate appearance. Few others are so circumspect. Cromwell at one point chides Mary Tudor for making a crack about it, but he does eventually admit to himself that it was a bit much.
- This becomes a habit of Cromwell's when he becomes truly wealthy—not just because he's Henry's right hand but because he uses his position there to exercise his financial skills to the utmost (and by dissolving some wealthy monasteries, that too). His kitchens are so good that his cook complains city officials are disguising themselves as beggars to get leftovers, he throws big Christmas parties, and he decks out his sisters-in-law, nieces, and any other woman in his house in the best clothing that money can buy. Him being a former wool merchant, he knows exactly how much it's worth and notes the price of every fabric by the yard.
- The Divine Comedy: The fourth circle of Hell is shared by hoarders and wasters, with the wasters continuing their life-long habit of discarding whatever comes to them, only for a hoarder to bring more rocks for them to ravenously discard.
- Jules-Pierre Mao from Caliban's War manages to exaggerate this trope within the confines of a near future sci-fi universe, directly flipping almost every established economic constraint in the series. To establish a baseline, most characters wouldn't even be able to buy a rust bucket of a ship with their lifetime savings. For Mao, though… apart from his company, which has some kind of presence on almost every inhabited rock in the solar system, he also owns a dedicated racing spacecraft for one of his daughters to use, a small fleet of pleasure yachts, and a private space station dedicated solely to docking those yachts. The one pleasure yacht we see, the Guanshiyin, features gold and wood accents everywhere (Earth has long since been paved over), sweeping curves throughout its architecture (most ships are boxy to maximize storage space), multiple safety redundancies, and an ornate mural on the outer hull in a location that almost no one will ever see.
- In Will Save the Galaxy for Food, it's explicitly noted that this trope is the only reason spaceships still exist in a world where instantaneous teleportation is the most common way to get around; every transporter booth is identical, but spaceships can go all-out on the first-class accommodations.
- 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.
- 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.
- To the Ferengi, profit is quite literally their religion. They believe that after death, a Ferengi's soul—and his account balance—are weighed by the Blessed Exchequer, with a successful Ferengi being able to bribe his way into the Divine Treasury, where he can use his wealth to bid on his next life under the supervision of the Celestial Auctioneers. A Ferengi who died poor would be cast into the Vault of Eternal Destitution, never to be reincarnated. Profit is Serious Business to Ferengi; squandering money on ostentatious displays would be seen as not just silly but insane when your next life is at stake! Only the Grand Nagus, the leader of the entire race, would go in for displays of wealth (the Nagal Residence is said to contain Latinum-plated fixtures) because he is supposed to already be by definition the smartest and richest of all Ferengi.
- All that being said however, some Ferengi do splurge. Quark at one point bemoans that his cousin, an arms dealer, owns his own moon.
- 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.
- The entire town of Eagleton does this. Naturally their town ends up going bankrupt and requires Pawnee to bail them out. This doesn't stop them from resenting the entire town of Pawnee.
- 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.
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Jacqueline, the wealthy housewife, spends this way. In one of her first appearances, she offers Kimmy a bottle of exotic water. When it's declined, she throws the unopened bottle away as if it's been used.
- Chanel Oberlin of Scream Queens (2015) has no problems flaunting her wealth. Her insanely enormous wardrobe is replaced regularly. She recounts a story about a party her dad held for her, which seems to be a monument to how rich they are: he bought her a foreclosed Mc Mansion for the party and filled the pool with a caviar slurry, before setting the house on fire. The fire department was, in fact, strippers who put the fire out with champagne.
- Game of Thrones
- The Lannisters are the wealthiest noble family in the Seven Kingdoms and not afraid to let everyone know it. They put gold and jewels on everything and boast about being able to buy anything and their ability to pay debts. It's ultimately revealed to be a subversion: their gold mines have run out and the War of Five Kings wiped out both their savings and the only thing they had left of any value; an obscene debt owed them by the Iron Throne and House Baratheon. Now that they've taken the throne and eliminated House Baratheon, they're flat broke and have nothing left save two slummy port towns and the family heirs. They continue to spend lavishly with loaned money to make themselves appear prosperous and powerful, knowing the instant someone tries to call in their debts this will become common knowledge and the entire family is screwed.
- The merchant-prince Xaro Xoan Daxos has a sumptuous mansion filled with gold artwork. It's ultimately a subversion, as Xaro's vault is empty. His lavish lifestyle is a con to make him appear wealthy. Although it could be considered a double subversion; as Danny points out the gold and gems decorating his estate represent a massive fortune by themselves. It's played with in his rival the Spice King; while he makes a show of sleeping in and having many servants, his estate is far plainer (more like a typical Westerossi Noble) and most of his wealth is explicitly tied up in his trading fleet.
- Olenna discuss the importance of a spectacular presentation at the royal wedding with Tyrion in Season 2 and with Margaery in "Two Swords".
- On Raising Hope Virginia's cousin Delilah gets married, and Virginia recalls how when they were teenagers early in The '90s, they talked about the kind of weddings they wanted. Delilah wanted a dress with an extremely long train, which was to be held up by Michael Jackson. She got exactly that when she finally did marry, and Burt "stole" Delilah's wedding to give Virginia the nice wedding she wanted but (due to...unforseen circumstances that forced her and Burt to have a simple courthouse wedding) never got. (They repeated their vows quietly in the back while Delilah and her new husband made theirs, danced discreetly to their first dance, and did the cake-cutting from the other side of the cake.) It seems Delilah cared more about being a bride than about being a wife.
- Blake's 7. An episode taking place in President Servalan's palace was filmed in a stately home of England and this trope was used as a handwave — rather than the usual Domed City, Servalan has had a reconstruction of a "pre-Atomic" Big Fancy House built on the ruins of the old. A member of her administration comments bitterly, "We could have built two cities for what it cost to build that absurdity."
- 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. A notable example in the song is a cripple who can't drive buying himself a Cadillac.
- "Golden Tears," a No. 1 country hit from 1979 by the trio Dave and Sugar, about a poor girl who marries a rich man and now has everything she ever wanted ("From a Chevy to a Lincoln/From paper shades to curtain/From neon lights to cyrstal chandeliers") ... except love.
- "Two-Story House" by George Jones and Tammy Wynette, their No. 2 duet country hit from 1980. The song had an ironic twist to it, because they were singing about their own failed marriage, and lamented that they had everything else — from the finest china and furniture, gold fixtures and marble countertops and so forth — except love and respect for one another.
- 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.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic's "This Is the Life" is about how mind-blowingly rich the singer is, all the ridiculous things he does with his vast amounts of money (including filling his bathtub with Perrier, paying someone to chew his food for him, and buying boxes of individually monogrammed Kleenex), and how much he loves it.
You're dead for a really long time
You just can't prevent it
So if money can't buy happiness
I guess I'll have to rent it!
- Pretty much everything bought by the narrator in Mitch Benn's "Too Much Money", but in particular the car that "does thirty gallons a mile" just to make the point he can afford to keep paying for it.
- Future Perfect's appropriately named "Excess":
You wanna be liked because you just don't know why
It's a flash of the cash and a glint in the eye
I better be next while the rest of you die
Doesn't she look great in that dress
Gotta say yes to excess
- "Life's Been Good To Me So Far" by Joe Walsh details numerous examples of conspicuous consumption associated with a stereotypical 1970s "rock star" lifestyle. Some of them are made even more egregious by the fact that he doesn't or can't even use the goods or services in question.
I have a mansion, forget the price
Ain't never been there, they tell me it's nice.
My Maserati does one eighty five
I lost my license, now I don't drive.
I have a limo, ride in the back,
I lock the doors in case I'm attacked.
- No one in the entire industry embodies this more than Ric Flair. The big, gorgeous, feathery robes he wore out to the ring? A new one for practically every big headlining event. Same with customized gear and boots. And that's just the start. His boasts about riding around in limousines, chartered planes, driving highest-end cars, and having every stitch of clothing on his body be custom made and/or made by big-name tailors and costing thousands or tens-of-thousands are Not Hyperbole. When he says he's spent more money on spilled liquor than an average fan makes in a year, he's not kidding.
- 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.
- In Pathfinder, characters take social penalties against nobles if they're not wearing appropriately fancy clothes, which need to be accessorized with even more expensive jewelry so as not to "look like an out-of-place commoner".
- 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 combines this with A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: At Act I Scene IV, Cyrano confides to Le Bret that the bag of crowns he used to pay the entrance fees of the Burgundy Theater was his parental bounty and so, he has no money for the rest of the month. Even when Le Bret scolds Cyrano for his folly, Cyrano calls this "a graceful act". This conduct explains better than anything why Cyrano is condemned to a Perpetual Poverty life.
Cyrano: But what a graceful action! Think!
Another Apprentice (also coming up with a tray covered by a napkin): Master, I bethought me erewhile of your tastes, and made this, which willplease 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?Lise: 'Tis passing silly!
- At Act II Scene I, we see Ragueneau’s Bakery, where Ragueneau is giving his pastries free to his friends, the starving poets… who in return 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, Lise, she lampshades that is a silly consumption. Also, when a multitude of invaders comes to his bakery in Act II scene VII and break everything, he doesn’t ask them to pay the damages. This attitude explains why he is ruined in Act III.
- An oil tycoon in Elite Beat Agents is prone to this.
- In Team Fortress 2, 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.
- Grand Theft Auto V's multiplayer mode is centered around this trope. The game offers a vast array of exorbitant purchases for your character to show off his/her wealth. Of note is the gold-plated Luxor Deluxe private jet, which costs $10,000,000.
- 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 its 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 gold-plated Lamborghini with diamond-encrusted hubcaps.
- 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. In Harvest Moon DS, you can use it to make buildings... and it's the best material for doing so.
- A Running Gag among the creators of Kingdom of Loathing is that the players' donations go towards "solid gold Ferraris".
- Most stuff in Minecraft generally has some use in the game, but golden tools and diamond hoes are just plain conspicuous consumption. Tools and armour made of gold may have more enchantments stick to them, but their base attributes (damage dealt, blocks that can be mined, number of uses before depletion etc.) are simply too low to compensate for such a rare material. Hoes, meanwhile, all perform the exact same function, with the only difference being the amount of farmland they can create before breaking, so even an iron hoe is a waste when you can simply create a hoe out of a plentiful and easily renewable material that is cobblestone. Not to mention diamond is not renewable to begin with.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic during the Smuggler Storyline, you run into a Republic spy on Balmorra who got busted for buying customized speeders beyond his salary.
- The Rich Boy and Lady Trainer classes in Pokémon often use expensive Full Restores to heal their low-leveled Pokémon when when cheaper items like Potions would have done just as well.
- Being set in 1988, Yakuza 0 is all about showing off the riches of 80s Japan in the tackiest ways possible. Yakuza wear garish suits, Tokyo and Osaka are full of glimmering neon lights, and billionaires are made and gone in the constant fight for real estate. Kazuma Kiryu can even learn to toss entire handfuls of Cash Confetti as a means to avoid fights after being taught by Mr. Moneybags, a man who literally lives in his private jets (yes, plural) and travels the world.
- 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.
- In Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff, Hella Jeff takes a moment to give a "fuckin squirrelt" all his "momey" for no apparent reason other than that he can.
- In Housepets! the Milton ferrets inherited more money than they could possibly spend, not for want of trying.
Keene: "Lana, come on; I'd be the first to tell you if we were letting unbridled hedonism go to our heads. Look, let's discuss this later over a full body massage. The chocolate fondue jacuzzi sound okay?"''
- Cracked has a list of real life ways to show off wealth.
- An episode of Cracked's Does Not Compute deals with the Numi, a real life $6500 toilet that comes with a tablet PC to pick various settings like seat temperature, bidet control, and a selection of music. Yes, music, which was composed specifically for the Numi.
- Another article stated that if you were rich enough to own and operate a minigun, you might as well cover your fleet of cars in explosive tannerite and use the minigun to blow them up because obviously you were stupidly rich.
- During the Lucky Blocks Walls battle against the rest of the Yogscast, Hat Films were so inundated with gold that they wound up using it to build armor and paths between their sky bases (it's just Worthless Yellow Rocks, after all).
- The "What International Students Eat" meme, based off the stereotype that students studying abroad must naturally be quite affluent, takes this concept literally with luxury takeout boxes filled with jewelry and designer-brand breakfast cereals.
- An Alvin and the Chipmunks episode had Simon develop a device that could look into possible futures. One was where the chipmunks and chipettes were incredibly wealthy. They bought their kids guitars made of diamonds, with ruby picks, and there were apparently emerald strings.
- Some of Goldie Gold's has a few of these that aren't even gadgets, like a diamond studded nail clipper.
- Similarly, Richie Rich lived this trope. Fuel for thought comes when you contrast his typical attire of a sweater with the letter R on it (or a black jacket and shorts when he was younger) to his hyper-luxurious lifestyle. It's almost as if he's Zen'd past needing to display personal bling. One Robot Chicken skit plays with this, and mixes Richie with a black rapper stereotype.
- He was past displaying bling on his person, but not otherwise. One bit was a jeweler leaving after repairing one of the phones. His normally-wealthed female friend was puzzled until she saw the phone, which had gemstones instead of numbers on the keypad. Richie had to give her the dialing sequence in gemstones.
- In The Simpsons:
- Episode "Dog of Death" Homer imagines that if he won the lottery he would become the worlds largest man and be covered entirely in gold.
- The original creator of Itchy and Scratchy used the money from his settlement to buy a solid gold house.
- One of the many things Mr. Burns paid Homer to do for his own amusement was to buy a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man #1 from Comic Book Guy... then eat it in front of him, as he breaks down in tears.
- After Homer seemingly ends his run as a paparazzi photographer, Rainer Wolfcastle is happy they can resume their "Lives of sybaritic excess." A waiter then offers him a stem cell fajita, which he eats. Earlier in the episode, Krusty can be seen mixing a pile of dollar bills into a drink, then complaining to the bartender when it tastes bad.
- Krusty tends towards this. One episode featured him nothing that there was nothing better than a cigar lit with a hundred-dollar bill, and he'd follow up in the episode by using a copy of Action Comics #1 and a pearl necklace. This has bankrupted him a couple times.
- Mandy's mother in Totally Spies! bought a clothing chain just to get the last of a pair of exclusive shoes.
- In the Futurama movie Bender's Big Score, Earth is taken over by alien scammers who buy a fleet of solid gold, Gem-Encrusted death stars to defend it.
- When Peter Griffin of Family Guy got a 150,000 welfare check every week, the first thing he did was rent the Statue of David.
- Happens again when the Griffins win 150 million on the lottery and immediately begin spending it on ridiculous crap. At one point Peter shows up wearing a solid gold suit, and says he had to "fight three rappers over it down at the Nonsense Store".
- In an episode of The Looney Tunes Show, Daffy Duck finally gets the wealth he so ardently desires and spends it on, among other things, a fancy-dress outfit (complete with powdered wig) and a hand-painted mural for the ceiling. He can't even go grocery shopping without embarking on a search for the most expensive brand of soup.
- Parodied in South Park, when the boys are shown the evils of downloading music illegally by seeing what it does to the artists: namely, forcing them to do this to a slightly lesser extent (for example, having to fly in a private jet that's one model out of date, or not being able to give their kid a private island for his birthday).
- Spongebob Squarepants: Squilliam Fancyson owns a private yacht, a private lake, a private heliport, a private island and a Zeppelin casino. His house shows even more of this.
- Clone High: Principal Scudworth devotes a considerable chunk of the advertising kickbacks he got toward having Mr. Butlertron gold-plated and lowered. The rest of the money disappears in a similar fashion.
- Lampshaded in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Clock King":
Batman: What kind of saboteur uses a $6000 Metronex to trigger a time bomb?
Alfred: A saboteur with too much money?
- DuckTales (1987) eventually adapted the aforementioned Carl Barks comic into the episode "The Status Seekers," where his treatment by his wealthy peers leads Scrooge (who never spends a cent if he can help it, let alone thousands of dollars on useless status symbols) to think he ought to "start acting rich." Unlike Barks' story, which ends as another successful treasure hunt, with Scrooge keeping the valuable artifact he finds, the episode ends with him deciding to screw it and give up trying to fit In with the In Crowd this way.
- In Littlest Pet Shop (2012) this is a characteristic of the Biskit family, though it's much more pronounced in the twins, Whittany and Brittany. For instance, they order pizza from a restaurant in space for no reason other than it's extremely expensive to do so.
- In 1313, Mansa Musa of the Mali empire, whose wealth literally has no modern-day comparisonnote went on pilgrimage to Mecca. He brought along so many retainers and pack animals that it was rumored that it took a full day for it to pass. What was fact, though, was that his shopping sprees in Cairo, Medina, and Mecca - along with gifting gold to the populace - flooded the market with so much gold that its value tanked for a decade afterward.
- 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, because the higher price is a signal of status, are called "Veblen goods" in his honor.note
- 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.
- 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.
- "iAmRich," a short-lived iPhone app, costing $999.99 (the highest price allowed by the App Store), 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.
- Using gold as food in general is this trope. Gold is extremely non-reactive and biologically inert, so it passes through your digestive system without being broken down at all. However, this also means gold has absolutely no taste whatsoever, so its only purpose is literally to look pretty. And ends up literally flushed down the drain.
- 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.
- The same oil princes have also built ridiculously tall buildings with all the taste of Trump, including—most damningly—a hotel and shopping complex that wouldn't look out of place in Las Vegas or Atlantic City right next to the holiest site in Islam.
- 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, precious metal cases, and a button that immediately connects the user with a concierge service. 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 '50s or thereabouts.
- The planned Ruby Red edition of The Wizard of Oz pinball machine has gemstones embedded in it—not just rubies, to represent Dorothy's ruby red slippers, but emeralds to represent Emerald City. It seems to have been caught in Development Hell or canceled, however, as Jersey Jack Pinball has gone silent about this version. Note that pinball machines themselves can be a conspicuous consumption item if bought for home use (which is its own trope), as they are large machines costing thousands of dollars, even for used ones, whose sole purpose is a game lasting a few minutes. Most home users are far more humble than that, however, and most commonly buy them because they love playing pinball that much.
- Western cuisine is fundamentally different from Eastern food because of this trope. The European elite used to eat foods with expensive imported spices like cumin and saffron, until more trade meant that spices weren't only for the upper class anymore. Then the new fashion became eating unspiced food that accentuates the existing flavors.
- Flashlights made out of copper* , titanium or stainless steel don't perform any better than anodized aluminium ones – in fact, they are often worsee.g. – but that doesn't stop them from selling well despite being two to five times more expensive than the aluminum ones. That said, gold and copper as part of the internal components are not a luxury, but an indicator of quality: gold-plated components conduct electric current far better, and a big slab of copper below the emitter LED helps distribute the heat away from the emitter, preventing efficiency loss and eventual breakdowns from overheating.
- The controversial documentary Living with Michael Jackson devotes a scene to a worryingly manic Jackson buying out a store in Los Vegas to the tune of hundred of thousands of dollars, seemingly just to show that he can spend it. Or maybe not, as at the time the King of Pop was in deep debt and not helping himself with these kind of spending sprees.