Born in the USA -or- Advertizing the American Dream

Debbie, American 34 years old

The dream starts off with me on a shopping trip with an ex-coworker named Jill.  She convinces me to take the day off from work and to hang out with her.  We end up in an East Coast style city that is over cast and gray, that reminds me of New York or Chicago (I live on the West Coast) and we start walking through a really nice, and very upscale department store.  As we're leaving the store I spot a bright pink umbrella leaning by the exit. I start to grab it and ask who it belongs to, but an older rather snobbish-looking lady grabs and and walks out the door without a word.  We end up at a really fun rock concert and one of the bands had a lead singer who was talented, funny and entertaining and he looked like the comedian John Lequizamos.  Later we left the concert and walked across the street to a nearby airport.  Immediately another singer starts to perform right next to me on the street. He was very loud and obnoxious in a "look at me!" kind of way.  He resembled Bruce Springsteen and the lead singer of the Clash.  He really annoyed me and I wanted to 'put him in his place', so I asked my friend Jill to make him shut up. 

She had "Bewitched" type powers and suddenly his lips were moving, but no sound was coming out.  All this time we were standing in a long line that slowly led us into the airport waiting area.  Jill left to do something and I found myself sitting alone.  A young girl next to me started placing her bare feet next to mine until they touched.  i ignored her at first and then I lost my patience and stepped on her toes.  I yelled at her to "Back off!"  Jill had turned into my sister at this point and they let us board a small jet plane that had very few passengers. Our pilot was a woman and she was very aggressive at the controls; manuvering the plane sharply while bragging about what a great pilot she was.  Another pilot was sitting across the aisle from me and he agreed she was one of the best pilots around.  Meanwhile our pilot starts to really show off her flying skills like a daredevil and she suddenly does a loop de loop.  I am completely shocked and stunned and I wonder if I'm going to throw up and be sick, but I don't.  I check my seat belt and wonder why I didn't fall out of my seat.  Several times we skim close to the ground as if we're about to land, but we don't.  In fact by the time I wake up we're still up in the air and flying.

Mr Hagens' Reply: Bewitched -or- The American Culture Industry

What if the world is some kind of-of show! . . .What if we are all only talent assembled by the Great Talent Scout Above! The Great Show of Life! Starring Everybody! Suppose entertainment is the Purpose of Life!    Philip Roth On the Air

Born in America: Entertainment and the Advertising of the American Dream

Your ex coworker convinces you to take a day off work and you end up on the East Coast although you live on the West Coast. It appears as though your friend may be part of your reference group who provides you with orientation to your identity and life style. The dream and the associations that you sent, beg the question whether this is your dream or a dream that your friend has induced (by suggestion) in you? Your dream is about the changing vision of the American Dream, which originally was based on the idea of hard work.

Fashion provides the modern metaphoric currency for the embodiment of the marketplace of the American Dream. The circulation of American taste and fashionable thoughts from the West coast to the East Coast helps the individual and the community to present coherent social identities and life-styles.

Roland Marchand Advertizing the American Dream provides a commercial psychological background to understand your dream. The American entertainment, music, sports, travel and fashion industries among others are deeply implicated in the culture industry's life style manufacture of character, persona and self image. Success in American public life has depended on the successful management of looks and appearances. Fashioning the body becomes a means to fashion ones' self image and one's mind.

The American Dream reinforces the collective daily creation of fashionable daydreams/fantasies/desires which advertisers' parade before the public's imagination. Advertisers of the American Dream act as rhetorical (read persuasion/influence) producers of visual images and metaphors, becoming contributors to the shared poetic daydreams projected onto the American communal dreamscreen. Focusing on the conditioning of the consumers mind, advertisers keep the American audience focused on the social tableaux of consumer images and life styles. As the media and culture critic Stuart Ewen All-Consuming Images has noted consumer philosophy becomes itself all consuming.

In essence your dream appears to represent the mesmerizing life style rhetoric that freedom and happiness is indeed something money can buy and/or create. Entertainment shopping" becomes the basis of life, leisure and living. All dreams then become poetically fashioned in terms of their entertainment and excitement value.

Bewitched -or- Dreams as Entertainment

In your dream there are a variety of forms of entertainment and excitement including references to the film Bewitched, rock concerts, comedian John Lequizamo, the singer who resembles Bruce Springsteen, an up-scale department store. These people and activities all can represent forums for leisure and therefore the consumption of excitement.

In your dream, your ex co-worker/friend is given magical Bewitching powers (suggestive/hypnotic?) to silence the really annoying man who is singing and who resembles Bruce Springsteen (watch video clip Born in the USA). In your associations you do say that Jill is the one who always wants to drag you on her shopping sprees, which reinforces the thought that the entertainment shopping in the dream is really her idea.  In other associations about the dream you state that shopping is a guilty pleasure and that shopping as entertainment is something you try to avoid. Obviously, not everyone feels guilty about entertainment shopping as you do.

The trip to the East Coast may also represent your desire for success (including financial success) via the novel that you have written and the synopsis you have sent to agents and publishers. What is your novel about?

Entertainment Shopping in America

The American sociologist Thorsten Veblen The Theory of the Leisure Class coined the concept of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure, meaning an economy devoted to superficial appearances and attention seeking behavior. After assuming these values, we prefer to consume images rather than experience sensual reality. Other dreams such as Self Analysis, and Conspicuous Consumption in L.A. posted at the IIDR website attest to this problem.

Veblen's work is a satirical (read protest) look at American cultural production and consumption. The satire rests on Veblen's belief in the prejudicial and egotistical basis of consumerism ie. the ego structure of society which is based on the display of status of superiors and inferiors.

Your dream appears to point out the philosophical problems and frustrations for the ego that entertainment shopping creates. Numerous times in your dream you are faced with situations which frustrate, iritate or cause you pain. In the up-scale department store you meet a "snobbish looking lady" (the definition of a snob is a person that believes that people are inferior for a variety of reasons such as class, race etc.), the loud and obnoxious singer who is right next to you, the young girl who intrudes/crowds your personal space (you step on her toes and scream at her to back off), the daredevil pilot who does loop de loops that makes you feel sick to your stomach. Although it is possible to maximize our pleasure, it is impossible to completely do away with frustration and pain. It also begs the question would we want to do away with pain? Does pain and frustration play an important and positive role in our lives? In this philosophical context, The Rolling Stones tell us, I Can't Get No Satisfaction (see music video).

Entertainment or Brave New World

In terms of entertainment shopping, the best novel which describes the plot of your dream is Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. The entertainments found in your dream can be viewed as representing the "soma" used in this dystopic novel (Brave New World). Soma is the metaphoric essence of a hedonistic society,  entertainment pleasure as soma has become the measure of all things. In a modern information society, all information is enslaved by the imperatives of pleasure, excitement and entertainment.  All information mediums are then shaped by the entertainment metaphor which in turn becomes the dominant plastic art form of the media culture.

Of interest as it relates to your dream, is that sleep learning (also known as hypnopaedia) is used to suggest and condition all thought and behavior in Brave New World. As far as we already live in this Brave New World, I am referencing another dream, Sleep Learning sent to the IIDR website.  

Erica Jong or an American Romance Novel?

The fear of flying you experience in your dream, may be referencing Erica Jong's novel The Fear of Flying.  In your dream, the driving force namely the person flying the plane is a woman, a daredevil bragging/showing off (often a sign of megalomania) about her abilities/talents. The book The Fear of Flying is a veiled biographical work based on the attitudes of female dreams, desires, sexuality and feminism. In it Jong coins the concept of "the zipless fuck", meaning (as I understand it) the fulfillment of sexual fantasies with an anonymous stranger. I have included a link to Erica Jong's website.

I am also including links to other interpretations of American woman's dreams that might provide a different perspective, American Woman and Dorothy in Wonderland.

From a male perspective the dream interpretation Showing Off in America tells of the reach of the culture industries and popular culture in influencing and shaping our dreams.


I have included some literature references and links on the web that may be of interest;

Wikipedia article on the American Dream

Neal Gabler Life: The Movie; How Entertainment Conquered Reality

Norbert Elias Quest for Excitement

Richard Rorty Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Vance Packard The Hidden Persuaders

Erica Jong The Fear of Flying

Roland Marchand Advertising the American Dream (this is a link to the book which is on the web in its entirety)

Charles Cooley Human Nature and the Social Order

Neil Postman Amusing Ourselves to Death; Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism,

Paul Schilder, The Image and the Appearance of the Human Body,

Daniel Boorstin, The Image or What happened to the American Dream?,

Erving Goffman, Gender Advertisements,

Rolland Barthes, The Fashion System,

Stuart Ewen, All-Consuming Images,

Stuart Ewen, Captains of Consciousness

Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth,

Alexander Lowen, Narcissism: Denial of the True Self

Leshan, L. (1942). The breaking of a habit by suggestion during sleep. Journal of Abnormal Social Psychology, 37, 406-408.v

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.