Sometime after the Act of Union permanently merged the thrones of England and Scotland, merchants figured out that they could make a butt load of pounds sterling by touting the giveage of gifts at Christmas. It was the dawn of modern capitalism, and already, retailers had figured out how to exploit its worst aspects. (Compare this with communism, in which everything is mandated to be dull, gray, and depressing.)
Fast forward to the end of the eighteenth century, and George Washington inadvertantly decrees a line of demarcation for this consumer frenzy to begin by creating Thanksgiving. The holiday did not have a somewhat permanent slot (Thursday of the last full week of November) until Lincoln set it by proclamation, but it always fell in November. Then after you eat all that turkey, the shopkeepers start with the sales, the advertising, the pressure to get that perfect gift. Even then, Thanksgiving was not all that big a deal until the Great Depression, when FDR made it a federal holiday, creating a permanent four-day weekend.
Following World War II, when America realized that 1.) the Depression was over, 2.) we were the only major world power that had not been cratered by air raids, and 3.) we’re really, really rich, merchandisers learned that they could make a huge buttload of money by luring consumers into the stores the day after Thanksgiving with low-ball prices. A new invention, television, reinforced this behavior. Then came the Internet. Since advent of this world-altering invention, designed to deliver questionable political rants, free pornography, and cat pictures, Black Friday has become a national sport. Year after year, we hear stories of trampling incidents at Walmart at 4 AM over $30 Blu-Ray players. Now stores are even opening on Thanksgiving, a trend I find rather disgusting.
I’ve come to have contempt for Black Friday. Retailers may make most of their money this weekend, but that doesn’t change the fact that workers are being denied time with their families. I’ve noticed there is only one holiday where stores are not open. Christmas. On Christmas, only gas stations and convenience stores are open, and only a handful of them, mostly along the Interstates. Now retailers are opening on Thanksgiving? That is absolutely disgusting. I think the people who start their Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving are just as bad. Thanksgiving and Christmas and all the year-end high holy days tend to bring out the best in people. Black Friday brings out the worst.
So what am I doing on Black Friday?
Sleeping in. So while I’m snoring away while all the idiots are fighting over the $10 laptop, enjoy this Steely Dan classic. Because, to me, “Black Friday” will always be a song off Katy Lied.
All photos Paramount Pictures