Date of Degree

9-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Justin Rogers-Cooper

Subject Categories

Sociology

Keywords

Neoliberal, Spectacle, Parade, Multiculturalism, Exceptionalism, Holiday

Abstract

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a fall staple in the U.S. for nearly a century. This event has the potential to make a significant impact on national culture due to its immersion in long-held traditions, the extent of media consumption, and the role of advertising. Unlike many other parades and cultural festivals in the world, opposing values and points of view are placed side by side, meant to be consumed as a single package. This thesis argues that today neoliberal ideology engulfs the annual event, as seen in part through token representation of marginalized identities. The parade of advertisements that highlight multiculturalism as the cornerstone of exceptionalism can also be read as examples of departure from these same values. The thesis argues that the spectacle nonetheless encourages consent for themes that support an economic system in which wealth flows upward. The relationship between consumerism and exceptionalism works to promote a culture in which the consumer is responsible for holding up the U.S.’ place in the world economy. Finally, although the Thanksgiving holiday is traditionally considered to be a celebration of a positive relationship with Native Americans based on the myth of American exceptionalism, indigenous people are hardly represented at all in the parade.

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