The Plastic Pink Flamingo: a Natural History

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Jennifer Price, in her essay “The Plastic Pink Flamingo: A Natural History,” provides the reader with a brief account of a fad during the 1950’s. While narrating the article with a mild, satirical tone, Price also includes a plethora of details to present an anecdote. However, by doing so she also embeds her own view on United States culture – a culture she ridicules as overly commercialized and volatile. The sudden “splash” of the pink flamingo into the fifties is a result of America’s capitalistic nature. Previously, the flamingo had been “hunted to extinction” for in the 1800s; however, one century later, Americans enshrined the pink plastic version. They even placed it on their front lawns! This was a chain effect. As a result of Miami Beach’s first grand hotel, the Flamingo, the bird became “synonymous with wealth.” American entrepreneurs took this opportunity to redesign the bird from ground up. They painted it pink which Marling states was “the hottest color of the decade” and plasticized it. Unlike other venerated figures of the past, such as the many religious idols, this plastic bird has no history at all. Still, it became “an instant hit”. It stands for nothing, perhaps just the flamboyance and commercialization of American culture and this is what Price criticizes. The satirical tone in the introduction serves a double purpose. Besides lightening up the atmosphere, Price’s satire also emphasizes her views. She states the obvious by claiming that the two major reasons the flamingo became popular is because it’s a “flamingo” and that it was “pink” – and she’s correct! American veneration of this “thingamajig” has resulted purely from these two simpleminded reasons, plus the work of clever entrepreneurs. Price views Americans nowadays as simpletons that would pursue anything that is popular – even a plastic bird.
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