A quick sampling of the Net reveals I’m not the only one scratching my head over this Netflixforpurses marketing plan. On Tech Beat, Sarah Lacy writes, “BBOS claims their service is like borrowing from your girlfriends. One important distinctionyour friends don’t charge you a $100 lending fee plus shipping.” Elsewhere, bloggers seem put off by the concept of renting a used designer bag for the same price it would cost to buy a convincing knockoff. And on the Bag Blog, a number of customers claim to have been scammed by BBOS, which, despite some apparent complimentary trial offers, seems slaphappy about getting your credit card number anyway and laying down the regular $20 membership fee whether or not you tell them no.
More disturbing to me, however, is the cultural obsession with handbags that has enabled companies like BBOS to spring up in the first place. Unlike shoes, the former fashion fetish of choice, handbags have always struck me as too utilitarian to convey any sort of fashion mystique. They’re for holding money and makeup, and are often coated with the bacteria of the same. They inevitably bulge with the receipts of things purchased, the wrappers of straws used and peppermints consumed. You carry tampons in your purse. You’re constantly, awkwardly fishing in their bulging, chaotic depths for that hideously vibrating cell phone or the MapQuest directions you negligently stuffed inside before you sped off on a trip to your girlfriend’s house. The most capitalistic of all fashion commodities, purses are things you put other things in. And so they remain the most unappealing commodity of all: visual proof of our cluttered, consumer society.
According to Freud, purses are also supposed to be some sort of vaginal substitute. While there’s no doubt Freud could have found the sexual connotations in dry wall, the idea of the purseasvagina is interesting to contemplate, particularly when we consider how many vacant sex goddesses seem to be pushing the purse upon impressionable members of the cult of celebrity. (From here on in, words like “pushing” and “member” will inevitably be fraught with hilarious dualityjust try to work through it.)
More amusingly, recent health studies have linked purses to the spread of disease. A study by the University of Arizona found that pursesso often set on the floors of public restrooms, movie theaters and restaurantscarry 100 times more bacteria than your average toilet seat. Everything from E. coli to hepatitis can lurk on the bottom of your rented Botkier, which seems somehow appropriate if you’re Amy Winehouse (pictured with her Botkier bag on BBOS), but also extremely gross when you consider how many women plunk their purses down on tabletops and counters where food is eaten or prepared.
As much as I despise the likes of Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson, I wouldn’t wish E. coli on anyone. It is interesting to note, however, that these useless icons have perpetuated a craze that is literally as skanky as they are. Not only do their vaginal substitutes have their own faux STDs (thus reflecting what often happens to serial daters like Paris), the exorbitant amounts of money they’ve shelled out in order to possess the week’s hottest bag reflects their own place in popular culturethat of mindless eye candy. In the end, they’re just expensive, walking vaginas, garnering a brief, feverish affection before their 15 minutes get taken over by a Haylie, Nicky or Jamie Lynn.
The Duff, Hilton and Spears sisters are all rather pretty, it’s true, but would we really be imitating them if they didn’t net $700,000 a month (Britney’s salary) or possess the power to buy a $1,400 Louis Vuitton wallet at the drop of a hat? Stripped of her awesome earning power, Paris Hilton is the airhead everyone despised in high school, Hillary Duff is just another unimaginative pop star and Jamie Lynn Spears is the sad, pathetic result of bad parenting. It is wealth alone that makes these women notable, a fact conveniently symbolized by their purse fetish.