The Ol' Switch-a-Roo

In 1960 legendary film producer David O. Selznick was posed with a major problem. He needed 10,000 extras for a fight scene in the epic Spartacus. The scene was fast approaching but he was already over budget on what was to be the most expensive movie ever made at that point. Today all he would have to do is call one guy in New Zealand, whose software, Massive, would sort it out in a few minutes, a la Lord of The Rings. However Selznick had an even better idea. Instead of 'hiring' the extras, as was standard practice, he took out a full page advert 'offering' the chance to appear in his Hollywood blockbuster by paying only 10 dollars! People clamoured to do it. Thereby making him a lot of money and a wry chuckle at the whims of people. A few years later Mr. Ikea had a very similar idea. Instead of paying people to make his furniture, he would convince people to pay him so they could make it for him. Genius.

There's an audaciousness about Ikea that must surely contribute to its success. Making people go to a part of town they never would otherwise, making them go on a 3km detour to buy what they thought they came for, making them somehow lug the raw materials of something else home so they can sit around spending hours engaged in semi-frustrating manual labour (in an age when 'labour' has all but disappeared from the middle classes) so they can possess something everybody else has too. All the wrongs somehow make a right. Do we really do all of this just because it is cheap? Modern society is also in love with convenience and people claim to value their spare time. So what else could be at play here?
Is it a consumer community engaged in Billy bonding? Do we all want to stand up and take our turns saying "I'm Spartacus"?

P.s. Being an 'extra' and making Ikea are quite similar - you end up sitting around for hours, scratching yourself, wondering how in hell you thought this was a good idea - meanwhile someone else has got the 'part' you want. Pun apologies. M

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