The Economist says that America's mid-20th century suburban consumption machine is in decline.
By the early 1980s indoor shopping centres were woven tightly into American culture. New cuisines (the term is perhaps too grand) emerged in them, thanks to chains like Cinnabon and Panda Express, which did not exist outside malls. They began to swell to the point of absurdity. Canada's West Edmonton Mall, which opened in 1982, has an ice-skating rink, a pool with sea-lions and an indoor bungee jump. The Mall of America, in Minnesota, has three rollercoasters and more than 500 shops arranged in “streets” designed to appeal to different age groups. Every morning it opens early to accommodate a group of “mall walkers” who trudge around its 0.57-mile perimeter for exercise.
Artists and urban anthropologists began to note the appearance of mall-based tribes. Most celebrated—and lampooned—were the Valley girls who congregated in California's Glendale Galleria. Frank Zappa's then-teenage daughter, Moon Unit, wrote a hit song that captured their argot (“ohmigod!”, “no biggie”, “grody to the max”, “total space cadet”) and praised the Galleria for having “like, all these, like, really great shoe stores”. Mall-oriented films followed, spreading the Valley girls' culture like spores in the wind.
Just as the onward march of malls began to seem unstoppable, though, things began to go wrong. In just a few years they turned from temples of consumption to receptacles for social problems. The changing attitude to shopping malls can be seen in two films, both of which, appropriately, are to cinema what Panda Express is to the Chinese culinary tradition.
Urban designer, David Lewis, has long said finding ways to reuse "dead malls" will end up being a much bigger revitalization project then rebuilding urban centers.
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