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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bagpuss and Commodity Fetishism



The collector … makes his concern the transfiguration of things. To him falls the Sisyphean task of divesting things of their commodity character by taking possession of them. But he bestows on them only connoisseur value, rather than use value.
Walter Benjamin

What is it that animates Bagpuss and his friends? Love.

Emily's shop doesn't sell anything, but only displays valueless objects lost by others. These lost objects include, implcitly, Bagpuss and his friends, who live in the shop window, and who, in each episode, interpret and repair a new object that Emily finds and brings to the shop:

The toys would discuss what the new object was; someone (usually Madeleine) would tell a story related to the object (shown in an animated thought bubble over Bagpuss's head), often with a song, ... and then the mice, singing in high-pitched squeaky harmony as they worked, would mend the broken object. The newly mended thing would then be put in the shop window, so that whoever had lost it would see it as they went past, and could come in and claim it.

Bagpuss is about the recovery of meaning through love. Love is a kind of fetishisation, but it acts as the antidote to commodity fetishisation. 

(I see I am not the first to give Bagpuss a quasi-Marxist reading. In mulling over this reading, I also had a go at connecting the moment of Bagpuss waking up to Benjamin's image of awakening into revolutionary consciousness from the nightmare of history, but I couldn't quite make that idea work.)

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