PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Featured: Top of Home Page

A trip to exclusivity

Having just returned from a vacation at a resort hotel in the Caribbean, I found this WSJ article about exclusive resorts within resorts pertinent. The resort at which I stayed felt carceral to say the least -- it was retrofitted into the site of an old fortress, and portions of it were literally cordoned off with barbed wire. Yet at the same time, an atmosphere of openness was built into the infrastructure of the place, with all the restaurants and bars and hotel services being outdoors. Just enough relaxed openness was suggested by this setup to allow the more imaginative tourists to pretend that they weren't in a fortress and were instead integrated in some way with real island culture. The ability to relax at the resort seemed akin to the ability to enjoy TV shows with laugh tracks, or incoherent special-effects laden movies: It seems as though you have to be willing to do a lot of pretending and suspend a lot of disbelief to overlook the fact that the staff regards you with a mixture of contempt, suspicion and condescension, overlook the tension generated by income disparities between tourists and locals, the essentially predatory nature of tourist enterprises. Of course you can skirt a lot of that by eschewing the amenities of resorts, but then you are forced to concentrate on how to actually do everyday things in a foreign environment, which is probably the opposite of relaxing for many vacationers. The things you take for granted (buying gas, reading a menu, etc.) become complicated, and embarrassment lurks around every corner.

Resorts protect you from all that complication of the reality of foreignness, but at the expense of jailing you in a plush prison. But they go beyond merely insulating us from the challenges of learning how to function in new environments and having to make too many decisions, beyond permitting us to take a vacation from thinking ("A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," David Foster Wallace's account of taking a cruise, explicates these points pretty well). By foregrounding the helplessness of the tourist while confronting him at every turn with semi-sarcastic solicitude, resorts actually heighten all the tensions and pretenses, the disparities between tourists and servants, rather than dissipate them; perhaps it's because these tensions are actually what many vacationers want to consume, class resentment as a testimony that you've arrived, that you've reached a place where you can have the power to boss people around and be fussed over. The elaborate gate-keeping procedures at resorts are a part of this; if resorts are like prisons, it's because we want to consume the feeling of being guarded -- we want to taste the power of exclusion (which epitomizes class conflict generally) in one of its most concrete forms.

But when regular shmoes like me can be at a resort, the resort has clearly lost some of its exclusive appeal: Hence the ultraprivate resort within the resort the WSJ article notes:

Now some resorts are rolling out fancier service tiers that come with benefits blatantly visible to other guests, from private pools and beach areas in the middle of the grounds to guaranteed spots at crowded restaurants. Elite guests -- who pay an additional $40 to $900 or more per night -- also get nicer rooms and full access to the main resort. To distinguish them from the regular guests, many of whom are paying hefty rates of $400 to $1,000 a night, they sometimes get special bracelets or towels.
The writing here seems a bit slanted toward maximum populist outrage, but nevertheless it makes clear that consuming exclusivity is less a matter of achieving privacy (as is the case in some of the upgrades discussed) and more a matter of showing those beneath you what your money can buy, gloating in the VIP pool with your special wristband. If you pursue these special services, you actually want less privacy; you want more people to see you in all your luxuriousness. The desire to be seen enjoying privileges is an extension of the reality-TV mind-set, where having an audience is an essential ingredient for validation. But other resort guests don't want to be an audience; they want to consider themselves the stars too -- hence, the article's focus on the aggrieved hotel patrons discovering they are second class citizens.
The idea that others might be more important can spark a little vacation insecurity. During her weeklong visit to the 49-room Anse Chastanet Resort on St. Lucia last fall, at $475 a night, Rosaria Davies could see the five-month-old Jade Mountain extension every time she went for a swim on the beach. Guests there get their own restaurant, spa and pools, plus access to the main resort; nightly rates this season start at $1,150. "It looked great from afar," says the 37-year-old from London. When she and her husband had to wait an hour between the appetizers and main course at dinner one night, they wondered if Jade Mountain guests were being served more quickly. During the trip, the couple joked, "Are we chopped liver?" The hotel says it treats all of its guests equally.

Since everyone can't feel as though they are the only guest, treating everyone equally is the next-best thing -- a compensatory egalitarianism that nullify's our awareness of others -- being as we often only notice strangers through invidious comparison. But resorts are tempted by the allure of discriminatory pricing, reintroducing an aspect of the world (relentless status competition) many of us specifically go on vacation to escape.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.