HGTV and the Spectacle of GentrificationRobert Goldman
HGTV has perfected stories about creating and capturing value in the housing market. But according to Robert Goldman, this lifestyle network’s beloved flagship programs, Flip or Flop, Property Brothers, and Fixer Upper—where people revitalize modern spaces and reinvent property values—offer “fairy tales” in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis. The cable channel’s seductive, bingeable programs may show how to find and extract value from properties, but, in fact, they insidiously ignore the realities of the real estate and mortgage markets, housing inequality, gentrification, economic insecurity, and even homelessness. In effect, HGTV has turned house flipping into a master narrative about getting ahead in America during an era of otherwise uneasy economic prospects.
HGTV pictures its insular moral economy as an alternative to a crisis-ridden neoliberal finance system that shaped landscapes of foreclosure and financial uncertainty for millions of households. Renovating Value explores the circuitry of consumer credit and debt, and a rent-gap model of gentrification that charts a path to the rehabilitation of Value. Goldman shrewdly critiques the aspirational myth of adding value to a home simply by using imagination, elbow grease, and aesthetic know-how.
“Renovating Value reads our contemporary moment as a ‘crisis of value’ and analyzes the programming on HGTV in light of this crisis. The result is a user-friendly introduction to political economy in the age of financialization, one that should appeal to anyone who has been seduced by the easy charm of the Property Brothers and others of their ilk. Moreover, it serves as a partial antidote to the ideological work performed by such programming. Indeed, this book makes a compelling case for treating HGTV as an important site for the mediation of late capitalism’s contradictions.”
—Ivan Ascher, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, and author of Portfolio Society: On the Capitalist Mode of Prediction
“In this timely and important book, Goldman explores HGTV’s entertaining fantasies of home ownership in the real-world context of mortgage debt, foreclosures, and unequal access to housing. Moving between narrative analysis of the programs and economic analysis of the market, this book vividly reveals how HGTV’s spectacles of house hunting, flipping, and renovation occlude the downsides to the American housing dream.”
—Lynn Spigel, Frances E. Willard Professor of Screen Cultures at Northwestern University, and author of TV by Design: Modern Art and the Rise of Network Television
“ A key strength of the book lies in Goldman’s ability to parse wider meaning from HGTV’s ‘cultural narratives’ through a careful and nuanced reading, which remains rooted in a wider analysis of the political economy of housing…. Renovating Value offers a compelling and thought-provoking account of the way cultural narratives mediate the contradictions of contemporary capitalism. This makes it an essential read for sociologists and others interested in the dynamics of economy, housing, and culture.”
"The premise that HGTV’s house-flipping programs distort and overlook socioeconomic realities to deliver domestic fantasies is not quite novel, but Goldman’s well-documented critique of how HGTV creates its own rules of value succeeds.... Summing Up:
"Renovating Value is a unique and interesting book that focuses on how HGTV programming ignores the problems within the housing market.... This book is useful for scholars and students who are conducting study and research that connects popular television programming that obscures real-life economic conditions. Goldman offers a perspective that questions why popular culture impacts how market forces are viewed."
—Journal of Popular Culture
Consuming CatastropheTimothy Recuber