Confession: I have been watching Tiny House Nation on Netflix and I am so conflicted.
Like, on the one hand, I do legitimately enjoy the aesthetics of (well, some) tiny houses, as well as the aspects of “rethinking clutter” and “rethinking what a ‘house’ looks like in the context of modern Western living”1 and “outdoor space is great; let’s use that more!” and “what if an apartment… but not in an apartment building?”
Aa-aa-aa-and on the other hand…
This show’s whole shtick is kinda tragic? Like with very few exceptions, pretty much every couple it presents are formerly middle-class professionals who’ve been knocked down an income bracket due to circumstances outside of their control, and are desperately trying to convince themselves they’re “not poor” and are totally not having to “living in a trailer” to escape the associated negative class associations.
And instead of questioning that assumption (like… there’s literally nothing wrong with living in a trailer, or wanting a nice trailer, and not to mention the economy is entirely fucked up and people should be helping each other sharpen knives to eat the rich in response) it continually aggressively reinforces those arbitrary class boundaries.
So instead of being a legitimately transformative rejection of capitalism, conspicuous consumption, and classism… it celebrates all of those things by presenting a tiny house as yet another commodified aspirational item to purchase to prove you’re not one of Those People (whomever Those People may be to you… but let’s be real in the context of the show mostly means, to bluntly use a phase, white “trailer trash”).
And, also, on top of all of that…
A lot of the time the builds just seem really shitty? Like, when they do close-ups to show features you can see all kinds of rush-job finishes, like unsealed/sanded woodwork, poorly fitting joins, scuffed and marked paint jobs, and so on?
Like, the budget and time constraints get more and more obvious the closer you look, and it’s like… yeah I wonder how many of these places will still be occupied in three or five or ten years’ time?
And ultimately it feels like… getting to the point where we2 can’t afford well-built, long-lasting homes and are instead resorting to cheap, shitty, disposable things that look cute and Instagramable for a year or so before falling apart seems pretty much like Peak Late-Stage Capitalism?
Like, congrats. We’ve brought the logistics of fast food and fast fashion and fast tech and every other modern problem in disposable consumer culture to… fast housing.
- Relatedly, the US is similar to Australia in the sense that we have some of the largest house-sizes in the world, as well as some of the worst urban sprawl… with all attendant transport problems that implies. [↩]
- I say “we” there but I really mean “billionaire rentiers” because, like. Let’s not pretend this is some kind of magical egalitarian hell-of-our-own making instead of the intentional result of the mega-wealthy stacking the system so they get even wealthier at the expense of everyone else…. [↩]