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If you were to go for a stroll around a town at this time of year, it would be hard to miss the heart-emblazoned windows of Clintons Cards or the giant ‘I love you’ teddy bears grinning through shop windows as couples and singletons alike walk past. However, the commercialism of a holiday that did not even begin as a day dedicated to romance, could seem like just another way to make money, and so the question ‘is love exploited at this time?’ has to be asked.
Valentine’s Day originally began like any other Saint’s day, but became associated with romantic love in the 14th century by Chaucer, as he poetically connected it to such love in his writing. On this fact alone, Valentine’s Day may seem like a great celebration, as we are not only displaying affection, but celebrating the work of one of Britain’s most famous literary icons. Therefore, suggestions that Valentine’s Day is an ‘Americanised’ idea could perhaps be quashed, but the associated merchandise and the fact that we buy such items on the day does suggest an exploitation in order to make some money. After all, we have many other similar special days of the year, for example St George’s Day in order to celebrate being English, but we simply celebrate the day rather than spend money on gifts and cards. So why is Valentine’s Day so different? Love is just far easier to exploit and is relevant the world over. Sorry St. George, but when it comes to capitalism, love is far more marketable.
The exploitation of love can be seen in the items associated with Valentine’s Day. The idea of sending a card to a loved one was first thought of by those racy Victorians, but the thought of mass producing them originally came from factory owners with the space and money to do so.
These days, the suggestion that if you do not receive a Valentine’s Day card, you are simply not as loved as others, ensures most people receive and purchase cards, making Hallmark and other card companies alike, a nice tidy sum, and in the process making the people who do not receive a card miserable, forcing them to stay in their rooms and listen to Mariah Carey whilst drinking melted Ben and Jerry’s, so I’ve heard. This is exploitation at its worst; making money from the public’s fear of being unwanted.
But then again, is it really so bad to exploit love if it means that for one day a year, couples can feel special and connected? Despite my dislike of the unashamed exploitation that occurs, come Valentine’s Day morning I will charge downstairs like I have on every other Valentine’s Day since 1998 to find my one, special card. And hopefully this year, it might not even be from my Dad.