Mall as Theme Park? Bangkok, not Las Vegas….
I don’t know about you, but I think of shopping malls in the same vein as renaissance fairs, record and book stores, legacy items in a virtual world of pretty pictures, cheap emotions, digital downloads and little else. That’s a long fall from grace for an institution that served as the paradigm of the future only a short two decades ago. Internet changed all that… or so I assumed.
While Kevin Smith was making Mall Rats, I was writing a screenplay in which malls had not only turned into theme parks, but had also become a substitute for the real lost world outside. I went back and rewrote it for the Internet age, in which that virtual world became the surrogate world. Maybe I rushed to judgment. It worked for Las Vegas after all, at least for the time being.
Terminal 21, one of Bangkok’s trendiest new malls, is a fully formed concept mall, based on famous world cities. Las Vegas has got nothing on this. From what I see there are levels—entire floors—devoted to Rome, Paris, London, Tokyo, Istanbul, Hollywood (huh?), the Caribbean (that’s a city?), and San Francisco (twice?). New York got nothing. They’re pissed and considering a suit—legal, not Armani (joking). Bangkok itself didn’t even get one. Haight-Ashbury got its own section, as did Chinatown.
Where did they do their geographical research, in tourist brochures? If so, then they should’ve known that China is in the Top Ten and deserved something, but that’s sensitive politics in Thailand. Chinese are slowly taking over the country—again. But this is not about politics.
This is all good fun, of course, the better to eat, drink, shop, and spend money. It’s actually somewhat refreshing to see people getting all orgasmic over stuff again, nothing virtual, or not much anyway. Everybody’s got a smart-phone, of course. Out in the countryside they’ve got sticky rice and hot stuff to dip it in, little else. This is the Asian decade. It’s interesting.