The commodification of Jimmy Buffett and the cultural resistance of his fans: An ethnography of the San Antonio Parrot Head Club

Date
2010
Authors
Hansen, Mary Luby
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Abstract

Jimmy Buffett's popular theme song "Margaritaville" debuted in 1977. Thirty-three years later, Buffett has evolved from a mostly-unknown club singer into a cultural icon and lifestyle purveyor, with the transformation being predominately the result of his astute promotion of the Margaritaville mythos. This unrestrained marketing, or rationalization, as well as Buffett's transformation into a consumer product, or commodification, have made him very wealthy. Jimmy uses his affluence to maintain a lifestyle that his fans envy while contributing his time and monies to charities and causes that he is passionate about. This thesis examines the path that the singer took to attain idol status and how he maintains his fan base. Through an ethnographic study of a South Texas branch of his fan club, Parrot Heads in Paradise, I observed the social relationships, conspicuous consumption of tropical-themed merchandise, philanthropy, rituals, and alcohol usage within this music-based fan community. Parrot Heads, through their playful approach to cultural resistance, achieve escapism from the regimentation of daily life and experience rejuvenation.

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Keywords
Conspicuous Consumption, Fan Clubs, Jimmy Buffett, Parrotheads, Playfulness, Tropical Rock
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Department
Sociology