Jennifer Price, well-known essayist and writer, in her recent essay, “The Plastic Pink Flamingo: A Natural History” examines the popularity of the plastic pink flamingos in the 1950s. Price does more than just describe the fake bird, she examines the strange popularity of the lawn accessory of this time period. Through her article, Price uses irony and rhetorical strategies to reveal her true belief of American culture. She believes that America is way too preoccupied with materialistic things rather than appreciating the often unnoticed beauty and everything it has to offer. Through her work, Price recognizes the history of flamingos and the color pink. Price also condemns American culture for its’ superficiality.
Price uses many rhetorical devices to express her view on United States culture, such as sarcastic diction, symbolism, and tone. Through all of these, Price is able to convey her belief that the United States culture is excessively flamboyant, consumeristic, and even morally askew. She begins her essay in an enthusiastic manner by acknowledging the significance of the flamingos from the early 1950s.
Price creates an explicit proposal, while using symbolism, to attract the audiences’ attention. She creates a somewhat censorious tone, with her use of italics in the sentence, “First, it was a flamingo”. Price points out the silliness of the trend to the audience and creates a bold tone with her choice of diction. She goes on to discuss that the flamingo was popular for the sole reason of its color and abundance. She is insulting the fact that at a time people felt the need to spent money on these plastic birds, something no one would have thought to do before. Price also uses puns including “splashing, flocking, and wadding” to contrast the abilities of the natural birds compared to the artificial ones, which clearly cannot splash or wade.
Moreover, Price also makes an ironic comment when she says, “no matter” directly after expressing that Americans had not given flamingos any attention years prior. These comments also condemn the lack of knowledge of American culture in the present-day. By defining the reason for its’ popularity and using puns, Price is suggesting its’ superficial popularity is like superficiality of culture. At the end of the opening paragraph of this essay, Price also establishes the flamingos background. She continues to indicate of what she thinks of the United States and its culture of that time. Price also recounts on a flamingo’s connection with “leisure and extravagance” due to its similar characteristics of the popular city of Las Vegas. She makes another negative remark when she says “anyone who has seen Las Vegas – the flamboyant oasis of instant riches that the gangster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel had conjured from the desert in 1946 with his Flamingo Hotel.
Anyone who has seen Las Vegas knows that a flamingo stands out in a desert even more strikingly that on a lawn” talking about the silliness of having these plastic figurines as decorations in the lawn. Price also compares the plastic flamingos to a “line of semiotic sprouts,” insinuating that the popularity of the flamingos is confusing. She also argues that Americans used flamingos to show their wealth, which was especially important after the Great Depression. Price writes, Flamingos “stand out” in one’s lawn, which shows one’s lavishness in comparison to the period America with during the time of the Depression. Though the main idea of the flamingo may be related to the Depression, Price shows that there could be a bigger underlying meaning. The references that Price uses throughout her essay appeals to the importance of the flamingo because they all had authority or were significant during this time.
Later on in her essay, Price uses italics to create the same effect as before, to express how bizarre an aspect of the plastic flamingos was. Price compares this opposing statement with more optimistic quotes regarding America’s industry business of the 1950s. By this contrasting idea, Price makes Americans of this time period to seem very foolish. Price continues this effect by further explaining Americans’ obsession with the color pink by giving examples of many goods that come in all shades of pink, including well-known singer, Elvis Presley’s, pink Cadillac, again symbolizing the importance of materialism and a way to portray one’s acceptance in society. By doing this, Price is able to continue her criticism on this subject. These examples suggest the main reason for buying flamingos was to fit in. Price continues to contrast the negative opening statements with rather pleasant quotes about these birds being a major part of the plastic industry in the 1950s.
She writes, “And the flamingo was pink– a second and commensurate claim to boldness.” In doing this, Price reveals that the Americans mindset of this time was superficial. She continues to explain her argument as she gives examples of their obsession by boldness of pink, and the availability of many things in multiple shades of this color, “The plastic flamingo is a hotter pink than a real flamingo, and even a real flamingo is brighter than anything else around it.” Price mentions all of the other unnatural colors in order to make the point that the culture is in love with the artificial. Throughout her examples, Price is able to effectively prove her opinion and is critical in the way she expresses how strange the aspect of the flamingos were during that time period. To bring continual attention to the image and attention towards materialism, Price also uses alliteration to talk about the history of these useless, pink plastic flamingos. Yet again, Price conveys the idea of its’ frivolity. Price is conveying that it is absolutely foolish to be focusing on the history of this very foolish and unnecessary decoration.
To conclude her essay, Price begins the last paragraph with more ridicule; this time, in the form of a question. She does this to show the sentimental value of the flamingo. By asking “why, after all, call the birds “pink flamingos” – as if they could be blue or green?”. She continues to illustrate that making the plastic bird more significant or “brighter” than the real one is absurd, and she found it very entertaining. This leads to the interpretation that the artificial bird stands out in a bolder form compared to its’ natural habitat. Because of the placement of this point in her essay, one can infer that Price is saying her final words, and most important point that she has been hinting at the entire essay; that the 1950s American culture was idiotic. Price further supports herself by continuing to explain and expand on the fact that the color of the plastic flamingos is not even factual to a real-life one. To create more of an argument, Price also incorporates multiple historical references in order to show the importance that flamingos had besides just the United States.
This included many cultures varying from Mexican to the Caribbean. Sarcastically, Price tries to say that Americans copied these cultures, saying America “reproduced it …
into a sea of inland grass.” Yet again, Price shows how ignorant American people and culture can be. Throughout her essay, “The Plastic Pink Flamingo: A Natural History” Price uses rhetorical devices, tone, and her word choice to criticize the foolishness of the American mindset of the 1950s. By her many descriptions in her essay, Price explains how she views American society through the topic and meaning behind the pink plastic flamingo. The United States culture of that time can be symbolized by the plastic pink flamingo, and this allows Price to underline the true meaning and significance of this bird.