I’ve spent a decent amount of time watching HGTV in the pandemic epoch. Since I recently moved apartments for the first time in 13 years, and having finally decided that, as a woman in my 40s, I would go about procuring furniture that did not come from a discard pile on a New York sidewalk, my relationship with the channel has developed a practical dimension. Most of these DIY shows are far beyond my skill set and toolbox (does everyone in the U.S. own a nail gun?!), but my odyssey through the terrifying morass of furniture retail, and the world of ‘home improvement’ more generally, has revealed a lot about influencer culture, design hyperconsumerism, weird sociopolitical signifiers, and the general state of America.
HGTV isn’t just a home improvement cable network; it’s a cultural force in the US so great that its biggest stars, Chip and Joanna Gaines, in addition to having their own cable channel (“TV that Feels Like Home”), have transformed the town of Waco, Texas into an HGTV-themed tourist mecca. Nearly forgotten as the deadly site of the 1993 FBI/ATF standoff with the Branch Davidian cult, Waco has become Gaines-ville, boasting restaurants, cafes, a 33-room hotel, a garden shop, a bakery, and a shopping center, The Silos, built around the Gaines’s HGTV brand.
It’s a paywall, but a small one
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