In the U.S., things just get BIGGER


Dr. John Mille

A few years back, Tom Hanks starred in the movie “Big,” about a twelve-year-old who wishes he were taller, mainly because then he’d be able to compete for the cool girls at school.

At a carnival stand he paid his quarter and made a wish, which soon was granted.


The body in which he had been caged metamorphozed into that of a thirty-year-old man.

The movie then relates both the difficulties and advantages that accompany his new condition.

In the end, Hanks’s character decides to return to his by now thirteen-year-old body. Being big isn’t always what one hoped it would be.

Lately, we are confronted more and more by the implications of bigness.

I haven’t tried a double-cheeseburger for about six years. Today, big would mean going for a triple-decker. Can a quadruple-decker be far behind? Or maybe you have had one already.

That might sound improbable until we open the sports pages and start reading about 400-pound football linemen. At the rate we’re going, it will be about thirteen years before we have our first 500-pound lineman.

Remember, you read it here first!

Today, as so many things get super-sized, they are being converted into something else than what they were originally intended to be. Usually for the worse.

Are 7’6″ basketball centers really what James Naismith had in mind?

What are we to make of a society where gas-guzzling SUVs consume a gallon of gas to drive a dozen miles when the expiration of oil reserves will occur, metaphorically, the day after tomorrow?

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers recently bought a $16 million, 13,000-square-foot mansion for himself and his new bride. How much space does a guy need?

A recent television show revealed that half the pets in America are obese.

The Los Angeles metropolitan area contained 11,000 people in 1850. By 1900, population was up to 102,000. In 1950, it topped 4.3 million. Last I looked, it was around 8 million. They’re still ripping up hillsides and canyons to build condominiums, apartments, and mansions for the rest of the Lakers.

The question of bigness isn’t going to go away. As individuals and as a nation we are going to confront head-on during the coming decades the implications of our creative, productive, wonderful, gaudy, expansive, gluttonous, marauding culture and lifestyle.

How we answer the resultant questions will determine the future of our grandkids and the fate of the planet.

Dr. John Miller is a professor of history at SDSU. E-mail him at [email protected]