Durkee returns… with anti-splurge film

Don't know what to get your best friend, cousin Elmer, or significant other for Christmas this year? Worried about spending too much money? Well, two Charlottesville natives have some words of wisdom for distressed holiday shoppers.

Chuck Langham, founder of S.C.R.O.O.G.E. (Society to Curtail Ridiculous Outrageous & Ostentatious Gift Exchanges), and Savitri Durkee, a Charlottesville expat currently living in New York City, encourage people to take more time and spend less money for presents. Langham and his wife, who live near UVA, agree to keep Christmas present spending to a minimum in their family, but they're not out to convert the world.

"We basically think people should do what they want to do," he says. "We're a laid-back kind of organization: do what you want."

At its height, S.C.R.O.O.G.E. had over 1,200 members in the U.S. and abroad, but Langham admits that his enthusiasm for anti-consumerism proseltyzing has waned, and newsletter now goes out to only "five to ten" people, he says.

However, Savitri Durkee, a graduate of Western Albemarle High School, is coming on strong. Now based in New York City, she's a founder of The Church of Stop Shopping, an anti-consumerism organization headed by the "Reverend" Billy, also known as Bill Talen– who happens to be her husband. (He's shown here stopping traffic in Times Square.)

Members of the Church of Stop Shopping detail their beliefs about consumerism and the holiday season through various guerrila actions against big retailers. Now, their antics have become a feature-length film, What Would Jesus Buy? opening in Charlottesville Friday, December 14 at the Downtown Mall Regal Cinema.

"We think most of the bad things that come from Christmas come from being in a hurry," says Durkee, adding that's why the holiday season isn't as enjoyable as people expect.
Durkee, one of the founders of local dance troupe the Zen Monkey project, will be in Charlottesville for the opening and will host at least one question-and-answer session about the film, which was produced by Morgan Spurlock of Super-Size Me fame.

"We're encouraging people to slow down, to take more time," says Durkee, explaining that those activities lead people to "think about the narrative of those products. Who made them? Where are they from?"

Durkee suggests that a good start is to "start shopping locally."

Langham also has several suggestions on that front. He thinks people spend too much money on unnecessary gifts, and so he and his wife opt for small gifts such as, "a t-shirt, a baseball cap, joke items." Mrs. Langham even makes Christmas ornaments to give to friends.

If you still don't know what to get someone, maybe it's because the best presents aren't always found in stores. "The best gift might be something you already have." Durkee says. "If you're a parent, it might be your time; if you're in a relationship, it could be your undivided attention."


Fight global warming: travel less, spend less, consume less to help reduce emissions by 80%. Cut out those holiday lights. Watch that wrapping paper. Reduce factory output. Do more than pay lip service and criticize the U.S. government.

Good to know that the Langhams consider t-shirts, baseball caps, and joke items to be necessary gifts.