Anne Bean

I make delicious words. // I make words delicious.

Stock Photo Hell: Avarice and Prodigality

Stock Photo Hell

post with signs saying "hell" and "paradise"

It’s possible that if things had been this well-signed, Dante wouldn’t have gone on that trip at all. (Also, where’s Purgatory?)

Canto Four: Avarice and Prodigality

“I saw multitudes to every side of me; their howls were loud while, wheeling weights, they used their chests to push. They struck against each other; at that point, each turned around and, wheeling back those weights, cried out: Why do you hoard? Why do you squander?

Dante had some pretty specific ideas about greed, a concept which is oddly confusing to Americans, if we are to judge ourselves by our stock photos. Dante broke greed regarding money and wealth down into two categories: hoarders and spenders. These were pretty much flip sides of the same coin, he implied. Both are totally obsessed with money, just in opposite capacities. And these souls’ obsession is the very vehicle of their torture in the Inferno. They’re pushing around giant circular weights that may well look like coins, crashing into each other and screaming at each other like a silly, angry ocean. You know how they say “hell is other people”? In this case, it’s other people who are equally obsessed with money, and vehemently disagree about what should be done with it. I could picture Wall Street stock brokers v celebrities a la Lorde’s Royals (“gold teeth/Gray Goose/tripping in the bathroom” etc) in this situation. O, Dante, why must you still be so relevant.


My search terms: Greed, greedy woman, avarice, prodigality (I mean, you never know)

So, “greed” is very much mixed up with gluttony, it would seem. Photos of greed, particularly greedy women, very often involved them eating. Therefore, the most relevant images combines greed for food with greed for money:

a woman with a wad of $1 bills shoved in her mouth

Yep. She’s literally eating money.

It’s funny, just plain “greed” or “avarice” searches turned up a lot more pictures of men than women, mostly white men clutching money with ridiculous expressions:

Because while clutching money, it's very important to have your best poopyface forward. You're also allowed to look gleeful, but only if you are rolling in bills or swimming in coins like Scrooge McDuck.

Because while clutching money, it’s very important to have your best poopyface forward. You’re also allowed to look gleeful, but only if you are rolling in bills or swimming in coins like Scrooge McDuck.

And to be fair, quite a bit of the time, the men were also eating money. But somehow when I type in “greedy woman,” I get food as much of the time as money. Seriously, suddenly there’s a ton of this:

"Young fat woman eating sundae"

“Young fat woman eating sundae”

It’s almost like food and the ability to get pleasure from it is a currency in Stock Photo Women Land. Jeez.

"fat woman with many doubts"

“Fat woman with many doubts”

I hear you, Fat Woman. I have many doubts about this whole situation as well.


“Prodigal,” for the record, turned up a lot of pictures of the prodigal son story from the Bible. Embarrassing confession: I thought for years that “prodigal” meant “lost” because of that story. Nope, “prodigal” means “recklessly wasteful,” which is why when I typed in “prodigality,” I got pictures of moldy food and money going down the drain. I guess “The Return of the Prodigal Son” sounds better than “the return of my asshole brother who spent all of Dad’s money”?


Next up: The Wrathful and Sullen!
Spoilers: It’s arguably the most metal of the circles. \m/


1 Comment

  1. …wow, I also had ‘prodigal’ defined all wrong in my head, only I thought it meant something like “favored” or perhaps “chosen,” as in having a great destiny. This is why learning words from context is not always a great method.

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