The Light Bulb Conspiracy

Planned obsolescence

Once upon a time..... products were made to last. Then, at the beginning of the 1920s, a group of businessmen were struck by the following insight: "A product that refuses to wear out is a tragedy of business" (1928). Thus Planned Obsolescence was born.

Shortly after, the first worldwide cartel was set up expressly to reduce the life span of the incandescent light bulb, a symbol for innovation and bright new ideas, and the first official victim of Planned Obsolescence. During the 1950s, with the birth of the consumer society, the concept took on a whole new meaning, as explained by flamboyant designer Brooks Stevens: "Planned Obsolescence, the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary...". The growth society flourished, everybody had everything, the waste was piling up (preferably far away in illegal dumps in the Third World) - until consumers started rebelling...

Can the modern growth society survive without Planned Obsolescence? Did the eternal light bulb ever exist? How can a tiny chip "kill" a product? How did two artists from New York manage to extend the lives of millions of iPods? Is Planned Obsolescence itself becoming obsolete?

Director(s): Cosima Dannoritzer
Script: Cosima Dannoritzer
Production: Patrice Barrat, Joan Úbeda
Year: 2010
Duration: 75 min
Our age recommendation: 16
Language (audio): German, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Hungarian
Language (subtitles): German, French, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Hungarian
Country of origin: France, Spain
Shooting Locations:
Screening rights: Mediapro ()
  • This film can be watched for free at the top.

Further reviews


Main topic(s): Upcycling, Recycling + Waste
Secondary topics: africa e-waste circular economy marketing postconsumptionism growth
Mentions: obsolescence garbage dump throw product bit worn defective disposal
Topic Page(s): Upcycling, Recycling + Waste

Host a Screening

Film Tips

Other Films