While attending the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns’ game on April 7, Jonah Hill was seen courtside with Real Housewives star, Lisa Rinna, in matching sweatshirts emblazoned with “Meaningful Existence.” As it turns out, this is Hill’s new clothing line and it’s a parody of the wellness scene with aims to “monetize happiness.”
Meaningful Existence is “founded, run, and ruled” by Prophet Ezekiel Profit (Jonah Hill), a jab at wellness and self-help brands that have exploited mental health awareness and used cult-like tactics to turn a profit.
As the website explains, “… we have one simple goal: to spread joy throughout the universe by monetizing happiness… we believe that no one is born into happiness. You have to work and earn money, and then buy it. In a complicated world full of stress and doubt, we’re here to show you how much simpler things can really be when you allow us to take complete unrelenting control.”
It’s important to remember as well, to quote the Prophet himself, “Meaningful Existence is definitely not a cult.”
At the moment, the brand has three t-shirts available for pre-order in black, white, and yellow with the promise of more coming soon. While the new items are labelled “mystery”, the about us section suggests what may become available shortly.
“We will be the shirt on your back, the sweatshirt on top of the shirt, the slides on your feet, the blanket that tucks you in at night and, most importantly, the smile on your face.”
It’s quite obvious what Hill is parodying here especially when he’s in his full wig and sunglasses get-up taking inspiration from the Heaven’s Gate cult on their website, and hints to the Rajneesh movement and their leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh with a “20,000 square foot beachside compound” in which the Prophet Ezekiel Profit lives.
While this is a joke, it isn’t quite fiction either. While lacking the cult-like elements of Meaningful Existence, In The Style’s #BeKind t-shirts raised money for mental health awareness, but many pointed out that fast-fashion brands, like In The Style, don’t take into account how their business models affect the mental health of their factory workers. On items like the #BeKind t-shirt, there are very short lead times, long hours, low pay, and poor working conditions for those in the factory.
For something more in line with Meaningful Existence, look no further than You Matter and its founder, Demetrius Harmon. You Matter hoodies cost $65 USD minimum and mental health awareness is the primary driver of sales with the mantra “I feel weak, but I know I’m strong” stitched on the inner wrists for those who use hoodies to cover their self-harm scars.
The controversy with You Matter is simple in concept but difficult to discuss though there was one incident that really set the internet alight. Harmon tweeted that he would be handing out a 40% discount code to those who had self-harmed which led to a discussion (used loosely here) about profiteering off mental health.
There are even echoes of the “shirt on your back” segment on Meaningful Existence’s site present on You Matter’s site, “The merchandise has to embody everything that comes with reassurance, it had to be soft like a hug but heavy like a gravity blanket and as light as a feather.”
It’s these kinds of practices that Meaningful Existence is parodying, the idea that if you buy something, it will make you happier. Is Meaningful Existence actually tackling the issue? No, it’s not that deep. It’s just fun marketing.