Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Final Project

Final Project: Three Course Themes

Jennifer Crandall, Brianna Pari, Jenna Rebello

GEND 354: Teenager in/and the Media

April 29, 2014

Professor Bogad

          Throughout this semester, we learned and had a lot of discussions about teenagers in/and the media.  Before this class, we were unaware of the way that teenagers are stereotyped in our society, not just in today’s world, but in past decades as well.  There are many different perspectives and ways that our society looks at teenagers, which were our course “guiding assumptions”.  These assumptions/themes helped us to recognize the effects that media has on young adolescents, how teenagers are put together in one category, and how adults in our society, including ourselves, may identify teenagers.  Most importantly, these themes made us realize that teenagers should not be stereotyped or categorized into one group and that they are just younger versions of ourselves.  Like it says in our guiding assumptions for this course: “The person you are now is the same person you were then, albeit with new and different life experiences that shift and change your understandings and actions in the world.  We do not “outgrow” our teenage identities.”  Therefore, we should not look at teenagers in a negative way, nor should anyone talk badly about them.

            The first guiding assumption that we studied was “Media Matters”.  This theme points out that the media, such as television shows, music, advertising, and fashion, has a major impact on everyone, but to teenagers in particular.  It is a big part of our culture and is there in our everyday lives, whether we realize it or not.  Since teenagers feel the need to fit in and keep up with the latest styles and trends, they are the media’s biggest target.  In this class, we looked at the media as an “educating force” for teenagers and the way they choose to live their lives.  “Media and Ideology” by Croteau was one of the first articles that we read this semester.  This article applies to the theme “Media Matters” since it tells us about the media and how it defines social and cultural issues, and how they relate to the “real world” (pg. 160).

Youth is a Culturally Constructed Category, meaning ideas about youth are dynamic and elastic, and change across time and between communities.  Throughout the semester as a class and individually we went over how youth and culture will forever be resisting and responding to the dominant culture.  A Tangle of Discourses by Rebecca Raby reflects youth as being culturally constructed.  The article discusses the dominant discourses in North American culture as being The Storm, At-Risk, Social Problem, and Pleasurable Consumption.  The text and most of the material was drawn from young girls and their grandmothers to better explain discourses through experience. Society puts an enormous amount of pressure and stress on dominant culture but then stereotypes teenagers as being moody or having an attitude.  This text reflects that as the culture changes, the youth will also change.  The social problem mentioned in the text explains that teens are trying to fit in and find their own identities but rather receive negative stereotypes when they are really trying to resist what’s socially constructed.

            Another great example of how youth is a culturally constructed category was from the text, Cinderella Ate My Daughter.  This text by Orenstein was a great example of the class assumptions and how the text emphasizes how we have a “cumulative cultural text” of youth historically.  This text exemplifies the category of the youth, and how Cinderella is culturally constructed to be nothing less of a fairytale, a story where you find your prince and live happily ever after, and an unrealistic fairytale that is based on the importance of being a wife, and being perfect.  The text is a great example of princess culture, and how it puts so much pressure on little girls and BOYS to strive for perfection and simply want something very unrealistic.  It is also important to discuss the gender codes, race, and class codes that lie under these fairytales. The codes shape us and tell us how we should live, how we should act, and what we should be.  We must know what is culturally constructed in order to respond, which brings me to our next text.

            “Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us” by Christensen is the final text that displays how Youth is Culturally Constructed.  In this text, there are also a lot of underlying codes that represent what shapes a child by ages two or three, which may be cartoons or Cinderella. Christensen talks about the Secret Education, also known as hidden lessons and ideas that culturally shape kids how to grow up.  The secret education teaches individuals two myths:  1. Happiness means getting a man, and 2. Transformation from wretched conditions can be achieved through consumptions.  I think that both of these myths we adopt without realizing we are accepting them.  Many TV shows, children’s books, cartoons, advertisements, and magazines all display these common and hidden lessons shaping culture about what we should be, and how we should act.  This text relates perfectly to our guiding assumptions, especially to youth as being culturally constructed.  As Christensen points out throughout her text regarding the secret lesson, it’s obvious that youth is historically and culturally constructed through race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, and size.  Through the three texts discussed, we were able to learn the ideas and stereotypes that are present today, especially in the discourses of dominant culture, and “We must know this in order to respond to it.”

The third course assumption is “teenagers are not some alien life form.”  We find this very interesting because people, specifically adults, do view teens as some alien life form and often say things like “oh those crazy teens” or “they’re being such a teenager.”  These phrases along with many others are generalizing that all teens are the same and that they are their own “group” of people.  As the course assumption says, we were all teens at one point in our lives and we still have some of our teen “tendencies.”  Our personalities are fairly the same, but have been altered due to life experiences and knowledge that we’ve obtained throughout our years of growing up.  Throughout the semester, this course assumption has been demonstrated through the films that we have watched, articles that we have read, and projects that we have completed.

Our media artifact explained this course theme by showing that adults view teens as some alien life form.  We showed a clip from the movie Passport to Paris starring Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.  This movie was released November 9, 1999 and showed what is still happening to teens now in the year 2014.  During a scene at dinner, their mother comments on how fast they are eating.  The girls explain that they are in a rush to call their friends on the phone.  When the parents ask about homework, they tell them that they completed it during class time and referred to one class as being “so S and C.”  The parents show a puzzled look on their faces and one of the daughters’ tells them that it means “Snooze and Cruise.”  The girls get up and call their friends while the parents stay at the table and discuss the teens.  “They’re turning thirteen and their world is the size of a pin head,” the mother of the girls says to the father.  The dad laughs and replies, “I think a pin head is bigger.”  They are making fun of the teens by rolling their eyes and making comments about their intelligence and also the language they use.  They really do look at them as though they are an alien when they talk.

The article “They’re Getting Older Younger,” by Grace Palladino really explained this course assumption by showing how important teens really are, especially in the business world. This article talks all about teens in the media and spotlight of commerce and says that they “value them most as consumers.”  Teen years are a time of experimenting and expressing oneself and Palladino says that this is why the products are aimed mostly at teens because they know they can influence them.  One could consider this a bad thing because they could view it as an attack on teen self-image to buy products and “trap” them into thinking this is what they need, but at least the teens are able to express themselves freely by the products they choose and do so without getting negative feedback from them.  This article also talks about an important issue when it discusses teens in terms of music, focusing mainly on rock ‘n’ roll.  “The change enraged adult critics, who mourned the passing of “vanishing adolescents” and decried the rise of “teenage tyrants.”  This goes back to the course assumption of viewing teens as an alien life form just because they were expressing themselves in a way that adults did not agree with.

Lastly, the article “A Cycle of Outrage” by James Gilbert also made great connections to this course assumption.  The article was filled with many appealing facts and information about the life of teenagers.  “For several years, debate raged over whether or not mass culture, particularly in the guide of advertising, comic books, films, and other consumer entertainment aimed at youth, has misshaped a generation of American boys and girls.”  This statement by the author has given reason to why adults view teens as some alien life form.  Teens live in a very different world now-a-days and they are surrounded with social media and technology.  For many, their source of “fun” is sitting on the computer and going on multiple media websites at a time.  When we were growing up, we did not have as much technology that kids do today.  We all agreed that we spent our days outside playing with friends and had to make our own fun.  Many adults can’t relate to teens as they grow up because they don’t understand their generation. They view them as “alien-like” because they stay inside all day playing on their phones and computers, but they are just doing what their generation and society has given to them.  When adults were teenagers, they all did the same things that their friends did and they would never view themselves as some alien form.

In conclusion, our three course assumptions have been learned and explained throughout the semester through our articles, blogs, video clippings, media artifacts, and projects.  We explained just a few examples of each throughout our paper.  The media teaches us many things about teenagers and shows both the positive and negative sides of them.  However, we feel that the negative side is displayed a lot more frequently than the positive.  Teens in the media are often under attack for the way they dress, act, and behave.  Actors and actresses that play teen roles on shows are just following the script, but may not realize what image is being portrayed.  They are often looked at in a comical way and our three course assumptions are often shown.  Young teen pop stars display an image as well and as soon as they do something wrong, headlines and comments such as “those crazy teens” or “trouble teens strike again” often come up.  Teens will always be represented and talked about no matter what they do, but hopefully as time goes on they will be seen in more of a positive light and people will remember that they were once just like them.


Christensen, L.  Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us.

Croteau.  Media and Ideology.

Gilbert, J.  A Cycle of Outrage.

Orenstein, P.  Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

Palladino, G.  They’re Getting Older Younger.

Raby, R.  A Tangle of Discourses: Girls Negotiating Adolescence.
Passport to Paris.  November 9, 1999.

Teens Talk Back

While doing some research on teens talking back about how they are represented by mainstream media sources, I expected to find more interviews/articles with teenagers expressing their point of views and explaining their feelings about the media.  When I typed "teens talk back" into the search engine, a lot of things about "how to deal with a teenager who talks back", which was funny to me because it fits the stereotype of the view that society has on all teenagers.  I finally found Talking Back: Chicago Teens Gather to Explore Media Messaging and Social Change, a source that showed a video of an interview with teens to discuss their thoughts about the media.  These teenagers realize that the media changes people and makes their peers believe that they have to look a certain way, act a certain way, and like certain things in order to "fit in".  They were asked things, such as whether they think that media brings change to their community and what they think that youth media is important.  There were a few different opinions and ways of looking at things, but the following quotes stood out to me most.

"I don't think it brings a good way of change, but it brings change because it's there.  It's what everyone else is doing basically, so they're pretty much convincing themselves that those are the conditions that need to be met."

"They are aware that the images that are being portrayed in the media is negative and it's not a good light.  There's more negativity than positivity and they seem to be wanting to change all of that."

These comments came from 2 different people and I found them interesting because it shows that not all teenagers follow the trends that are portrayed all over the media.  They know that it's okay to just be yourself and like whatever you want to like, not just because it is what everyone else "pretends" to like.  Some of the other teens in this video think that media is good for society and it helps us to choose what we like/dislike and what we want to be in life.  This interview helps people to see that teenagers should not be stereotyped or grouped into one category.  These teenagers who talked back have their own view about the media and not all of them follow the trends.  Everyone is different and will become who/what they choose to become.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hip Hop Controversies

Dr. Tricia Rose is a professor of Africana Studies and specializes in 20th century African-American culture and history.  She is dedicated to her work and is very passionate about what she studies and teaches others.  She has a list of books that she has written, including Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America and The Hip Hop Wars, where she tells her readers about her views about hip hop culture and how it has changed over time.

While reading about Dr. Rose and her thoughts about hip hop and black culture, it made me think of the Cinderella Ate My Daughter article because of the way the authors talk about the impact that media has on our lives, especially the youth.  I found Rose's thoughts and views about hip hop culture very interesting because I have never thought of the controversies this way.

Rose stresses that between race and gender, popular culture is what we share and what we have most in common.  She states that we think that we know each other's cultures through popular culture.  In the Time magazine article, she discusses her book's meanings and tells us about black culture.  She points out that the sexual deviance and violence that rappers write about in their music "defines" black culture.  I found this interesting and also realized how much people in our society today stereo type black culture based on music and who sings/raps it.  Today, hip hop music is about killing people and disrespecting women, which gives black culture a bad name.  I found it interesting when Dr. Rose told us about hip hop from the past, and how it used to be about politics and trying to change society for the better.  I wonder what made it change so drastically.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Queer Youth Readings

These readings were all about queer individuals and how they feel about the way they are viewed by society as a whole.  Some negative perspectives, almost as if they are a part of the "alien life form" category from our class assumptions.  At some point in each of these readings, it was stated that lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, and queers all feel like they are not accepted in society and are constantyl being judged.  They are put into their own category and singled out and are always viewed as being different from everyone else.

All I could think of while reading was, "Who cares what gender they are attracted to?  We're all human beings and we should not treat each other differently just because of someone's sexual orientation."  I have gay friends and it always makes me sad to see them upset for being judged or looked at like they are so strange.  It's like a way to describe someone, too, which is not right.  "You know, Steven, the gay kid."  I'm sure that Steven has plenty of other qualities that could be used to describe him, but for some reason that is how everyone identifies him.

I do like the Queer Representation in the Media today, since they now have gay couples on television shows, movies, etc.  I think that this will help make queer people more normal and accepted in our society and it will make people realize that it is perfectly fine to be something other than straight.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Cinderella Ate My Daughter

This reading by Peggy Orenstein (2011) was a very interesting read.  Orenstein made a lot of strong points about young girls idolizing Disney Princesses and how it may have an effect on their lives.  She tells her readers about the popular Disney Princess line that began in the year 2000 and how much it has blown up since then among girls ages 2-6.  Orenstein met and spoke with the man who came up with this billion dollar idea, Andy Mooney, who also made some good points that she quoted in her writing.

"We simply gave girls what they wanted, although I don't think any of us grasped how much they wanted this.  I wish I could sit here and take credit for having some grand scheme to develop this, but all we did was envision a little girl's room and think about how she could live out the princess fantasy." (Mooney, pg. 15)  I like how he said this because I think he is right - these are young girls with imaginations and I think that they are allowed to know the stories of the Disney Princesses, since these characters were created for young children to watch.  Although it has been noticed that the majority of the Disney Princesses are thin, beautiful, have perfect hair, and they tell similar stories about finding true love, I think that it's okay for her 3 year old daughter to pretend that she is Snow White because she is using her imagination and just being a kid.  It does not necessarily mean that she will grow up and worry about her self-image.  However, I do agree with Orenstein when she gives her opinion about how society has changed the way we view these Princesses.

I also liked Mooney's point about girls and boys passing through their phases of wanting to be their favorite character or Disney Princess.  I believe that it is normal and healthy for young children to imagine themselves as whatever they would like to be and we should let them have their fun with it.  I loved all of the Disney Princess movies when I was younger and I did not grow up expecting to become a Princess living in a fairy tale world.  Maybe that's because my parents never called me "Princess" - society is not the only thing that has an impact on these young girls idolizing Disney Princesses, it's also how these girls are raised at home.

I thought that Orenstein's eye-opening writing taught her readers to be aware of what these Disney stories are teaching girls.  I think that girls at young ages pretending to be their favorite Disney Princess is harmless as long as the parents are not encouraging her or teaching her that she needs to find her Prince Charming in order for her life to end up perfect.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Five Sources

Teen Pop Stars

Fashion in the 1980s

Music Influence on Fashion & Society

'Tiger Beat' Covers Throughout the Years

Do Celebrities Shape Kids' Values?

Influence of Pop Music on Teens in the U.S.

A Tangle of Discourses: Girls Negotiating Adolescence

In this study done by Rebecca Raby, there are discussions about today's generation of teenage girls.  Raby looks at how much adolescent girls have changed over time in comparison to their grandmothers' generation.  The things that society sees as "normal" for teenage girls to be doing are very different today than they were back then.  She looks at five discourses of adolescence - which are storm, becoming, at-risk, social problem, and pleasurable consumption.

"Except perhaps for childhood, adolescence is one of the times of life that is most overdetermined, in that it is strongly perceived to be an age that comes with certain key traits.  These traits are applied to all teenagers." (pg. 430)  This statement is true because society is full of judgments about teens and people have a certain way of viewing and labeling them.  They are seen as moody, hormonal, rebellious, and lazy.

"Adolescence is discursively framed as a stage that seems to require a degree of self-reflection, it is also marginalized and often laced with current, popular concern about adolescents as dangerous, ungoverned and in need of control." (pg. 430)  People see the adolescent years as a time of feeling lost and not knowing who you are.  Self-reflection is important in teenage years, since the next stage of your life is all about making decisions about who you want to be.

I think that Raby did a nice job with her research on teenage girls and how they are viewed by society.  Expectations from adults for teenagers have changed due to different sources of media and due to how they are raised in today's world.  It was interesting to me to learn about how things have changed over time and to realize how much the media has to do with it.