Final Project: Three Course Themes
Jennifer Crandall, Brianna Pari, Jenna Rebello
GEND 354: Teenager in/and the Media
April 29, 2014
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.