This was my ENG 101 term paper, it is a draft, tell me what you think!
Since the discovery of propaganda, teenagers have become an important audience to television, video games, and magazines. The influence the media has on young adults is not only ignored, but is growing drastically. There is no longer a teenager who is ignorant to the term sex, completely satisfied with their body or even a stranger to violent video games. Magazines and television shows relay a message of self hatred and sexual freedom that teenagers now treat as their way of life. In order to profit the company, these entities must pray on vulnerable groups, unfortunately, teenagers prove to be the most vulnerable.
“All media exists to invest our minds with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values” – Marshall McLuhan. Summarizing the elevated power of media in society, McLuhan simplifies its effects into one simple idea- the media is permeating our minds with unnatural ideals and is making it almost impossible for today’s youth to distinguish right from wrong. Arguably, teenagers are the most vulnerable, as well as the most targeted by the media. Video games, television shows, movies, and magazines influence these young minds in massive ways. Who doesn’t want to look like the “Covergirl” on the front cover of Glamour, or fight like the ninja in the latest video game? The schoolyard became a stage for competition long ago and teenagers grew this overwhelming feeling to be greater than the person next to them; not by applying themselves to school work, but by studying trends and media craves. Therefore, teenagers embed a media bulls-eye directly on their forehead. The media forces teens to grow up too quickly and therefore this powerful entity forces teenagers to care too much about their body, grow more anxious to participate in the “sex” they see on television, and are rapidly valuing violence even more than ever before because of what their eyes are subject to. Through television, video games, and magazines, the media has taken control on teenagers around the world and has replaced any pure mind with thoughts of sex, violence, and most notably, bodily imperfections.
We learn from a young age that sex is a way for adults to express a deep love they share for each other. Somehow, this explanation became lost, actually, tarnished by the media. Television shows and even magazines project the idea that it is acceptable for young girls and boys to project this type of love as well. However, teenagers are not old enough to completely take care of themselves (financially, for example) and are not at an ample age to venture on their own. Based on actual facts and not just theory, their minds are not developed enough to understand their actions. In addition, the consequences of having sex are completely overwhelming for any teenager. Thus, it is up to a higher influence to place these young, growing minds on the correct path, but what happens when this powerful influence is the media?
“…the media and popular culture also push the idea that sexuality is the ultimate form of self-expression. In a world where the HIV virus coexists with the imperative to “do your own thing” sexually... they must learn to handle the emotional and physical risks that are involved in being sexually expressive in a postmodern, postvirginal world” (Brumberg,1997,p. 143).
Although parents, as well as teachers, are attempting to become these influences and educate teenagers on sex and what may happen as a result, the television shows and magazines that these young minds pay most attention to contradict what these positive influences are trying to enforce. For example, Beverly Hills 90210 has been on air since 1990 and since then, had projected many heinous ideas of what a teenager should be focusing their life around. For one thing, although these actors play sixteen year olds, they are in fact, much, much older. In the earlier years, the oldest actor who played a high school student was thirty two years of age. There was not one actor who was actually the age of their part. This is an unfair media game played on teenagers who religiously watch this show once a week for the past nineteen years. Adults are much more mature, and therefore sex is something that they are more mentally prepared for than actual sixteen year olds. The themes that this show offered were: unsafe sex with no consequence, drug use that actually projected the idea that marijuana’s usage is all but a bad thing and that skipping school could actually result in an A+ report card.
“From daytime soap operas to prime time situation comedies, television presents viewers with countless verbal and visual examples of how dating, intimacy, sex, and intimate relationships are handled” (Brown, 2002,p. 96). Many teenagers find it impossible to talk to an adult about sex and relationships, therefore, television acts as a parent who is giving advice to their child. Many confused teenagers who begin to watch shows like 90210 gain horrible answers to their most fragile questions. Should I participate in a sexual relationship at only fourteen? While their parent or even a teacher would suggest that they take a closer look at what may happen if they chose to have sex, the media will air another show about a provocative teenager who has an immature sense of “fun” with absolutely no second thought. The information gained from this show would allow this child to believe it is acceptable to have sex and that are no consequences because the main characters in these popular teenage shows had sex and the only result is more attention from the opposite gender. “Studies reports that there are 10 instances of sexual behavior that appear per hour on soap operas (Greenberg and Busselle, 1996) and that 29% of the interactions on prime time programs popular among youth contain verbal references to sexual issues…”(Brown, 2002, pg. 98). These statistics are alarming, majority of the time modern day teenagers watch television, their minds are being filled with the positive side of a sexual relationship- the “fun” part. The media has affectively left out the negative side- a world of STD’s, such as Aids and even pregnancy is conveniently taken out of these popular programs. What a great way to spice up the ratings. Of course, Beverly Hills, 90210 is easier for a teenager to watch than “The Hitler Conspiracy” on the History channel. So, can we blame teenagers for wanting so badly to have a sexual relationship? After all, teenagers on average spend more time at home watching television than they do at school in sex education.
Another danger that the media tosses onto society is violence. Violence has become a significant theme among television shows, movies, and of course, video games.
“…a variety of undesirable effects might be hypothesized to follow from playing computer games with violent themes… heightening of perceptions of danger in the real world, decreasing concern for the victims of violence… and violent role models with whom players have interacted in these games (Gunter, 1998, p. 90).
Teenagers are constantly wondering about the release date on the next video game and do not assume the worry of repercussions. Violence has been a major theme in video games since the popular Nintendo 64, and even earlier. Grand Theft Auto is one of the most popular and addicting games for Playstation. It allows its users to steal cars, use guns and other weapons to kill innocent bystanders and even participate in sexual intercourse as well as beat prostitutes. The player plays the role of a mafia hit man who served time in prison for killing multiple men. Assuming this horrific role for so many hours could in fact lead to the player acting like this character in real life. Some may view this as absurd, but when a teenager feels that the character in the video game looks cool when he steels a car, could he not be lead to the conclusion that it would make him look cool if he did the same thing? In Addition, video games like these involve most of the characters dressed in provocative clothing. Half of a shirt and ridiculously high shorts is the only fashion in many video games and therefore sets a fashion for many young adults who play them. If so many teenagers converse about the popularity of these games, it would be impossible for them to stop mimicking the violence and fashion the video games project.
Among all of the effects of the media on teenagers, the most heart wrenching must be the dissatisfaction of one’s own body. Teenagers of any age and race find their own features, what makes them different from everyone else- wrong. The perfect body is a fantasy for all teenagers, especially young girls. “…that weights had decreased over time. A similar trend toward a slimmer build was also noted in an analysis of Playboy centerfolds…” (Wykes, 2005, p. 68). Magazines, such as playboy, set a standard for teenagers and these teenagers feel that is necessary to look like the women in these magazines. Playboy gives men a certain image of a woman and this image is long sought for by these men. They are constantly looking for women with a big bust like Dolly Parton or a figure like Kim Kardashian, but in reality these traits are almost impossible without artificial enhancement or an neurotic lifestyle. For young men as well, these magazines feature men with “perfect” bodies and six packs, something that is far from most of the male society. Ralph Lauren recently issued a magazine with a model on the front cover who is a classic view of today’s fashion requirements. The model is horrendously thin and relays an unhealthy message to young girls.
The repercussions of this perfect body image are fatal. “Furthermore, Barbie, a doll owned by about 90% of girls from ages 3 to 11, has a very unrealistic body. Indeed fewer than 1 in 100,000 women are likely to have body proportions similar to barbie’s…” (Thompson, 2001, p. 51). The question that needs to be raised now is how are teenagers trying to obtain these nearly impossible bodies? One appalling way leads to diseases such as Anorexia. Teenagers are reaching extremes such as starving themselves in order to create perfect proportions for themselves. However, teenagers have not even reached their fully formed body. “…often slightly subject to “puppy fat”, chooses to diet in order to achieve the slim figure that is very much the desirable norm in modern western societies…” (Wykes, 2005, p. 25). These teenagers are taking drastic action to “fix” there normal, developing bodies just because of the people on the front cover of magazines. Here is another trick the media plays. There is not one photo featured in a magazine that is not enhanced. Computers take normal photos of a model and turn them into the perfect symbol of beauty. Even on television shows, actors go through hours of hair and make-up in order to resemble the media’s idea of beauty and perfection. This image that teenagers sometimes die for is just another media invention, a hoax that the media has thought of in order to sell more products. If magazines issue models with beautiful figures, more will fly off of the shelves; more torturous pictures for teenagers to paste on the walls that has no purpose but to remind them daily that this is something that you will never achieve.
Many oppose these opinions about media and its effects. Many arguments have risen regarding the positive outcome of television, magazines, and other forms of media in teenager’s lives. For example, there are actually many educational programs on television as well as internet sites. News stations, both on television and on the internet keep teenagers educated on current events. After all, eighteen year old teenagers hold the right to vote and these programs help them understand the standpoints of the candidates. Also, television channels, such as the History Channel and Animal Planet help to better acquaint teenagers with important facts they need even in school. These channels offer information that can help teenagers with homework, reports or simply helpful facts for the future. There are also websites designed for subject help, like math and reading. Television shows can also help to bring happiness into a person’s day. For example, after a long day of school, and sometimes work, a teen can go home and watch their favorite show. However, teens are rarely surfing the internet to find homework help websites and would rather play Grand Theft Auto or watch 90210 than the History Channel. Although these shows may raise a teenager’s spirits, we cannot forget the abundant amount of negative information the television shows relay to the viewers. With such detrimental consequences that follow watching these television shows or playing these video games, the positive effects nearly disappear.
The media’s intentions are cruel and money propels these magazines and television shows into portraying irresponsible messages. Games, like Grand Theft Auto instill values that teenagers should not be associated with. The future is in the hands of the youth and for some reason they are the most targeted group of individuals. History replays itself over and over; Hitler used the youth in order to form an everlasting respect for his ideals, factories used children as a primary source of work during the industrial era, and to this day, teenagers are subject to more violence and more self hatred than ever before. Teenagers, with the most vulnerable minds, will forever remain a target for fashion entities, magazine companies, and television programs. It is no longer about the future of these teenagers or the world altogether, but about the density of a CEO’s wallet.