The media is society’s main source of entertainment these days, ranging from current news and radio shows to romance dramas and superhero movies. The average student spends countless hours on Netflix and Hulu. The goal of a producer is to make a profit off of their ideas and to do that they must capture the audience’s attention. What are the current social matters? What interests the younger generation? What does society really want? Although television shows and movies are supposed to be a depiction of “real life,” they have had more of an influence on society instead of serving the purposes of plain entertainment.
At first, while reading a book, often times a reader will imagine scenes and create images of the characters, creating a sort of mental movie. Technology has made this easier by physically creating movies that audiences can see. Readers will also place themselves in the story to the point where they have created an emotional attachment to the book itself.
As humans, the mind is always looking to improve itself based on more successful people or role models: people who have overcome a personal difficulty or have reached that distant success, even if that person is a complete fabrication of someone else’s mind. The most influential point in life is childhood; children see and children do. A child looks up to their parent for guidance on how to eat, talk, interact, and all the basics of life in general. Kids grow up watching Saturday morning cartoons and, of course, awesome animated stories about the endeavors of superheroes. Through these, children normally relate their first few experiences of emotional sadness, excitement, and awe-struck wonder.
Disney is the largest animated entertainment company whose primary audience is children. Thanks to Disney, young girls have a false sense of love and boys have the desire to be brave and powerful. All of the original Disney princesses fell in love at first sight, causing young girls to have a fantastical view of love. What girl would not want to be beautiful and have a handsome prince sweep her off her feet and take her to live in his majestic castle? The kind of love depicted is mainly infatuation by physical appearance; in Snow White, the prince did not speak a word to her before falling in love with her and taking her to his castle. Many girls will grow out of the thought as they mature and understand that life isn’t a fairytale, but some girls will not. Jennifer Hardstein wrote an article about “Princess Syndrome,” in which she believes that these unrealistic ideals can affect later self-esteem. Hardstein argues that children grow up with the wrong values and that, because of Disney, young girls grow up believing their worth is in their appearance and material possessions (5).
Alex Kristelis wrote an article that even Disney had an effect on young boys by creating a repetitive pattern in what “men” are “supposed” to do; for example, the guy always has to rescue the girl or the good guy is always handsome and strong (5). Movies like The Lion King, Hercules, and Toy Story feature a brave main character who overcomes ridiculous hardships and eventually comes to the rescue. They become role models for children and, yes, it is possible that they learn and become better people by that. However, it is also possible that they will grow up thinking they are brave and invincible and not understand that struggles in real life as they grow up are very different and true love is not simply handed to them. Even though older Disney movies are classics and well loved by many, there should be a distinction from the fictional world and the real world and perhaps realistic life lessons instead of a silly fantasy.
After getting through the fairytale and knight in shining armour phase of life, youth culture should be about making friends and enjoying relationships while you are young. Too bad it has mainly become about parties and sex. Gossip Girl is essentially about the struggle for popularity, all of the conflicts between two friends, who had sex with whom. Asking someone who had seen all six seasons, Tara Schwinger said, “What makes me most upset about Gossip Girl is how dumb every single situation is; honestly, the show is just very unrealistic. It gives kids unrealistic expectations of what their parents are going to allow them to do. No parent is going to let her 16 year old daughter go to a Greece alone with some random people that she doesn’t know (4).” Schwinger, being from New York City, even said that the majority of schools there are not even close to what is depicted in Gossip Girl, with the exception of some of the private schools.
Most all girls have at least heard of gossip girl and it’s ridiculously over dramatized situations. Lesley Blume wrote an article about how Gossip Girl is killing youth culture, naming the article “15 going on 50” because this 15 year old seems to be doing things out of her age and maturity range (1). Blair Waldorf is in junior high and her life is consumed by drugs, sex, and backstabbing friends. In reality, junior high was remembered for braces, awkward first kisses, and awkwardly trying to make friends. Even in college, where an alcohol and sex culture is very prominent, there is not that much drama. Gossip Girl was supposed to be an example of modern life when it could probably depict the life of Khloe Kardashian instead of the average adolescent. No person could possibly be so mature as to be calmly composed and directly talk to their significant other who had cheated on them without screaming, crying, and maybe throwing the nearby book. Situations like these are influential and affect how real relationships are handled because events like this do exist and they typically involve sensitive girls being over dramatic and overthinking everything. Blume, in her article, wrote, “[…] Gossip Girl seems to tell us that there’s nothing to look forward to, and there will be nothing to look back upon … except more of the same. We’re not just destined to become brittle materialistic adults; we already are brittle materialistic adults (1).” This unrealistic ideal of life growing up should not take us straight into adulthood or tell us that life is about materialistic gains and popularity or attention from the opposite gender. Girls should not spend their youth fantasizing about cute boys and sex. F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that every young woman spends her youth looking forward to her first kiss, and the rest of her life looking back upon it (1).
Recently the show Breaking Bad had become extremely popular amongst young adults, mainly college students and early graduates. Breaking Bad is about Walter White’s financial struggle to support his family and pay for cancer treatment. He has all the right morals but he turns to an extremely illegal business to make the money to do so. White starts his own methamphetamine lab and begins to distribute the substance. This action gets him the money he needs but eventually leads him into a very long hard struggle with the wrong people.
The use of methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is illegal worldwide. Along with the influence of shows like Disney and Gossip Girl, this one is a bit more morbid. Breaking Bad has introduced the concept of meth to those who had not known much about it and it makes it less of a taboo in conversations (2). Although Breaking Bad does not directly influence uses of meth and other drugs, it does open society’s eyes to how drug cartels and illegal businesses function. The show depicts to what extent people will go for money and there is no doubt that it would give the desperate person some ideas. A regular side job that pays minimum wage is insufficient for a college that costs more than $20,000 a semester. Some college kids are known to go into the pornography or prostitution business to pay for tuition and maybe even marijuana or other drugs. White’s choice to manufacture meth to make money for a good reason is admirable but that just gives people the idea to unknowingly do dangerous things instead of working hard in a real job. This type of behavior, even though it is not actively glorified, should not be something that a viewer should be spending hours upon hours watching and unintentionally learning from.
The mind is highly influenced and there are constant everyday struggles with peer pressure, stereotypes and expectations. These struggles are dealt with by everyone, from the time we are born to the day we die. The problem is that the influence still works when there are fictional people with fictional lives. The media is a great archive in that it preserves our lifestyle and show technological advancement, but its main purpose was to entertain, not to influence. Media, in the words of McLuhen, counts as an extension of our minds; but the more it influences society, the more it changes to become an extension of our actions.
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Blume, Leslie. “Huffington Post.” 15 Going On 50: How Gossip Girl is Killing Youth Culture.
Huffington Post, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.
Ewing, Blake. “Breaking Bad Normalizes Meth, Argues Prosecutor.” Time. Time, n.d. Web. 28
Kristelis, Alex. “7 Problematic Lessons Disney Movies Teach Boys About Masculinity.” Bustle.
Bustle, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.
Wellman, Victoria. “Are our girls suffering from ‘Princess Syndrome’? Disney heroines teach
us to trade on our looks and value material things, claims new book.” Daily Mail.
Associated Newspapers, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.