Not So Cruel Intentions
Adam B. Clausen
Professor Tony Gaskew, Ph.D.
October 18, 2012
Abstract: This paper seeks to cross the generational divide that currently exists between the young people of today and all previous generations. Due to their overexposure to the negative aspects of the world as seen through modern media sources they have become desensitized to the harsh realities of the "real world." Television and music are the mediums offered for analysis herein and the author makes the case that reality television shows currently on air are by far the most corruptive influence in history. The younger generation is in desperate need of redirection but this author offers neither sage advice nor any substantial solutions to the current overwhelming fascination with high drama media, at least not at this juncture.
Every generation aspires to exceed the expectations and accomplishments of the previous one. As a result, some generational gaps inevitably do occur and certain core principles and values are not equally expressed across that gap. Nowhere does the current disparity become more glaringly obvious than in statements made by various American pop-culture icons portraying characters in music, movies and television shows. To the world, it would appear that these entertainers represent the view of the masses in this country, and subsequently their personal statements then become "our statements" to a world-wide audience. Few of these individuals consider the gravity or potential impact of their statements but, even if they did, it is unlikely their ego-driven tongues could refrain from spewing inflammatory remarks for very long, since they have learned that even negative attention is better than no attention at all.
The American media frequently throws fuel onto the fire lit by pop-stars and in doing so plays to the masses' unquenchable desire for high drama. Nowadays, the majority of Americans are choosing to watch reality shows of all types at an alarming rate. Basketball Wives, Mob Wives, The Flavor Of Love, Jersey Shore and Bad Girls Club all portray young people in America as violent, alcoholic, irresponsible, misogynistic and ignorant. The networks seem to promote these negative stereotypes and encourage the "actors" to create as much drama as possible, merely to increase the network's ratings despite the human cose. Ultimately, reality television is big business for all of the people involved and their job is simply to "entertain" the mases. This practice has resulted in the desensitization of an entire younger generation who now believes this type of behavior to be "normal." Young people today are not able to realize the serious nature of certain words, phrases and actions that have somehow become a part of their own vernaclar. The N-Word and the W-Word are both incendiary terms that can, and often do, invoke heated replies from anyone familiar with the origins and true meanings of those words. Reality television shows have distorted true reality and left and entire younger generation ill-prepared for whatever awaits them in the future, but they are not the only pop-culture media vehicles to blame for our present sad state of cultural affairs.
Music has always been an exceptionally powerful medium despite its singular assault on the senses. Entire generations have frequently been moved to action by certain lyrics that perfectly expressed the sentiment of the masses. Marvin Gaye sang about "mothers crying, brothers dying, father there's no need to escalate" on his famous track "What's Going On" while trying to ease some of the tensions that arose during the civil rights era. Then there was Bob Marley and The Wailers speaking directly to the history of slavery and encouraging all their listeners to "free their minds."
"O' Pirates yes they rob I. Sold I to the merchant ships, minutes after they took I from the bottomless pit but my hands were made strong by the hands of the Almighty. We're forwarding this generation triumphantly.......Emancipate yourselves from enter slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds." (Bob Marley and The Wailers Redemption Song off of the Legend album)
Another popular band that has attempted to tackle social injustices in recent years is Creed. Their song "One" discusses the sometimes polarizing effects of "Affirmative Action" and encourages listeners to strive for social/racial unity, which was clearly the original intent of the law. Their message is far out of step with most modern pop-culture song lyrics heard on the radio today. Unfortunately, pop-music has become much more homogenized and devoid of any strong social commentary, or attempt to positively influence, the younger generation.
Pop-culture and music now commonly express artists' infatuation with personal gain and notoriety instead of attempting to promote any sort of strong social values and personal principles.Fast money, cars and women are a recurring theme of little substance or longevity that clearly resonates with the younger generation. Without a dramatic act of violence or vulgarity, as seen on the aforementioned reality television shows, it is nearly impossible to capture and hold their attention. This young generation could greatly benefit themselves by talking a lesson from the ender generations - but that's unlikely to occur.
As pop-culture artists row a little odder and, hopefully a little wiser, their voices may become reality magnified within the mainstream. In recent years these men and women have been able to project a positive message into the collective consciousness and have helped to shape future events. Currently, there is a powerful social movement gaining momentum within the state of California that seeks to abolish the death peanlity. Rocker Jackson Browne, actor Ed Asner and Netflix CEO, Billionaire Reed Hastings have all loudly expressed their support for Proposition 34 which would effectively convert all of the states' death sentences to life without parole if it's succesful. They have contributed their time, money and reputations to help affect a positive social change. These artists' influence is indisputable but, likewise, so is the influence of all aforementioned reality television show actors.
We are now living in an era of sensory overload and must choose our influences wisely. The younger generation should be encouraged at every opportunity to identify and promote their own principles and beliefs so that the rest of the world does not mistake their current high drama infatuation with genuine narcissism and nihilism. Only by dramatically altering course and no longer promoting such negativity can we begin to make the case that our, society's, intentions were never as cold, cruel or calloused as they may have appeared to be. It was all scripted for the sake of "entertainment" that somehow got confused with reality. American pop-culture should instead reflect all of the positive attributes of this younger generation, but that is not sometime we are likely to see anytime soon, since the media would not benefit financially from it.