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Sciolism: American Teenagers' Unconsciousness
Sciolism: American Teenagers' Unconsciousness
Copious amounts of information are spread to young, impressionable Americans through various forms of media. Television, movies, books, magazines and music are all meant to send a certain message or deliver certain ideas to their audience, as well as entertain them. Unfortunately, the most popularly ingested media forms in America are rife with subsets devoid of any meaningful sentiments or thoughts - if not completely shallow and bare of any thought at all.
Perhaps the most talked about occurrence of this is in popular music. The American Top 40 weekly list, which consists of the most listened to and purchased singles in the country, is sprinkled with hits from “artists” whose very status as musical artists is questionable. At number nine is “Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)” by Soulja Boy, an explosive hit that shot to the top of the charts. The song is really a shoddy marketing ploy, complete with the rapper’s name in the title as shameless self-promotion. Lyrics include the phrase “Now watch me do (crank dat soulja boy)” repeated twenty-four times throughout.
Two other artists on the list are Fergie and Sean Kingston. The lady known as Fergie has a string of smash hits, the current one being “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” a ballad about love lost. Lyrics include: “I need some shelter of my own protection, baby,
to be with myself and center, clarity, peace, serenity.” It is one of her most profound songs. Sean Kingston, a 17-year-old phenom, had the smash hit of the summer with “Beautiful Girls.” The song sampled Ben E. King’s classic “Stand By Me” as background music to whining, nasal vocals about teenage love making him suicidal, suicidal, suicidal.
Just as influential as music is television. On primetime TV, some of the programs with the highest Nielsen ratings are mindless “reality shows,” such as Dancing With The Stars, Survivor, and Extreme Makeover. There is a plethora of these reality shows that, theoretically, throw average people into strange situations and let the chips fall where they may. In actuality, much of the programs are scripted to add ridiculous drama and make for more viewers. These producers and directors know what they’re doing, seeing as viewership is booming and these average people become instant celebrities.
In syndication, there are even more absurd television shows, which is frightening when one takes into account that they’re so popular they’re put into repetition. Another type of “reality” is prevalent in syndicated TV: Oprah, Dr. Phil, and Judge Judy. These programs may be defended more enthusiastically because they illustrate “heartwarming success stories.” When looked at from a more objective point of view, the result is slightly more alarming. American audiences take a kind of voyeuristic pleasure in watching other people’s problems and private issues played out on screen. Is this not disquieting? Humans shouldn’t be amused by the suffering of their fellows.
At number five on the Nielsen ratings for syndicated television is the program Entertainment Tonight, which is described as a “daily, half-hour, nationally syndicated entertainment newsmagazine.” It’s an entire show devoted to following the lives of celebrities, from the A-List elite to those burnouts who are probably answers to trivia questions. This celebrity obsession explains the fanatical readership of tabloid magazines like OK! and Star, which are filled from cover to cover with pointless celebrity gossip. It still boggles the mind that ET can even be described as a newsmagazine. Where, then, does that leave publications such as The Economist and Newsweek?
Magazines aside, “real” reading material – books – are still in peril. The New York Times bestseller list contains riveting novels by prolific writers Danielle Steel, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Suzanne Brockman. Not to belittle these women’s authorial credibility, but their novels could justifiably be described as, well, trash. Of course, this is not to the extent of Star magazine, but these novels don’t ever say anything important. The plots are formulaic, the characters melodramatic and frivolous, and the messages silly. These books are well-liked because they’re easy to read and somewhat engaging, especially when compared to “boring” books that don’t read like a soap opera script.
The final media outlet that has been consumed by nonsense is the film industry. Hollywood churns out so many movies per year that are absolutely worthless, while still managing to cost millions of dollars. Right now, the top ten box office hits include Saw IV and The Game Plan. Saw IV is the fourth installment in the Saw series, which is about a self-righteous vigilante who designs death traps for his victims, in order to make them stop taking their lives for granted. These films hide behind the façade of having a message, which is thin at best. Any significance is obscured by the obscene blood and gore in the movies, which spawned a host of imitations recently dubbed “torture porn.”
This term has nothing to do with pornography, but is rather indicative of, again, people’s disturbing pleasure in seeing others’ pain. This problem is arguably worse than the one shown by the popularity of The Game Plan, which is that people enjoy brainless, inane, but ultimately feel-good films. Either way, Hollywood blockbusters nowadays aren’t good movies. Most films with substance and value are relegated to the “indie” genre, which is really not relegation at all, considering that’s where a majority of the good movies now are.
All of this is not to say that every young American immerses himself or herself in tasteless, inconsequential media. Not everyone who falls in the target demographic actually likes what the rest of the demographic likes. Regrettably, this is a small minority. While many might claim to enjoy the finer things in life, the fact remains that the standards for “finer” have fallen enormously. The bar has been lowered, and what was once considered trashy is now average, commonplace, or even high-quality.
The voices shaping our younger generation are worryingly obtuse. Everyone is complaining about the so-called “idiot” in the Oval Office now, but I shudder to think of the hands our country will be in when my generation is of voting age – let alone has someone in the White House. Being an American high school student myself, I witness this nonsensicality firsthand, and if it scares me, it should cause some anxiety in the parents, teachers, and other influential adults in my peers’ lives. It’s difficult to say what can be done to defuse this crisis, but steps must be taken soon, before America is lead by those with absolutely no idea of what really matters.