Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Media Blame Game, or: How I Learned to Start Worrying and Pray for the Bomb

Remember when kids in their late teens and early-to-mid twenties had real problems? They had to be careful who they slept with and always had to use contraception. Waiting for someone you loved for your first time was actually encouraged. They had to figure out how to get decent jobs and afford to survive. The reason they avoided doing really stupid and embarrassing things was because they'd be ridiculed and ostracized for it, possibly screwing up their lives forever.

Man, those times sucked.

I'm so glad that we live in a brave new world where it's ok to sleep with anyone you want after a few drinks! In fact, you'll be cooler than ever! You don't need to work hard and get a real job nowadays; all you need is a total void where your dignity should be and a predisposition for acting like a drunk/slut/bigot/toddler/abuser to become famous and make money! People will recognize you from your reprehensible acts and, to add even more joy to your life, companies will pay you to endorse their products simply because other people know you from the time you beat your girlfriend and admitted it on the show! What a wonderful age this is!


I hate putting the blame on the media for the ills of society. I thought it was sickening how Marilyn Manson and gory movies were singled out as the "causes" of Columbine as opposed to the severe emotional disturbances of two lunatics who stockpiled weapons and systematically and methodically killed their classmates. But as long as Walmart agrees to stop selling "Mechanical Animals" and A Clockwork Orange then we should all agree to ignore the fact that these kids got illegal access to guns from scumbags and that their parents were too oblivious to see that those kids were obviously damaged, right?

Parents are supposed to be the barrier of logic against all of the bullshit choices in society. Kids aren't supposed to want to become sluts, child molesters, gangsters, or racists; it's up to parents to be an example for their children and show them that those kind of people end up on the losing end of life. I know most parents work hard to fulfill that duty. I also know that most parents are failing. I'm here to tell you that, against all of the preconceived notions out there, I don't believe parents are entirely at fault. I think there's more blame to put on the media today than there has ever been before.

Think about what life must be like for a parent in this technology-immersed, fame-obsessed, trend whore society. They try to raise their kids right. They try to lead by example. But their kids are being bombarded on all sides by stories about glamorous celebs and their sex lives. They see people who get picked by MTV to live rent-free, rule-free, and consequence-free in some palatial bachelor(ette) pad in a downtown "hot spot" simply because they're ok with sleeping around, drinking, and getting into fistfights on national television. The words of encouragement coming from parents and loved ones stressing hard work and diligent focus in order to make their kids' lives better are falling on deaf ears because the world teens see around them today doesn't run on the same principles it did ten years ago. We live in a Youtube world where the highest honor that one can be bestowed is a mention on Perez Hilton's blog.

Let's face facts: when someone is asked who their heroes are, the second most popular answer (besides the obligatory answer of "my parents") is going to be someone famous. Whether or not celebrities want to admit to themselves or others that they are influential, they are just that. We as a society look to the highly-visible among us for guidance and to lead by example; it's only natural that we learn the most from what we see the most in our lives. This in and of itself is not a bad thing. Sometimes the greatest source of inspiration is a Martin Luther King, Jr.; a Gandhi; a Sally Ride; a single Chinese man willing to step in front of a tank and risk death in the hope of non-violent, peaceful resolution. These are people and images that are delivered to the masses via the media and make lasting impressions on us all; good, solid, decent impressions that show us that the world can be an inspirational place and a place worth working hard to keep alive and robust.

Who fits that mold in today's "media-savvy" age? When someone is in the news these days, is it usually because of something good they've done or is it because they've done something worth ridiculing? The only celebs you ever see in the news anymore are there because they've either been arrested, embarrassed by stupid behavior, or knocked up. Instead of drawing purpose from sources of inspiration we're subjected to sixteen year-old Jamie Lynn Spears' pregnancy, Naomi Campbell's one millionth meltdown, Hulk Hogan's family in general, Charlie Sheen's divorce snafu's, and yet another Amy Winehouse overdose.

(As an aside, I can't figure out for the life of me why anyone on Earth would give a flying fuck about Amy Winehouse. Sure, the one album she has out isn't bad, but do people really feel the need to keep up on the whereabouts and actions of a crack addict flash-in-the-pan who obviously doesn't want help? Who gives a fuck? Fuck her and Pete Doherty; just die already so we don't have to keep putting up with watching you on our news broadcasts.)


So whose fault is it that the only famous people that teens and twenty-somethings have to look up to these days are troublemakers and people of ill repute? Do you think it could be related to the fact that this fame-whore loving lifestyle has brainwashed us into needing to care about the lives of D-List celebrities, and shockingly we've learned that they're just like you and me only less aware of real-world consequences? And what does that say about us, society itself, that the news can focus on the exploits of narcissistic assholes and keep a captive, ample audience clamoring for more?

A perfect example of a situation where the media is largely at fault is the recent piece by Time magazine detailing a "pact" between seventeen Gloucester teens, all under the age of sixteen, to become pregnant at the same time and raise their children together. At least one of the girls went so far as to allegedly have sex with a twenty-four year old homeless man in order to get pregnant. These girls believed that if they became pregnant and had children that their lives would be better and everything would "work itself out".

Where do these girls get such a stupid idea, you may ask yourself. The answer is easier to find than you think. Go buy a paper or a magazine and read the first few pages and all will be revealed. I couldn't walk up to a newspaper stand and start spinning in a circle with my arms out without knocking over ten magazines with either pregnant celebs or "new mommy" celebs on the covers boasting about how they lost all their baby weight in four weeks. We live in an age where Angelina Jolie is either preggers or adopting a third-world baby at all times. Famous teens are having babies and making it look easy because they can afford top-notch prenatal care, nannies, and personal trainers. The two breakout movies of last year were about: a witty teen who gets knocked up and spews pithy one-liners while making pregnant life look easy; and a movie literally named "Knocked Up", about a well-to-do woman with an ideal support system who has a one night stand with a loser who then wins her over while dealing with the impending birth of their baby. This is what teens are seeing these days and this is what they want to emulate.

Do the parents have a responsibility to teach their children the skills necessary to differentiate the real world from "The Real World"? Absolutely; anyone who tells you different is a moron. But there is simply too much outside input and too many outside distractions these days to have a dominant voice in the societal conversation of responsible living. Parents can't be there all the time monitoring their kids anymore, especially in this age of two-income households and shitty economic times.

How do we fix it? I wish I knew the answer. I'm not even sure there is one; it seems that the people stupid enough to look to today's celeb-retards for guidance are the ones breeding the fastest, which begets more people watching the fake news, which begets more stupid people breeding, and so on and so forth. The only thing I can hope for it that someday society's bullshit meter maxes out and people simply stop caring about the personal lives of the rich and famously stupid, though between you and me I see the world reaching critical mass and imploding before people stop needing their fix of Anna Nicole Smith's baby.


No comments: