November 25, 2012
Media Manipulation of Teenage Culture
In the PBS program The Merchants of Cool , Douglas Rushkoff explores "the giant feedback loop" which shows how the big media corporations use teenagers as resources to discover what will make teenagers watch their shows. He also investigates the tactics and techniques used by the major corporations to stay just ahead of the cool curve and the cultural ramifications that their shows have on teenagers. When MTV aired shows presenting high school and college students on spring break performing lewd acts, contemporary teen culture responded by mimicking the teenagers on those shows. At an after party for a breakout runway show, the fourteen and fifteen year old contestants danced with each other in the same way that the high school and college students danced on the MTV program prompting Rushkoff to ask "Who is mirroring who"? As can be seen at the runway dance party, the feedback loop influences teen lives in drastic ways by shaping the way they think and act.
Corporations use caricatures of boys and girls to sell their image of cool back to teenage culture. In Merchants of Cool the female character is called the "midriff". The midriff is a sexy sleek woman who flaunts her sexuality in public and seeks attention. A quote, from the Merchants of Cool website, sums the midriff up nicely, "she is prematurely adult". Today's female teenagers see the midriff on television and mirror it without understanding what they are mirroring. The sexuality of the midriff compels those teenage girls to dress in revealing clothing and to seek the attention that the media has told them they need.
Like the midriff, the male counterpart or "mook" is a caricature of a teenage male. he is loud and obnoxious and doesn't care what other people think of him. The mook has been leveraged on modern teen society by the media and teen society has responded by embracing him. In order to...