Professor Gerald Spence
10 February 2013
What Happened to the Beaver?
Wally and the Beaver have moved out of the neighborhood and the Kardashians have moved in. The fact that you know who the Kardashians are is a testimonial to the success of mass media marketing. What was once a platform to display the best qualities found in America has steadily become a means to display the worst. A modern day circus sideshow is just one click of your remote control away. What’s even more concerning is that our children can work the remote better than we can. Former President George Bush Jr. once said, “We cannot blame the schools alone for the dismal decline in SAT verbal scores. When our kids come home from school do they pick up a book or do they sit glued to the tube, watching music videos? Parents, don't make the mistake of thinking your kid only learns between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.”(qtd. in Alexis 247) .The connection between the desensitized youth of our nation and the American mass media is undeniable.
American Children spend more than fifty-three hours a week watching TV or using video games, cellphones, and computers (Kaiser Family Foundation). That is an incredible amount of time for anyone, let alone a child. Sociologists believe that the media is used as a means to educate youth in regards to beliefs and values. Youth are shown that their lives can be better or more exciting by taking part in a certain behavior, which in-turn could lead to unrealistic expectations and problems later on down the road (Basirico 44). Television depicts violence as a means to solve problems, whether it is on a cartoon or in an action TV show. The message is in most cases the same; hurt the person making you angry. “ By the age of eighteen the average American has seen two hundred thousands acts of violence on television, forty thousand of these being murders” (Basirico 177). That means that on average kids are seeing about 2200 murders each year. Violence isn’t the only negative behavior reflected on the television. Youth are also shown and told what products to buy, how to act in relationships and what is and is not acceptable socially. The American media is truly shaping the future of our nation one impressionable mind at a time.
The sociological theory of symbolic interaction comes to mind when discussing the media. Based on this theory, societies agree collectively that certain language and symbols both literally and figuratively have meaning. Problems arise when those mutually agreed upon symbols, such as marriage, sexuality, or religions take on different meanings to individuals (Basirico 44). The media tries to make individuals question their individual happiness, thus creating a “void” that needs be filled. That is where the product, service, or behavior displayed comes into play. The message conveyed is that by purchasing this product or acting in this manner your life will be better. The purpose is to make you question your beliefs and values. To persuade you to think life can be better if you only do what you see on TV.
The realignment of gender roles in the media has never been more prevalent. American youth are viewing hours and hours of TV, which displays every type of family dynamic except the classic Ward and June Cleaver scenario. One popular TV show, titled “ Modern Family” has managed to cover all of the bases its seems. Here we see a homosexual couple, on the right, who has adopted a child. The traditional gender roles have been changed dramatically in this scenario. Traditional family values and ideas about marriage are challenged daily during primetime TV programming. The wholesome “ Leave it to Beaver” world of yester-year has been replaced with a slow and steady deterioration of family values disguised as tolerance and acceptance. Many of America’s Christian youth are frowned upon for publicly stating their beliefs. The images on display in the...