American Culture Term Paper

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American culture and the consumption (patterns) of American youth in television, film, and other entertainment venues

Mommy I want that!" When discussing how American culture 'corrupts' children, the first words to come to mind are usually four letter words, or words pertaining to highly sexualized scenarios. Yet the culture of American capitalist cultural consumption is if anything more omnipresent and equally damaging to American children. It has created a legacy of conspicuous consumption of unnecessary consumer products over the course of the past, present, and future of American television and culture. It is likely to continue to affect the minds of children, creating a generation who believes they are what they buy, rather than what they believe -- "Generation Bling! Bling!" As the generation to come after Generations X and Y are often called. Identity is being reduced to a commodity rather than a real culture of art, literacy, and moral judgment.

Children may still be barred from rated R (for restricted) films without a parent, their parents may install parental controls on their AOL accounts, yet children every day tune into cartoons that function essentially as half-hour long advertisements for plastic products and foods devoid of nutritional content. Great Britain recently banned advertising for, "burgers, crisps, fizzy drinks and even some breakfast cereals" during children's television shows, to forstall the corruption of its youth by advertising that preyed upon young and impressionable minds, stomachs, and palates. The government of Tony Blair answered cries regarding how one could define junk food by asking the British version fo the FDA, the "Food Standards Agency" to create a series of "lists based on sugar, salt and fat content." Thus, "items breaching prescribed limits," were banned during children's programming time.

However, England has a common law rather than a constitutional tradition, and thus no formal First Amendment. In contrast, in one ruling known as United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, Incorporated, a law was invalidated that required cable television operators broadcasting channels "primarily dedicated to sexually-oriented programming" to "fully scramble or otherwise fully block" those channels or to limit their transmission to hours when children are unlikely to be viewing, set by administrative regulation as between 10 p.m. And 6 a.m. (Rotunda, 2003) In other words, even though the United States enacts certain prohibitions upon the consumption of children such as the movie ratings system, industries are encouraged to self-regulate, rather than to be regulated by the government.

However, the debate in the United States, unlike Britain as a country is distinct not only legally but because has centered upon sexual content in music lyrics, rather than, for instance, the 'bling-bling' aspect of encouraging children to buy, buy, buy without consideration of budget or health. Even British critics of the proposed law banning junk food advertising alleged the law would be a "devastating blow to the quality of children's television," because children's television was particularly in need, in Britan's cash-strapped times, of the money from advertising to make programs." (Hennessy, 2004) In other words, in television, particularly children's television, advertising money reigns supreme, because advertising money produces culture, even though it may have negative effects.

Children's advertising is in a double bind, for it is supposed to be somewhat educational, or at least, not harmful to impressionable young minds, yet it has the irresistable impact to corporations of offering them a generation of fertile young minds and potential consumers. Also, even more so than British television, which is partially government subsidized in most of its major venues, however, American television, has been nakedly rooted in advertising. Television advertisors sponsor programs covertly and overtly with their dollars. This is one of the reasons that McDonald's or movie promotional commercials for theme-related toys blend so seamlessly and skillfully with the television shows indended for a young audience. It simply makes financial and pyschological sense for, for instance, Toys R Us to advertise Care Bears toys featured in the Care Bears program children are watching. However, such an attitude creates an idea that entertainment and buying products are merged, and builds, in adolescence, a generation of individuals whom have become convinced that the diversity of music upon one's Apple iPod 'says' more about them as a person, in terms of character, than choices they make in the real rather than virtual world. Identity becomes totemic, something to be purchased on the market, something only available to those making a certain income, in American culture, rather than intrinsic to the individual.

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