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Thus, the television shows, or their producers would have us think, do not actually promote violence and sexual promiscuity, they simply depict it as part of the reality of the particular people they chose to show on their programs.
The problem, however, comes with what such depictions teach those people for whom identity is yet to be determined - our youngest boys and girls. Before MTV's the Real World, popular culture's images of boys and girls was managed through a scripted experience - a lens that showed only what the writers, directors, producers, and television executives wanted you to see. Therefore, shows gave people what other people thought they should and would like, and nothing else. What reality shows have capitalized on is a hunger for the non-scripted, for the spontaneous, for the unpredictable. and, as society is still managed by people who were brought up by people who generally believed that men were the breadwinners and women were the homemakers, depictions of behavior that is counter to this multi-generational archetype can be jarring (Skarloff, 2007).
This is where the issue of proper perspective comes into play. "It must be so hard for boys (and men), having to put up with all these vixens and harpies! it's no wonder that they resort to committing rape and beating their wives, that grown men murder young girls in sexual torture, that men commit by far the majority of violent crimes, that men slaughter each other as well as women and children in innumerable wars, that men torture each other, and that men exploit women for sex in pornography, prostitution and sex trafficking. All this violence and cruelty is apparently nothing compared to the real cruelty that goes on among girls: being excluded from a birthday party, being lied to or being gossiped about," (Mantilla, 2003). True enough that men commit the overwhelming majority of the most heinous of crimes, of cruelty and destruction on both a small and a global scale. But what is happening to girls, the problems they face, can be much worse than just being excluded, lied to and gossiped about - we are fascinated by these things and want to watch them happen. The entire concept of girls fighting is such an anomaly in our culture still that we still perk our collective ears up when we learn about girl-gangs that commit the same crimes as their male counterparts, when we see girls attacking each other viciously in a way that was reserved for boys and men only (Ulloa, 2005). Every male grows up believing that fighting, or being in at least one "real" fight, is part of the male experience. But is that true for women? No. And because of that, when it happens, we want to watch.
Is the fascination with other people's lives something new? No, absolutely not. As long as what we are seeing is not truly offensive to our moral and ethical sense (such as the actual beating / killing of others) human behavior is generally very fascinating and it is the extremes of behavior - the places that we personally don't go but that the "cool," "disturbed," "risk-taking," crowd goes are places we're fascinated to see. Why is Paris Hilton to fascinating? Because she has and does so much that the vast majority of people never will have and never would do. but, when she screws up, when she does something stupid - well, all of us can do that and that is what makes her fascinating. Anyone can get a DUI, but how many people can be paid 750,000 dollars to attend a party in their honor the day they get out of jail? Anyone can make a sex tape and post it online, but how many people have that tape turned into a world-wide phenomenon? Only those who get the right publicity and happen to already be famous or connected to those who are famous.
Today's standards of "privilege" are no longer limited to those who can afford to join country clubs and homes in the Hampton's or Marin. Now, it is associated with money and fame. If you have a lot of both, you are allowed to get away with just about anything and the public will continue to provide you with an income - and getting noticed, becoming famous, that is increasingly seen as a fast route to the kind of power that teenagers so desperately crave (Topcik, 2007). Waiting for school, college, career to make a mark, Teens are the prime example of give it to me now thinking. Thus, when they see depictions of negative social behavior, of self-destructive acts, of debauchery - they think that it is possible for them to get away with it themselves - even though this kind of "fame" is reserved for a very tiny select few. 'There is this assumption of what young women want to watch which is positive role models and people that represent the best that we can be,' said Smith. 'The hidden truth is that women are just like any other audience. We want to laugh, we want to be entertained, we want to see outrageous behavior and things that are very different," (Clark, 2008).
Acting out behavior that has traditionally been the realm of men- violence, aggression, heightened sexuality, have been part of the feminine experience too, just not publicized and certainly not on the same scale. Therefore, what we struggle with is a conflict between our ideal of feminine behavior and the reality of it. Women behave "badly" because they are free to do so. But it must be noted that the majority of women avoid such problematic behavior.
Adams, N.G. (2005, Spring). Growing Up Female. NWSA Journal, 206(6).
Clark, T. (2008, March 24). Let's Misbehave. Multichannel News, p. 14.
Mantilla, K. (2003, Aug-Sept). Boys Girls will be Boys. Off Our Backs, 48(8).
Moss, L. (2007, June 25). The Good Fight. Multichannel News, 28 (26), p. 20.
Skarloff, S. (2007, Summer). A Woman's World: Fresher Salads? No More War? A Look at our Feminine Future. The Wilson Quarterly, p. 63(4).
A cik, J. (2007, July 9). Reality Show 'Queen Bees'. Broadcasting…[continue]
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