Re: [PBS] What Teens Want

From: James Hong (
Date: Wed Feb 28 2001 - 23:28:39 PST


what kind of teenager claims they barely watch tv? Odds are that it's a
teenager that:

1) isn't normal
2) is lying through his/her teeth, and is just trying to make everyone think
s/he's better than everyone else.

Maybe there's a correlation between #2 and people who go to schools called
the Milton Academy..


----- Original Message -----
From: "Matt Jensen" <>
To: "Adam Rifkin" <>
Cc: <FoRK@XeNT.CoM>
Sent: Wednesday, February 28, 2001 10:55 PM
Subject: Re: [PBS] What Teens Want

> (First, I claim the ancient right of "old bits" for the documentary
> itself... )
> Second, please note that all of the kids in the discussion are from Milton
> Academy(!) It's not just an "independent" school, it's a 200-year-old
> private school focused on classic academics. (How many other high schools
> offer Greek?) This may explain why they sat for a discussion with PBS's
> web site, and why they sounded articulate for their age.
> I expect PBS chose them because WGBH (which produced the Frontline
> documentary) in Brighton is a short drive to Milton, and the kids could be
> expected to be well-behaved and thoughtful.
> Now, if had hosted a second discussion, with kids who go to
> public schools and belong to the 75% of kids with a TV in their rooms, it
> might have been very informative to compare the discussions side by side.
> (Several of the Milton kids say they were raised without a TV.)
> -Matt Jensen
> Seattle
> On Wed, 28 Feb 2001, Adam Rifkin wrote:
> > There's a totally compelling PBS report circulating this month
> > on the feedback cycle of how the media companies give teenagers
> > what they want (mooks -n- midrifs), which in turn makes the
> > teenagers more like the images of what they want, which makes
> > the media companies provide even more of it...
> >
> >
> >
> > MTV dramatically closed the feedback loop between culture and
> > marketing and made it much harder to tell one from the other,
> > or which came first:
> >
> >
> >
> > If you take that as the kind of ground zero for the MTV experience
> > and widen it out, it gets more consistent the further you go. And
> > then if you look at the world we live in today and talk about how
> > people seem to use advertisements--for example, the Budweiser
> > advertisement, the "What'sup" thing. Now you hear a lot of people
> > saying "What'sup" to each other, which they're not saying because
> > they're trying to market anything. They're saying "What's up," but
> > they're referencing that Budweiser commercial because that's
> > something that they have in common and that's their little shared
> > piece of culture in that community moment. So you can't really
> > draw the line clearly the way you used to be able to draw the line
> >
> > We are down to just six media giants who control practically
> > everything we see, hear, and are marketed with: Viacom, Newscorp,
> > Bertlesmann, Disney, Vivendi Universal, and (ahem, the biggest)
> > AOL Time Warner:
> >
> >
> >
> > The thing is, you can be a savvy teen and realize the Rage Against
> > The Machine is *part* of the machine, that Eminem is not shocking
> > because he's real but because he's an excellent simulation of what
> > would be horrifying if it were actually real, and so on...
> >
> > You think Eminem gives a damn about a Grammy? Heck yes...
> >
> >
> >
> > Imagine what will happen when these teens start entering the workforce
> > in droves...
> >
> >
> >
> > Teenagers are not generally viewers of FRONTLINE reports. And that's why
> > wanted to make an effort to get their views about this one, "The
> > of Cool." Because it's about them--how they're the target "demo" for the
> > media marketers of popular culture today. So here are the reactions of
> > one small group of teens after watching this FRONTLINE documentary.
> > were about a dozen who viewed it, all high school juniors and seniors at
> > Milton Academy, an independent school in the Boston area. We hope their
> > views might elicit more comments from their peers about this FRONTLINE
> > report, which we will post in our "Join the Discussion" area of this
> >
> > So what did you think?"
> > Tor: I got interested in it. I just got kind of annoyed at the fact that
> > was showing so much of what it was talking about. It felt like I was
> > watching commercials.
> >
> > Willis: . . . There weren't enough kids in it. We heard all these media
> > executives and whatever, but there was only a real response from the
> > teenagers at the beginning. . . .
> >
> > Laura: I really do feel I was being studied. Like some kind of specimen.
> > that I didn't have any voice as a teenager. That was kind of weird.
> >
> > Was what the media executives were saying about teenagers true to your
> > experience?
> >
> > Laura: I think it was accurate, but it wasn't me telling them. [The
> > was] it was them telling me.
> >
> > Brian: They were talking about the rebelliousness--but it's not
rebelling at
> > all. And they're talking about how teachers are nerds and authority
> > are laughable. I mean, they're basically saying, "Everybody sucks except
> > us."
> >
> > Adia: Is pop culture trying to help people?
> >
> > Laura: No. It's trying to make money. That's the problem, we're a
> > money-making culture.
> >
> > Tor: It at least pretends that it's trying to help people. Like it
offers a
> > solution if you just dumb yourself down enough to accept it. . . .
> >
> > Willis: Another related topic is that now that things like Napster and
> > Gnutella and these computer programs...that's kind of the new wave of
> > rebellion. Just to completely rip off electronic media--download your
> > songs for free. Let's see if these media giants are going to be able to
> > out-run it in the next decade or two.
> >
> > Adia: I completely agree. The Internet is too big to control. . . .
> >
> > Willis: I think what the Internet has done. . . . You see a lot of
> > [artists and labels] supporting programs like Napster because they can
> > really get their stuff out. And I can do whatever I want to, as long as
> > [artists] are willing to put it out there. And the small artists are
> > that.
> >
> > Tor: With things like Napster, you can't tell people, "This is what you
> > should be listening to." You can't push it. And because you can't push
> > the bands stay true to what they were writing about originally. If you
> > listen to what people say about a lot of bands that have become big--a
> > say, "You should listen to their old stuff--It's a lot better, before
> > got influenced."
> >
> > Davis: Eminem was a different artist before he became mainstream.
> >
> > What do you think of the Eminem-Grammy controversy?
> >
> > Davis: I didn't even watch it. I think the whole Eminem thing is BS. It
> > really is like the [Insane Clown Posse]: "I'm rebelling, I'm taking it
> > the next level," just like media has been doing. They started out with
> > sex years ago and it just keeps escalating. Like the [FRONTLINE program]
> > said, the media's looking at the teenage generation, taking that image,
> > I think they're notching it up a step. They're making it that much more
> > risqué, and then they're selling it back. And you have Eminem with these
> > absurd lyrics, and it's impossible to believe that any of that is really
> > true.
> >
> > You don't think Eminem's lyrics are actually coming from him?
> >
> > Davis: I doubt it. I think that's an example of someone who's trying to
> > market the next level. No one else is doing that, so he's ahead of the
> >
> > Dan: One of the [media] executives was talking about how they are trying
> > take things to the next level. The person who made "Cruel Intentions"
> > to do something that nobody else has done. And in that sense, that is
> > of the way to go. People want to see new things. But to do that, it's
> > going to escalate. Sexual activity on TV is just getting more explicit.
> > Vocabulary that's allowed on the radio is getting more and more
> >
> > But do you feel you're getting fed more explicit stuff by the media? Or
> > you feel that you, as a generation, are asking for the more explicit
> > material?
> >
> > Adia: It's both. . . . And society as a whole, because of this downward
> > spiral in teenagers, is kind of going downward. Let's take sex and
> > which is what you see everywhere. I am inevitably polluted with it all
> > time. But once I turn 18, I'm not just going to forget about it. It's
> > going to be there. And I'm going to take that pollution (that's what
> > call it for now) and I'm just going to take that with me for the rest of
> > life. And that's just going to affect everything from then on. I think
> > a downward spiral not just for the teenagers and the media, but for US
> > culture. . . .
> >
> > Brian: I think one of the main problems is that with all of this
> > influx of information and also collapse of morals, it ends up creating
> > apathy. I don't think people are as happy as they would be if they were
> > to do things of their own--as opposed to being told what to do and
> > in a lot of ways, no minds of their own because they have no way of
> > expressing themselves. Everything is forced into them.
> >
> > Willis: Tuning it out is a way of expressing yourself. I've pretty much
> > stopped watching MTV. I live in the dorm. Sometimes it's going to be
> > playing. Then I don't really have a choice. But mainly I watch what I'm
> > interested in which is basketball. . . . .
> >
> > Dan: I don't really understand how advertising can make that much effect
> > the population. When I'm listening to the radio, I'll listen to a song I
> > like and as soon as that song goes off and an ad comes on, I change the
> > channel, trying to find something else. . . . [Ads] don't make me buy
> > something. It seems like it's more just about name recognition. And we
> > talked about this in our film class. It doesn't sell me a product, but
> > sells me the name. And whether I go out and buy that, at least I feel
> > it's my own choice still.
> >
> > Do you ever think that maybe it's not your choice? That you're just
> > programmed in some way?
> >
> > Dan: I honestly don't. One example is, I wear Nike shoes. Yes, it is a
> > huge name brand and there's tons of advertising on it. And I've gone out
> > I've worn Reeboks or whatever. And honestly, the one pair of Reeboks I
> > had fell apart in a month. So to me, I found something that I like,
> > comfortable, and that stays in one piece, and so that's why I buy Nike.
> >
> > Why don't you buy some no-name?
> >
> > Sara: You can't even get a no-name brand.
> >
> > Adia: . . . That's kind of what was so depressing about the documentary.
> > really is like a spiral. And it seems as though right now we're way too
> > into it to get out of it. Nike has way more money than beginning shoe
> > companies could have. For example, Converse. I love Converse. . . . But
> > it sold out. It sold out to the same company that has New Balance and
> > Skechers. The film mentioned the five conglomerates. They're so big,
> > so huge, that you really stand no chance going against them. . . .
> >
> > Davis: I have a question--for anyone--which is: I do disagree with the
> > Time-Warner--the big five. But is it wrong for Time Warner, or is it
> > for Viacom to own MTV and to own all of this--is it wrong to buy smaller
> > companies out in a capitalistic society?
> >
> > Adia: No, but it's disgusting. [laughter]
> >
> > Brian: I think it is wrong. I think that it depends on what their motive
> > And their motive is not to help anyone. It's to make money for
> > And they talk about, "We give money to charity." They want you to know
> > give money to charity. It's all about making money for themselves.
> >
> > Jonathan: What's wrong with that?
> >
> > Willis: Well, for better or for worse, that's capitalism. And that's the
> > system we have. If we want to switch to socialism, then let's become
> > politically active and do that. . . .
> >
> > Laura: There was one comment in the documentary that it's a really
> > pool, like our political system--only a certain number of people could
> > for president because they're rich white males. And I think that we
> > ever say that we're buying what we want, when the choices are so
> >
> > Dan: I agree with you that our selection is really limited. But at the
> > time, I think that if I found that I hated Nikes, I would switch to
> > brand. And I think that if you want to, you can search and you can find
> > variety. . . .
> >
> > Laura: What worries me is that in the future there will be no companies
> > there who have earned that position of prominence. Like they showed that
> > band that they just promoted and promoted and they wouldn't necessarily
> > become famous if they hadn't been promoted. And if all the companies are
> > like that, then there could be a time when none of them are good and it
> > be impossible to find something else. That's what worries me.
> >
> > Adia: And when you look at the progression of that, that means that when
> > grow up and want to start a company--let's say I want to start a band,
> > let's say you want to make shoes when you get older--that means that
> > going to be eaten up by a conglomerate, basically. And you're going to
> > to be a part of that culture. Because that's really what it's leading.
> >
> > Brian: . . . . I don't know what the answer is. One of my teachers
> > I hope that in some way she's right--she believes this is a regular
> > It's a moral collapse that happens. And it happens in societies every
> > in a while. And eventually it will burn out. People will get tired of
> > no morals. Tired of being told what to do, and things will change.
> >
> > Tor: I think already it's becoming more and more popular for parents to
> > raise their kids without TV. I personally was raised in a house without
> > I read all the time.
> >
> > Laura: Me, too.
> >
> > Tor: I still have approximately no connection with the media. I don't
> > time for TV, don't have time for the radio, really. I don't have time
> > the newspaper. I have time to notice things like as I'm walking around.
> > think, people are realizing that things like TV (just as an example) are
> > becoming faulty, and that people are rebelling against that just by
> > it out.
> >
> > Adia: I don't think people are realizing that. One of the first
> > that they said [in the documentary] is that 75% of American teens have a
> > in their room. And boy that's kind of scary. I mean, if 75% have that,
> > clearly we're totally in the minority. . . .
> >
> > Dan: I know that I come from a fairly wealthy, well-off family. And the
> > of having a TV in my room, to my parents and to me, is kind of
ridiculous. .
> > . . I don't know many of my friends who have a TV in their room. And
> > number seems really, really high to me.
> >
> > Adia: . . . . We may not watch it, but I'm convinced we're the minority.
> > Because everyone else does.
> >
> > Davis: I think all this talk of how we're the minority has brought the
> > in my head that it's interesting, as we're sitting here seeing this
> > FRONTLINE thing, we obviously share a lot of these ideas about how we
> > the big five and all this marketing. I think it would be interesting to
> > what your "Abercrombie kids" or your "American Eagle kids" would think
> > all this after they saw it, and they saw that a lot of what they do is
> > marketed and planned. And also I wonder why none of those kids are here.
> >
> > Sara: I'm wearing an American Eagle shirt and Skechers, and I am a media
> > addict. I watch probably way more TV than all of you guys put together.
> > read Entertainment Weekly . [laughter] I am not the Abercrombie
> > representative here, but I don't feel like the problem is that there's a
> > breakdown of morals, or that the culture is evil, or that there's some
> > of encroachment. I feel the problem is that we're not represented in our
> > culture. We don't create it and it's not born of anything of us. It's
> > of what they're trying to give to us, which is really what worries me. .
. .
> >
> > Jonathan: In reference to creating, I think the FRONTLINE documentary
> > pointed out that it is created at the level of the independent,
> > forward-minded kids. But where it goes astray is when media companies
> > it up and they try to market it. That's when it turns into something big
> > something possibly even evil. And perhaps I think the Internet is one
> > of independent-minded people. I mean, it's an opportunity for anybody to
> > as big as one of those big five.
> >
> > What about the gender images and the stereotypes being marketed? Any
> > thoughts on the boy "mook" idea or the girl sexpot idea as sketched in
> > FRONTLINE film? Did that ring true to you?
> >
> > Davis: I think that the mook stuff and all that does ring true. I could
> > a few kids in my class that are mooks, or are whatever the other term
> > It does ring true. . . .There are kids who respond to [that sort of
> > who are really "in your face" and who are assholes. Some kids respond to
> > that activity. And obviously MTV's caught onto it, and it's too bad.
> > Personally I think the people like Tom Green and shows like Jackass are
> > responsible for some of the moral decline we're seeing, because they're
> > putting it on MTV, one of the most popular TV stations, and it's kind of
> > cliché but they're giving people these idols or role models.
> >
> > Tor: One thing that gets to me about Tom Green is that he is talented;
> > just talented at being a tool. [laughter] It really gets to me. If he
> > on TV, would he be doing the exact same things? What would he be doing
if he
> > wasn't on TV? Doesn't that scare you?
> >
> > Willis: He would be arrested a lot more often because he wouldn't be in
> > protection of MTV on an MTV spring break cruise.
> >
> > Tor: The media has been telling us that money will make us happy.
> > trying to get to be happy, and the media is telling us, "If you just
> > enough money, you can buy it." And so people who buy into that are
> > for money, to the exclusion of just about anything else--which is where
> > Green comes in. Tom Green is a great way for them to get little boys to
> > watch that show, to watch their advertising, for them to influence the
> > of little boys, then to make more money off the kids. . . .
> >
> > Willis: I want to say on another note, we keep speaking about "us" and
> > "them" and "we" and "they." And you know, we're becoming the trend
> > here. You realize that our little debate here is being recorded and it's
> > going to go on a website. And that website will be advertised on TV to a
> > national audience. And we in turn will be posting the ideas that our
> > and those younger than us can feed off of. [laughter] Isn't it strange
> > we've been rebelling against it, and we [are still part of it?]
> >
> >
> > ----
> > Adam@KnowNow.Com
> >
> > We don't call it Detroit, we call it Amityville;
> > You can get capped after just havin a cavity filled.
> > Ahahahaha, that's why we're crowned the murder capital still;
> > This ain't Detroit, this is motherFoRKin Hamburger Hill!
> > We don't do drivebys, we park in front of houses and shoot,
> > and when the police come we FoRKin shoot it out with them too!
> > That's the mentality here, that's the reality here...
> > -- Eminem, "Amityville"
> >

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