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How Mass Media Affects The Image Of Adolescence

2431 words - 10 pages

Since the “invention of adolescence”(Clarke 2009:1) at the start of the 19th century, we have seen multiple images created in regards to youth, created both politically academically and in the mass media. For the most part these images created are portrayed as problematic and damaging to society. They very often carry negative connotations such as lazy, disaffected, binged, unruly and broken. It could even be argued that just the word “youth” used alone could be seen as a negative connotation in its own right as it’s so rarely used positively. The aim of this paper is to see how the discourses that arise from these political, academic, and media led images effect how young people in modern day Britain are seen. This will be done by seeing how the mass media create this image of youth in western society, through the use of language, labeling and the development of moral panic. The effects these discourses have had on social and legal policy will then be discussed by looking at the cases of James Bulger and the English riots of 2011.
The representation of youth as a problem is not just a modern phenomenon it can be traced back to Victorian England, were many poor children were seen as a problem, for example the portrayal of the pick pockets in Charles Dickens Oliver Twist (1838).This negative image has continued over time within television and literature, from the image portrayed of mods and rockers in the movie Quadrophenia (1979) the unemployed “chav” and “hoodie” culture highlighted in the movie Kidulthood (2006) to the drug taking, binge drinking students, featuring in the television series Skins (2007-2012). Despite these images been written and created amongst different generations against different political and economical backgrounds, a common pattern runs from them all. All of them carry the message that young people are a problem that needs to be labeled, i.e. “hoodie”, addressed and criminalized.
It is the process of labeling young people that Howard Becker addressed in his book Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance (1963). According to Becker how a person or group behaves could be influenced by the label they receive. He believes that it is only when the behavior of a certain group or individual is labelled that one is seen as deviant and as he puts it “seen as an infraction of an agreed upon rule” (1963:9) an example of this is the banning of wearing hooded tops and baseball caps in a Kent shopping centre. The rule enforced insisted that “intimidating behavior by groups or individuals, anti-social behavior including swearing, and wearing clothing which deliberately obscures the face such as hooded tops and baseball caps, will not be allowed” (BBC 2005). The move was also backed by Kent Police which dedicated an on-site team to remove anyone seen to be wearing this item of clothing. So in support of Becker’s theory of labelling, what this shows is that, an item of clothing that could have started simply as a way of...

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