Movie Portrayals of Adolescence



Movie Portrayals of Adolescence

Adolescents are enthusiastic consumers for the media entertainment industry. They are vulnerable to a number of media influence like modeling and desensitization (Strasburger, 2005). On the other hand, media is great socializer for the adolescent.

In the economic boom that took place after the Second World War, marketers and advertisers recognized adolescents as a big audience. This led to the rise of pervasive youth culture. Massive changes took place in the media portrayal of adolescents and the tendencies that they showed. These changes spurred by an increase in accessibility and consumption of films and magazines which added to radios as a huge impact on the adolescent (Brown, 2002). This resulted to a rise in video games industry and the internet played a large role in this to the presence of the media. In the present day, opportunities for the adolescent has increased and has made it easy for the, to create and dissect details with minor control of the media owners.

With the fast changing portrayals of the adolescents since the 1950s, various researchers assess the rise of youth culture in movies, music and trends in gender and cultural depiction, sexuality, and violence among others as portrayed in the media.

Movies are a popular source of entertainment and often portray an accurate depiction of real-life scenarios. However, some movies present an incorrect of certain aspects that are noted in adolescents.

The media has a significant effect on how people perceive and think. Essentially, this evidently true among adolescent. One such media that has played a main role over the last decade is a film and television. The consumption of this form of media has shaped the minds and lives of many adolescent in the world. Specifically, even though the majority of these films are not directly targeted at teenagers- they depict the life of an adolescent (Jamieson, and Romer, 2008).

Holman (2002) pursued to discover the connection between mass media consumption and sexual attitudes and actions of the teenagers (Holman, 2002). By analyzing research on college undergraduate scholars of their preliminary speech courses, they established that the amount of media consumed in particular media categories for every respondent and then compared that amount to their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors as conveyed over responses to the research queries. Despite the numerous finding, the study regarding television movie viewing is in harmony with my research. The research demonstrated that television movie viewing had a stronger projective association amongst the males than the female. The investigators discovered that the male viewers who spent a lot of time watching television movies had numerous sexual companions and projected that their peers had sexual intercourse with numerous other partners than those who watched less televised movies (Holman, 2002). Thereafter, the scholars then conducted studies on the male heavy-viewers of reality television and their findings were positive. The study subjects exhibited numerous dating behavioral patterns that were depicted in the reality television. These attitudes include; perceiving the women as sex objects; equating dating to a game and a conviction that the driving force for men is sex. These attitudes as depicted in the television were evident amongst the males who were subjects in the study and yet frequently viewed reality dating television episodes (Holman, 2002).

However, do these films truthfully portray adolescence? What effects do such films have on an adolescent? This paper will review the movie “The Karate Kid” with a view of reflecting and evaluating the implications of such films on adolescents.

Mutually, my experiences as an adolescent, my analysis and the concepts discussed in class will form a basis of assessment of the movie (“The Karate Kid”). I am convinced that one can reasonably argue that the movie realistically shows issues and ideas involving adolescents, it does not necessarily inform us on current issues facing adolescents today.

The Karate Kid (2010)

Firstly, “The Karate Kid” fundamental shows certain problems faced by adolescents today. For example, bullying. It accurately illustrates the social, cognitive and emotional effect of the vice on adolescents. Particularly, this brings about “reciprocal causality”- one of the concepts discussed in class. This is commonly referred as common film stereotyping. In order for the film to appeal to the younger audience, movies tend to presents a situation where certain main characters may not relate with one another. Dre is the enemy of the Cheng the class bully. This is actively portrayed in high school, parties, social events, parental conflict (Dre is often in conflict with his mother) and relationships (Strasburger, 2005). Majority of Hollywood films shows teenage life to be one losing one’s virginity, substance abuse and serious rebellion. Therefore, in the eyes of film makers this is the embodiment of an adolescent. In essence, even though these situations form large portions of a teen’s life, movies tend to exaggerate the roles these things play in an adolescent. The falsehood pushed movies not only gives teens a bad name, but also offers teens with a wrong view of what life should be like. The psychoanalysis theory helps in understanding the effect the movies has on adolescent. Psychoanalysis goes beyond the reading and isolated text. It brings more meaning to the reception of the picture to viewer. One of the most well know examples that was made possible using an article published by Laura Mulvey’s article ”Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cienema “ in 1965. Mulvey observed “Psychoanalytic theory is thus appropriated here as a political weapon, demonstrating the way the unconscious of patriarchal society has structured film form” (Sensharma, 2007). Mulvey argued that images in movies create meaning to the viewer. One of the well-known examples used by Hollywood is the use of images of woman evoke sexual tendencies Therefore, a woman is an object to be looked for the pleasure on men (Sensharma, 2007). Alternatively, these images may be used to also represent a threat of castration in historically films. This same analogy has been used in “The Karate Kid”. An application of psychoanalysis theories in the movie bullying theme is revealed. Bullying destroys one’s identity (id, ego and super ego). Specifically, a person’s defense mechanism and identity. The main character Dre is a victim of bullying. The first id occurs when Dre is unable to fight Cheng because of his incapability of martial arts. The next id happens when Dre is rebellious towards her mother because he does not like it in China. As a result, psychoanalysis has been used deliver the message of bullying

Secondly, “The Karate Kid” appeals to both psychological and emotional development, majority of movies prey on the emotions of the viewer. Adolescents are emotionally driven during the onset of puberty. Therefore, movies tend to have a large effect on them. According to Jamieson, and Romer, (2008) both adults and children remember events in their lives that has a high emotional connection. This especially concerns how the movie plot is brought about in the film. Whereas, individuals relate to these things differently. Teenagers are likely to become emotional on issues pertaining to changes in world views and their growing status in society.

These also revolve around finding ones identity, graduations, college, moving away from home, sex, parental relationship and driving. These experiences to a teen arouse a high level of emotional involvement since an adolescent feels that the movie affect parts of his or her psychological progress. For example, the movie depicts a new kid (Dre) from Detroit moving to Beijing with his mother after the mother gets a job transfer (Jamieson, and Romer, 2008). Moving to Beijing, Dre finds it difficult to adopt due to the cultural differences. Therefore, the movie is likely to have a strong effect on psychological development and his view on unfamiliar things.

Recent film has an impression of teen’s romance life. Applying the social cognitive philosophy, Pardun et al (2005) unearths the ideologies behind the love scripts in movies for the very motive that adolescents model their relationships based on what they have watched on screen. In “Romancing the Script: Identifying the Romantic Agenda in Top-Grossing Movies” she writes, “Although the characters on screen can influence both teens and adults, the intentional and ‘larger-than-life’ saliency of the characters [on screen] may has a bigger impact on adolescents who are still forming their worldviews (Pardun, 2005)”. Through the quote she affirms Bandura’s assertion with regard to the influence of media depictions on the adolescents. Intellectuals are surpassing the sociological theory, though. Jeanne R. Steele’s media practice prototype was developed to demonstrate the process of media usage the teenagers (Sexual teens, sexual media: Investigating media’s influence on adolescent sexuality, 2002). The prototype demonstrated the connection of media effect and vice versa. After researching on teenagers in order to understand them better with regard to media of their preference and the reason behind their media of choice, Steele came up with the media practice model. In its place, they postulated that research that were to be undertaken in the future should be centered on shedding more light into movie and music of choice amongst the teenagers as they were the most sexually explicit and the most used by teens. The film portrays Dre having a strong mutual connection with his classmate Mei Ying. However, the cultural differences between make it possible for them to explore their love further. Consequently, an adolescent watching the movie gets a view that Mei and Dre are meant to be together. These false perceptions could alter a teen’s psychosocial progress as he or she struggles to meet the expectations of film makers.

As mentioned earlier, the movie portrays a negative relationship between Dre the child and her mother. The impression has a negative effect on the relationship between teens and adults. According to Stern (2005) conclusion “modern Hollywood films featuring youth promote an image of teenagers as self-absorbed, violent, disconnected from parents, and disengaged from civic life,” and “the image of teens constructed by recent, popular films likely reinforces adults” negative views and possibly works to distance adults from teens. ”The negative attitude advanced by movies puts a strain on an already stressful relationship that exists between adolescents and parents. Additionally, parents, view teens in terms of the Hollywood’s stereotypes, become more hesitant to assist teenagers with their problems. Likewise, teens may avoid parents because of these notion that they are against them.

Thirdly, the movie affects cognitive development. Movies give a chance to viewer to experience and interact with ideas, culture and concept. Therefore, a means to discover the world. Whereas, some movies tend to give false tales and ideas. Watching movies helps the adolescent develop cognitive development. According to Brown, & Witherspoon, (2003) “movies play an essential role in teens’ lives, and that they open up windows on a better world, or at least on a world that question the status quo.” Movies provide teens with a new experience of different parts of the globe that one maybe never be able to witness in their lives. A teenager living in small watching can interact with different ethnicities and travel across the world through films. In addition, viewing different cultures of the world a teenager is more like to apply such lessons on their own lives creating perceptions and thoughts about these situations. In the movie “The Karate Kid” instead critical examining the real Chinese culture the movie opts for the Hollywood approach of stereotyping anything foreign (Brown, & Witherspoon, 2003). China has better teachers, perfectionist and excel in Karate.

Fourthly, movies depict adolescents as ignorant, sexually-starved individuals who are experimenting on drugs and show-off their unique skills and identity. Fundamentally, the adolescence period is an urgent stage to promote and develop their identity. According to Strasburger, (2005) in his stages of development described adolescence as a stage “identity versus identity diffusion,” specifically mentioning “biological and social changes of adolescence occasion a search for continuity of self.”Whereas, adolescents need to show their identities during this stage, movies often exaggerate to extremes when showing their identities, for example, movies stereotype high school students to cheer leaders, nerds, gothic, loner and jock – and parade them in their extreme identities. Nerds wear glass and always carry a pair of protectors all the time while jocks wear leather jackets. From my experiences in high school these observations of teens in high school is false. It is often a mix bags of attributes of different groups as they pursue their own identity. In addition, a teenagers actions are defined by their transitional identity rather than what is depicted in Hollywood films. In “The Karate Kid” movie, all Chinese students are experts in martial arts. This is an extreme identity that all Chinese children to extent know martial arts (Strasburger, 2005). In addition, the movie gives a picture that one can learn perfect martial arts within a short time. Dre was able to master martial arts relative quickly. This is an inaccurate deception given by the movie.

Lastly, occurrences of portrayed violence has been in elevation. 85% of films all contained a main character instigating violence, with about 91.4% involving men and 54.5% females (Isaksen, 2009) and (Jamieson and Romer, 2008). Between 1950 and 2004, the extent of violent content, level of explicit violence and youth violence has increased drastically (Isaksen, 2009) and (Jamieson and Romer, 2008). This overall rise in trend is also in line with the losing of Hollywood’s Production Code in the mid-1960s. Movies like Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and The Wild Bunch (1969) by Peckinpah could never have been produced under the “ultraviolent” code. Recent examples of violent movies such as Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers in 1994 and Snyder’s 300, a 2006 recapping of the legendary act of 300 Spartans protecting their motherland from invasion by thousands of Persians, have helped to spur the tradition of violent films. Parallel to the upward trend in the portrayal of violence in films since 1960 is the overall increase in youth violence evidenced by homicide rates in persons aged 15 – 24. Higher grossing ranks (1 – 15) were more likely to have high youth violence portrayals – 16.7% – as compared to 11% in the lower grossing ranks (16 – 30) (Jamieson and Romer, 2008). Youth involving themselves in violence over time in lower rank films with violence also increased. This rising trend in youth violence in movies also appears to go hand in hand with youth (aged 15 – 24) homicide rates since 1950. Though this increase over time observed in youth portrayal of violence is substantial in lower ranked films, it is important since they still have a very huge audience (Jamieson and Romer, 2008).

The psychology theory is used to establish the magnitude of the effect of watching violent movies. According to a study carried out by Paik & Comstock (1994) showed that an inverse relationship was found between the viewer and the level of the effect of movies violence on aggression and anti-social behavior. Therefore, younger viewers were greatly influenced by media-violence especially those aged less than 5 years old. However, the study also found out that moderating its influence was extremely difficult since the size of the effect did not increase with age. Additionally, aggression is often studied using different age groups. As a result, early exposure to media violence was shown to increase indirect aggression such as telling lies and increased physical aggression. The movie “The Karate Kid” depicts scenes of violence among young teens. Such scenes overemphasis the reality. Dre and his colleges can perform martial arts stunts that even martial arts experts can only dream of.

In conclusion, movie portrayals of adolescents have a profound impact on teenagers. The exaggerated portray of teens lives is likely to provide adolescents wrong perceptions of what their lives should be, in addition it give a poor negative repute in how adults view them. This may an impact on the psychological, cognitive and emotional advancement of the teenager. On the other hand, films have a beneficial influence to teenagers, though, since they impart foreign behaviors to teenagers on how to carry themselves and respond to various issues that they come across. Similarly, the adolescent is entertained constantly giving them something that will keep them far from trouble. The exposure of teenagers to television and films has both; benefits and severe implications on the development and reputation. They may additionally help to mould adolescents as they get to adulthood. However, the media negative portrayal of young people has served to increase risks to their socialization by increasingly showing them engaging in more risky behaviors. Even though the level of tobacco use has declined, youth portrayals show the opposite of the trend. It is a matter of concern because the increasing of portrayal for adolescence puts them at harms away therefore, the need to increase advocacy on the subject.





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