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Model Versus Monster
Hundreds of years ago on the streets of Rome and Greece, before television, electronic communication, and modern luxuries as we know them, the educated individual could step to the nearest street-corner and listen to a daily speaker. That speaker—for example, Socrates—would stand, facing the population, and hold a lengthy discourse with them over the topics of the day: Astronomy, Science, Medicine, and Philosophy, just to name a few. There was a sense of interaction and first-hand acquisition; the eager student would be but inches away from their idol,—or greatest opposition—watching the movement of their mouth and eyes, the casual gesture of their hands, filing away each and every bit of information that they saw as valuable. The Teacher, in turn, would have the satisfaction of watching a crowd form before him, knowing that those people all came to hear him speak, whatever their motivations and this realization would but fuel the pace of his tongue. This was the ancient form of “media influence”, of well-known individuals reaching out to those who sought them. This was the News, the Sit-Com, the “Reality Television”; this was all that the insatiable seeker needed.
This is no longer so.
Today, the developing youth must balance out a regimen of School, Social Interaction, and Family Life. One common factor shared between these three categories is this: Media. Television Shows, Music, News Broadcasts, Films—these are the new Socrates of the times. When a question is sought, no longer does the inquisitive child seek out another learned individual or make the Pilgrimage of Knowledge themselves, no; why make such an effort when the Internet is so readily available? When the world around us begins to shift and change, no longer do we open our eyes to the events themselves, to learn by the power of our own hands and mind, no; Newscasters can simply interpret those events under the guise of their own biases and pass along the story as a ‘second-hand source’. There is no longer an ambition for mental growth, for philosophical enrichment and for integration into the world around us. Our world revolves around that little black box in our living rooms’ or that glamorous silver screen in the theatre more and more, day by day.
“Who is a figure in the Art of Battle?”
“Oh, that’s an easy one! That one guy from Die Hard!”
“What is a recent book you’ve read?”
“Does the movie “Lord of the Rings” count? That’s a book, right?”
“What is love?”
“Definitely that babe from the movie I saw last night; now that’s love!”
So easily do we fall to the influence of that which is most accessible to us; so easily do we forget the roots from which we started from. On those Ancients streets, one did not require the current Poster-Boy or Pinup-Girl to promote a thought for it to be followed; one did not require some Popular Idol to endorse an activity before it was actively tried. What happened to those times? What happened to the Street-Corner Teachers and the Commoner’s Philosophy, the allure of the Stars and Universe, Life itself? Where did it all go?
It was all devoured by the insatiable appetite of the Hydra known as Media, the Creature who has one head decapitated, only to grow more. It is indestructible because it cannot be wounded; we will not see it wounded. Its followers worship it to an obsession. There is no fashion unless it is dictated; there is no thought unless someone Higher passes it down to me; there is no Life unless it is modeled after another more fortunate. The Street-Corner Teacher became the Street-Corner Prostitute who became addicted to sex after it reeled her in from within the Movie Screen; The Commoner’s Philosophy became Crooked Politics after the masses were led astray by the views of a single, biased man. The Stars and the Universe dimmed down to allow the advent of the Super-Star Actors’ and the Universe of Fashion, two figureheads which most simply cannot live without; Life became a creation that can only be made after we find a suitable Life of another who we Envy. This is what Media has become, a Dictator, an ever-present Temptress that keeps us vigilant, forcing us to walk with our eyes cast over our shoulders so we may simply exist without Her firm hand. Even in the realm of Non-Conformity does Media call us to Conform:
“I have to dress like this, because it’s different than the norm!”
And that phrase is repeated by ten others.
“I have to think like that, because it made that Actor famous!”
And that phrase is repeated by hundreds more.
“I have to dress like this, because it makes that Actress look beautiful!”
And that phrase is repeated by the thousands.
In the end, what is Media but a false Fountainhead of Knowledge, one that is as fickle and indecisive as those who erect it? We cannot think for ourselves as much as we once did, because we need the ‘reassuring’ hand of the media to support our claims and thoughts; the everyday Essay cannot be composed without a strict quote of Media quotes to cite. We cannot be authorities on a source unless we are of a certain age, and yet, if a famous Actor were to convey the same sentiments, crowds gather to grovel at his feet, because they believe that He is a man who can speak no falsity. We cannot be successful in the eyes of Society unless we accumulate wealth and power like this Actor or that singer; it is a pathetic travesty that no one seems prepared to rectify. Oh, some would say “But they are people, too, and, why shouldn’t I follow their examples, and why shouldn’t I strive for their status?” It is a valid statement, surely, but that complacency to follow is exactly what blinds them to the truths behind the people.
A prime example of negative Media that many young people are familiar with is the popular show Cribs on MTV. It is a Biographical-Style show that highlights key Media figures in the world, whether they are musicians, actors, dancers, or others of that genre. Basically, the show chooses a handful of these idols and lets them give MTV a guided tour of their homes, or ‘cribs’.
What I see therein revolts me.
These ‘idols’, whom countless youth look up to, are living portraits of excess: Six cars in the driveway, literal theatres within their rooms, pools—indoor and out—gold plated knick-knacks, beds to fit five, girls—or boys—on each arm, and countless other things. These are the Leaders of the Media, these individuals who bask in the soft green glow of countless dollar bills. This is Media’s figure of success, the male and female who can accumulate so mush wealth and power that they have nothing to do with it but spend. While countless people struggle to make a simple living, to support families and friends, these Gods’ and Goddesses’ of the Media sit atop their Thrones of Fame and cast a quiet eye upon their fans, not bothering to remember the names of the people who just so recently won Backstage Passes to their shows, for they are too busy consorting with the ‘friends’ that they have invited into their homes—typically scantily clad females for our Male Idols, and buff male companions who see nothing but the opportunity of profit for our Female Queens. Media has taught us that this is The Dream, that having your name up in lights is the Pinnacle of success, that having paychecks with zeroes that some only dream of is the best you can do.
This is what our youth look up to.
You hear the influence of Media more and more everyday; a bit of slang here, a change of fashion there, but when you put it all together, it paints a horrific picture: Boys who, after falling in step behind their favorite Rapper, begin referring to their female companions and, heaven forbid, lovers, as a list of various derogatory names, because “they heard it on the radio. Girls, after watching their favorite dancers perform on a late-night television special, come to school the next day with a piece of fabric that has met the minimum requirements to be called “shorts”, and shirts that must have met some minimum somewhere along the way, because “she looked like that on stage, and the boys loved it.” I cannot escape these sights on my typical High School campus, and I must avert my eyes from these things, because I long for the way things used to be, before the Tyrant known as Media usurped the Throne of Rationality and Free-Thought. Media’s reach only lengthens by the day because more and more turn to it for a sense of belonging and acceptance, just to fit in with the crowd. One might ask, “Why is there no attempt to stop it? Schools teach it, Friends teach it, Life teaches it—how can it not be seen?” Three simple words can answer this: Media. Makes. Money.
That is the cold truth behind the Monster. What do the directors’ of the latest movie care if a scene or two of sex make their way onto the screen as long as the film makes a profit? What do the News stations care if one or two little biases make their way into their reports, as long as the television station pays them? What do the radio stations care if one or two swear words or derogatory remarks slip into the lyrics of the current song, as long as someone is paying them for that airspace? Media is not a question of morality or destructiveness, but one of profit. How many synonyms for money can someone name off the top of their head?
Cash, Dollars, Dinero, Benjamins’, Dead Presidents’, Greenbacks, Coins, Quarters, Nickels, Pennies, Dimes, Stacks, Dough, The Green. . . Now how many synonyms of Morality have we created? Contemplate that.
True, Media may be a Mass Tool of Destruction, but amidst the debris and broken lives it leaves in its wake, there is also benefits for those who promote it; the damage is a thought best left for later.
“Oh, children are still impressionable; anything that they see or hear will leave some sort of mark on them; they’ll learn how to differentiate.”
But do they? Do children grow up to know the difference between being “well off” and wealthy, of being well-known or famous, of being looked-up-to or idolized, or have they lain stagnating beneath the caress of Media for far too long to be saved? Do they still have a say in their fate, or has Media already decided along which path they shall travel, depending on what department of Fame is lacking in its Staff? Is the ignorance of Media’s true influence believable, or is it simply feigned to continue the promotions within the Hierarchy it has created? How many individuals typing this very Essay chose to hold discourse on “Violence in Schools” because they were already too far drawn into the Stygian darkness Media has enveloped them in? There are too many questions arising due to this single concept.
So, have my observations on the effects of Media proven a Positive or Negative outcome? Have my statements on the deteriorating effects of Media Icons upon the psyche and development of young children solidified that outcome? Have my examinations of the orgies of Wealth and Power put Media into the light it so deserves? Have the lack of Media sources that I have documented somewhere in my head proven my stance on the topic of “Media’s effect”?
Media is a Figurehead of Spite and Avarice. It excludes those who do not readily conform to its Principles and deifies those who cast away their own ideals in exchange for Its own devised models. It warps the innocence of young people with its talk of hottest fashions and most desirable personalities. It makes Barbie Doll Legion out of the multitude of young girls who desperately seek an edge in the today’s Modern and Judgmental world. It erects a Kingdom of Fame in which only those who are willing to voice Its ideals to their fans may dwell in, in which only they may luxuriate within their pools of Silver and Gold. It dictates the only reasonable view of Current Events and Controversies with the help of Its Newscasters and Broadcasters, who themselves put yet another spin upon those events with their personal biases. It creates a labyrinth in which Media’s aim is not to challenge those who run Its course to escape, but to tire them to the point where they are not longer willing to try to find an exit. It ensnares minds’ eager for a sense of purpose with Its promises of Glory and Success, of Admiration and Love, if only they sign the Contract. Media is the Tyrant of tyrants, because even Hitler employed the Media Method of Propaganda to rouse the people beneath him to join his cause. Progress and Technological Monarchies have brought us to the point where we may no longer evade the long hand of Media—there is a television lurking in every room, a radio awaiting us in each passing car, an Anchor Man holding his papers in some studio in preparation of the Daily Dictation. Free-Thought is slowly being eradicated by Media, and those youth caught in the conflict might as well die, too. Although their physical forms may remain, their minds will be consumed, their dreams, their hearts. Every aspect of their individuality, those traits about themselves that they treasure most, may one day be snatched up by the Maw of Media if its onslaught is not halted and rebuked. Does Media have a positive or negative effect on youth, and does it model their behaviors, dress, and speech? No. It has a detrimental effect upon them and it dictates their behaviors, dress, and speech; ‘negative’ and ‘model’ are too lax of emphasis to truly describe what Media does.
Once upon a time, somewhere, off in Europe, the Cradle of Western Civilization, those Ancient Streets where Socrates’ once dwelt lay hidden beneath some structure or other, the physical memory lost from sight. It was only hoped in his times that the thoughts and Philosophies would outlast the material that helped to compose them, and for a time, they did. Along came the birth of Queen Media, with all of her offspring, such as Television and Movie, and a great clash occurred, in which Philosophy and Thought attempted to defend themselves against Media and all of her Children. The prior put up a valiant fight, but the latter continued to grow in strength and numbers, until, sadly, Philosophy and all its Companions were forced to scatter across the world, seeking Sanctuary from the destructive blows of their opponents. They clung to these places of safety stubbornly, but one by one, Media discovered them and seduced them from their hideaways, convincing them that the revolution She wished to begin was not one of Destruction, but one of Gain and Power. The Remnants struggled at first, but then began to contemplate whether Gain and Power were such bad things after all, and, one by one, they began to switch sides, aligning themselves into Media’s ranks, sublimating their struggles into new tactics. As Media grew in power, so did Her influence among the People, especially the younger ones. She found it quite easy to mold them in ways that were desirable to her, and found little struggle amongst those She approached; it was nothing like when her battle began. Her Campaign continued for many years until the People forgot what it was like before Her presence, until it was commonplace to see Her children along the streets and households; until the People could not remember a time that they did not need her. This way of life suited Her and her Children, and they thrived off the sense of Dependency radiating from those beneath them. True, there were rebels from time to time, those who tried to Resurrect the Old Ways beneath her Monarchy, but their voices were quickly quelled and turned to Her cause, as examples of what happens to those who do not follow Her ways. Today, her Kingdom still continues its expansion .
Boys and Girls, welcome to the World.