In this 21st Century, people are growing up in a world saturated with media texts, ranging from television, films and music, to newspapers, video games and the Internet. Along with this rich media world, there has been an increasing concern about many youth problems in the society, for example, teenage pregnancy, risky sexual behaviour, campus violence, obesity and compulsive shopping, etc. Some people attribute this to media institutions, accusing them of creating youth media texts, i. e. , media targeted toward teenagers and young adults, to make the young audience passive.
Upon relevant evidences, I can only agree with the statement “youth people are under the influence of media institutions, for example, television now escorts young people through life”, but not the claim that “Youth texts are created to make the audience passive”. Not as what suggested by the hypodermic model, young audiences are never passive in consuming media texts as couch potatoes. They are not blank sheets of paper on which media institutions can write whatsoever they want. Instead, having prior attitudes, ideas and beliefs, young people tend to reject those media texts which do not suit their tastes and appetites.
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Media texts which are considered by them as dull, old-fashioned, obsolete and paternalistic can seldom succeed to manipulate their ideas and values. Political propagandas and government advertisements with which the Hong Kong government tries to inject patriotic, anti-drug or anti-alcohol ideas into teenagers’ mind, for example, always utterly backfire. In particular, a recent series of political television advertisements with which the government tended to instil Chinese patriotism in Hong Kong citizens have been parodied by netizens, notably young people, through numerous imitative works on the Internet.
Instead of passively receiving all media texts and all either apparent or subtle messages, young audiences do make active decisions about what they consume in accordance with their needs. Here we can introduce the uses and gratifications model, which states that audiences have a reason for what they have chosen to watch. To the young people, the two basic needs of which they seek to fulfil are probably the need for personal identity as well as the need for diversion. It is understandable that, teenagers, in their dolescence, are always eager to define their own identity and gain a perspective on their own lives, whilst they are also desperate to escape from their teenage anxiety and have fun. Apparently, only those media texts which can satisfy these two needs would they are willing to consume. Therefore, in the nutshell, youth media texts are created by media institutions to suit young people’s needs, instead of being created to make them passive. And the young audiences themselves are neither passive as all.
For instance, media institutions have created many young idols, mainly through television drama series and pop music, so as to let them find their own identity in. British docu-soap The Only Way is Essex and Made in Chelsea are two significant examples in providing young people an insight of the lavish life of a successful and wealthy person or a celebrity. Another British drama film Kidulthood, together with the songs of American pop star Lady Gaga, has also helped confirm teenagers’ rebellious tendency.
In addition, many video games, which are categorised as a kind of new media product, are designed to target young people and enable them to shy away from the real world and provide sheer entertainment. These examples will be further illustrated in the next paragraph. Up to this point, it is crystal clear that media institutions including TV broadcasters, film producers, music brands and video game producers, etc. , create youth media texts to suit young audiences’ needs, in particular, their needs for personal identity and diversion in order to earn profit out of their pocket.
To earn more, the media institutions inevitably will implement consumerist ideas in them, namely, to spend more, which is one of the ways how they impose great influence on young people. Many TV dramas such as TOWIE and Made in Chelsea mentioned above in which young audiences identify themselves, are frequently manipulated to involve them in extravagant money spending. They usually tend to imitate the luxurious lifestyle and consumerist behaviours of the characters, and partly to gratify their vanity, by pursuing prestige-branded fashion items. Indirect advertisements implemented in these dramas are also capable to pose similar effect.
Not only do TV dramas impose great influence on young people, reality shows and frequent coverage of celebrities’ lives by tabloids also play their part. As mentioned above, Young people establish their personal identities in what they watched. Frequent coverage of the “colourful” lives of celebrities, especially those emerged from reality shows and talent shows such as the X Factor and America’s Got Talent, by tabloids and other media institutions, has made them look forward to becoming famous, while participating talent shows seems to be the easiest and fastest way.
This is probably one of the reasons for the soar in popularity and enthusiastic participations of young people in these shows in recent years. In Hong Kong, this anxiety to become famous is reflected by an even more unhealthy way. The recent rise of pseudo-model has been a nationwide phenomenon in East Asia, especially in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. These pseudo-models who are all young pretty girls gain their fame and money by publishing sexually suggestive but not pornographic photo-books, or in Japanese term, shashinshu.
Although this occupation has been severely criticised by the public as immoral, more and more young girls are willing to involve into this industry, of which they consider as a fast track to the entertainment circle, and ultimately, success. In conclusion, I partly agree with the statement “Youth texts are created to make the audience passive. Young people are under the influence of media institutions, for example, television now escorts young people through life. “