The Influence of Media on This Generation’s Young Men by Ian Jung

06Dec11

As Canadians we are frequently bombarded with images from the media, whether they are in the form of print, advertisements, television, or the internet. Although we might not consciously think about it, the pressing and constant exposure of media images does influence what we as people come to value. For example, advertisements on television attempt to persuade us to want and value certain products. While advertisements attempt to influence people in terms of what they want, I would like to also suggest the media seeks to influence people in terms of who they want to be. Specifically, I want to talk about how young men are influenced by male media depictions.

          

  There is no doubt that men who are looked up to in the media portray a certain image. The male celebrities who are given consideration as “sexiest man alive” are often handsome, successful, muscular, and wealthy. In today’s music industry and pop culture, men are depicted in their images and lyrics as being tough, ballin’, dominant, sexually aggressive, and possessive. It is these men in the media, who leave the men of the general public with that “I wish I was him” feeling. Although men are not always portrayed in such an “idealized” way in the movies and television, let’s face it; the average guy would probably want to be the character that Brad Pitt is playing rather than the awkward teenage youth that Michael Cera portrays.

            When presenting our TCO2 Workshop in high schools and elementary schools, we discuss the gender dynamics between men and women that we see in the media. In shows such as Entourage, and Jersey Shore, and movie series such as the The Fast and The Furious, men are often portrayed as sexually aggressive and dominant over women. Women are objectified and valued based only on their sexual attractiveness and body type. Especially troubling are the gender dynamics depicted in the music industry.  Rapper Snoop Dogg, is notorious for dressing up and calling himself a pimp, with images circulating the internet of him holding female models by a dog leash. Rapper 50 Cent wrote a #1 hit song called “P.I.M.P.” whose lyrics include;

“Come get money with me, if you curious to see,
how it feels to be with a P-I-M-P… We could toast to the good life, girl we could have it all. We could really splurge girl, and tear up the mall.
If ever you need someone, I’m the one you should call.
I’ll be there to pick you up if ever you should fall.. I’m your friend, your father, your confidant.. ”

Is this the type of message that a male should value or want to embody? Songs like these misappropriate the activities and personality of a pimp as a man who is exciting and glamorous. We discuss with students the truth that pimps profit off of the abuse and exploitation of youth and children. They are not glamorous- they are sex offenders.  

            Media surrounds us in our everyday lives, so what happens when these ideas become commonplace and normalized?  I suggest that these messages play a strong role in the dynamics we see around sexual exploitation. Contrary to the media depictions of the genders, men do not possess the right to dominate women physically,  sexually, or by any other means. But, when we look at the sex trade (whether online or street level), women, youth, and children are viewed as objects who can be bought and sold at the convenience of men. This is the absolute epitome of the exploitative messages regarding the gender performances we see in the media.  

            While men in the media are depicted as having the characteristics described above, they are discouraged to portray other characteristics as well. It is considered unmanly to expose one’s vulnerabilities and weaknesses. It is unmanly to display emotions such as love and fear. It’s unmanly to have respect, and recognize that no means no. I argue that these are the types of depictions that need to be encouraged, as empathy and sensitivity are huge influences in the decision not to purchase sex and exploit those who are at their most vulnerable.  

As humans living in an interactive society, we have to consciously become aware of who we are as individuals and question the influences to our values. Men do not have to aim to fit the mode of the “ideal” man that the media portrays. The media cannot depict the ideal man without depicting men’s relationship with women, and that relationship happens to be pretty dominating and sexually aggressive at times. Rather, as a society we need to work on building character, respect, empathy and compassion to break down the oppressive dynamics depicted by the media that could ultimately express itself in various forms of sexual exploitation. This year in TCO2, we have facilitated thought provoking discussion about what it means to be a man who respects vulnerability and uses power in a health way, and that it’s okay to not fit the media mold. We have hope that we will see change as we travel across BC to address these issues.

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2 Responses to “The Influence of Media on This Generation’s Young Men by Ian Jung”

  1. 1 makanakaishe

    Hi ian,this is a decent article which i find both informational and educational,i am currently conducting a research on the influence of the media on young generation in south africa.

  2. I like the helpful information you provide in your articles.
    I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently.

    I’m slightly sure I’ll be told many new stuff right here! Good luck for the following!


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