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Teen Talk

July 9, 2011

Weekend Reviews: Pop culture is too sexy for America (and its shirt)

It seems that everywhere we teens (and people in general) look today, we are bombarded by provocative images and music. Sex as an advertising ploy has become increasingly popular, and because of this I feel that, as a generation, we have become more desensitized to the issue at hand.

Now I don't like to point fingers, but I'm going to do it anyway. Television networks such as MTV are not the only ones that market good looks as a way to earn viewers, but in doing so they are no less guilty than any other company.

MTV shows such as "The Real World," "Jersey Shore," "The Hard Times of RJ Berger" and the recently canceled "Skins," give an almost glamorous view on promiscuity and vapidity. It seems as if the message of these types of shows is that the more sexual conquests and wolf-whistles you can get, then the more respect you earn in return.

Sex on TV, and in the movies as well, is something that I've quite frankly grown tired of. I don't know how many times I've sat down to watch a movie or show with my parents and have instead been unpleasantly accosted with a steamy encounter.

I understand these situations to a certain point, but honestly directors, I highly doubt that all of those uncomfortable moments are for the sheer benefit of the plot. Now, literally, cut it out.

I recently rented the movie "Love and Other Drugs," that new rom-com with Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. Because it is a romantic comedy, I braced myself for some awkward lovey-dovey moments, but oh no ... it was so much worse than I'd expected.

Don't get me wrong, the overall movie was enjoyable and funny (although there were one too many giggles out of Hathaway as per usual), but the sex scenes seemed to take away from the quality of the film as a whole.

Whenever I'm in a movie theater or am watching an awkward moment in film with other people, or sometimes even my dogs, I have this weird habit of thinking that everyone is staring at me and waiting to see my facial expressions. Therefore I wind up feeling even more uncomfortable than I would have otherwise, knowing that the entire experience rests upon whether I scratch my nose or, worse yet, am fully engrossed in the weirdness.

I feel like production companies know this and intend to completely capitalize on it because they have recently made so many movies centered around sex.

Prime examples of this include "No Strings Attached" and "Friends With Benefits," about friends who decide to become sex partners and (spoiler alert) end up developing feelings for each other.

If you didn't see that plot twist coming, I have nothing more to say to you. Needless to say these are basically the same movie, just with different actors and settings.

Naturally, my go-to interviewee for the topic of inappropriate use of sex in the media was my 11-year-old brother. All too often I find myself having to shield his eyes from the impurities on the screen in front of us and I'm tired of having to evade his awkward questions afterward.

We got onto the subject of music and I asked if he ever heard music or saw music videos that made him uncomfortable or ask himself, "What's happening right now?"

Among the answers he gave included Kanye West's rap in Katy Perry's single "ET" where he talks about his "dirty mind" and "dirty ways," and the 3OH!3 song "Touching On My," whose title is pretty self-explanatory.

So I ask, if an 11-year-old realizes that these songs contain questionably inappropriate material, why can't the artists or music producers?

It's gotten to the point where I need to say this to musicians making generic song day in and day out: I don't want to hear about your "disco sticks," your "Goodies," or your "Bom Chicka Wow Wow" anymore. I never even asked, you just offered up the information yourselves.

It's honestly no wonder the United States has such a bad reputation in many places internationally. We leave absolutely nothing to the imagination anymore.

You know it's bad when you go to any shopping center and see little girls with faces full of makeup, wearing low-cut tops and short shorts, showing off curves that they haven't even developed yet. This type of culture is teaching those girls that this behavior and self-presentation is acceptable, and boys that it's OK to degrade them and treat them like sexual objects.

Let's break the cycle and show those impressionable kids and the world that contrary to popular culture, appearance and sensuality aren't what get you places, but integrity and self-respect are.

Maggie McVey is a rising senior at Oneonta High School. 'Teen Talk' columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/teentalk.

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