Monday, November 24, 2008

How the media controls our life or why grown ups still believe in fairy tales

I am a self-proclaimed media junkie.

It all started when I was 3 or 4 years old and very sick. I wasn't allowed to leave the house for about a year. I started watching TV 24/7 (well, from 9am-11pm - back then in Austria there was no TV between 11pm and 9am) which eventually led to my mother selling our TV set. Well that and our financial situation at the time. Being a single mom is not easy. 

After my mother had sold the TV I started listening to the radio day and night and going through my mother's magazines even though I only learned to read a year or two later.

I bought my first magazine at 7 years old - it was Minnie Mouse magazine (which has since sadly been discontinued). By age 10 I was up to reading 8 magazines a month.

I had become addicted. I had become a media junkie. Craving entertainment on a daily basis. 
I can easily go a day or a week without TV or without radio or without magazines or newspapers or internet but all of them at once - that's a problem.

I do however realize that there is a lot of junk in the media. The media is telling us women to have big boobs and small bums and that nobody will ever love us if we don't know how to walk in 5 inch stiletto heels and give BJs to random dudes in dirty club toilets (thank you for that British Cosmo, I am glad I said goodbye to you a long time ago). The media wants men to have a full head of hair and hairless backs, they want men to believe that only the macho, the asshole will get the girl, that it's ok to put women down because deep down - that's what we want, right? (not right, just to clarify that)

But that's stuff we eventually grow out off. At some point (most) boys and girls realize that it's ok to be yourself and that there probably is somebody who will love you just the way you are.

Is that the point were we can start enjoying the media without feeling the need to conform to the image of what the media portrays as perfect?

No because once we are done with having a poor self image we move on to the next stage of our lives - relationships.

I once read a very interesting article about the topic. It was all about how growing up with fairy tales (and romantic movies - which are pretty much also based on fairy tales) influences our relationships. If you look at the basic setup of a fairy tale/romantic movie it's almost always the same: Prince and princess want to fall in love. Something happens that keeps them from falling in love. The two can only happily be together once these issues are solved. 
This leads to people believing that it is impossible to just fall in love and be happy. There must be an obstacle otherwise it cannot be the real deal. If there is no obstacle you either must create one or dump the other person because he or she is not the "one". I have seen this happen with people and I think most people have. That's why some women are drawn to "bad boys" and some men to nutty girls who treat them like crap (because maybe they can change them ...).

So let's assume you managed that part and you actually are in a serious relationship -there is the next obstacle - the portrayal of relationships in todays television:
It all started with "Married with children". A married couple that absolutely loathes each other. That show was on for 11 seasons! Since then we have had countless others - not as extreme as this one but the topic is the same - wife and husband shouldn't like each other too much. 
As much as I disliked "Married with children" at least Peggy and Al were equally unlikable. These days the couples in these shows are made of a funnyish, unattractive, dumb, uneducated, "kind of macho but more on the soft side" slob of a guy and a sweet, pretty, smart, superhousewife with a bit of quirkiness to her (so she doesn't appear too perfect).
Anyway - the content of these shows is always the same, be it "King of Queens" or "Still Standing" or "According to Jim". The husband feels like he can't do as much as he would like to - because he is married. And obviously being in a relationship is like being caged up. So he does something stupid which makes his wife angry and they bitch at each other. The wife will spend every episode looking like a nag and the husband spends every episode looking like a (supposedly lovable) idiot.
And you know what - people start thinking that's the way a relationship is like. They might not do it consciously but they think it's normal - maybe even fun - to bicker all day long. 
The problem with that is that if you do it long enough as a joke it eventually will become reality. And after jokingly bickering about everything for a while - how do you know when you are actually really having a fight? And ... well ... it's just not nice to not be nice to each other if you love each other. Call me a romantic sob but I do believe what I am saying here.

There is an easy thing to do about this - it's not watching these shows. Luckily there are shows who embrace liking each other - my favorite being "How I met your mother". I used to like "Dharma and Greg" for the same reason.

So with all that being said - enjoy the entertainment industry. That's what it's made for but don't let it get to you.

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