Thursday, 28 June 2007

"How is the figure of the dangerous youth produced in the mediascape?


Critically analysis in relation to examples from film, TV, photography, games, music, journalism and scripts

The figure of the dangerous youth produced in the mediascape is what Presdee called "a collective confusion within adult society about what it is to be young or to be youth'" (Presdee, 2000:108). For Focault it is "constituted as regimes of truth" through "discourse shaped within power relations" (Foucault, 1977: 195-209). According to Scraton "the media portrayal of children's involvement in crime, is central in creating and reinforcing public perceptions of childhood" (Scraton, 1997:29). It can be said, the role of the mediascape in producing of this figure by "creating and sustaining moral panics" has obtained considerable consideration (Scraton, 1997:29). As more and more young people face a world of increasing poverty, joblessness and diminished social opportunities the more TV, photography, games, music, journalism and scripts show the youths in a bad light. This essay aims to present how the figure of the dangerous youth is portrayed in the mediascape. It also intends to analyse critically this figure in relation to examples from film, scripts, TV, photography, games, music, and journalism .
In the ten previous years, a number of Hollywood films such as 187 (1997), Dangerous Minds (1995), The Substitute (1996), and High School High (1996) represented youths as out of control. The increasingly familiar script suggests a correlation between urban public space, rampant drug use, daily assaults, broken teachers, and schools that do nothing more than "contain deviants who are a threat to themselves and everybody else" (Owen, 2005). Cashing money on this figure related to the fact that "the Act's public face' was turned to the problem of the youth'" (Presdee, 2000:128). The film 187 is a recent addition to this fact, but takes the arguments of poor, urban students of colour so far beyond existing cinematic conventions that it stands out as a public indication to broader social and cultural formations. However, what is clear is that beyond this representation into the point made by Foucault "a real subjection is born mechanically from a fictitious relation" (Foucault, 1977:202). For Weedon "how we see bodies is an effect of the discursive field " which leads Nichols argument "each discourse constantly produces and reproduces a reality'" ( Weedon, 2004: 17 & Nichols, 1991: 210 ). As with criticism, film can represent youths in complicated images visually. For example Dangerous Minds carry the logic of stereotyping in what Presdee argued,
"one of the enduring myths of political and social life is the one that sees young people as being the central cause of forms of crime and disorder that strike at the very heart of the stability and prosperity of contemporary social life" (Presdee, 2000:107).

In the ways their heroes deal with Dangerous Minds there is remarkable absence, indeed a conscious reversal of, the young deference or childlike dependency. According to that, we can see at once the appeal of these films and scripts, especially, though not exclusively, to youth audiences.
In this way, there is a sort of circular influence from film to script that often takes place in the ways that youth stories are told. Scripts like Beverly Hills 90210, and Family Matters brought to television producers in USA to rewriting, because of containing high complex youth violence. Gunter argued "the role played by the mass media in the lives of young people is a recurrent topic of social debate" (Gunter, 1994: xiv). In fact, one of the most obvious examples of this reciprocal influence is the criticism that occurs in all this circular influence. Foucault suggests that "a critique is not a matter of saying that things are not right as they are" and "practicing criticism is a matter of making facile gestures difficult" (Foucault, 1981:154). For Springhall "in an age of media studies the young know cultural quality when they encounter it" (Springhall, 1998:156).
Television drew attention on unenthusiastic stereotypes and morality issues of that matter. TV documentaries like Unteachable (2005) leave no room for the possibility of redemption. The camera hovers over teeming masses of faceless, hooded teens, indistinguishable as they lumber menacingly towards us. The word discipline occupies the field of education and anyone who watched these TV documentaries will probably admit that the plague as a form, at once real and imaginary, of disorder had as its medical and political correlative discipline' (Foucault, 1977:198). According to Foucault:
"behind the disciplinary mechanisms can be read the haunting memory of contagions', of the plague, of rebellions, crimes, vagabondage, desertions, people who appear and disappear, live and die in disorder" (Foucault, 1977:198).

The documentaries and television series like In Search of Law and Order: Young Armed and Dangerous (1999), First Sight: Fine Young Criminals (1997) and Crime Kids: Double Trouble (2002) have increased the vocabulary of dangerous youth with words such as Spider Boy', Blip Boy', The Boomerang Boy', Rat Boy', Balaclava Boy' and British most Delinquent Boy'. Further they presented that "many of [young] prisoners have been proud being in prison" (Wrout 1997). Valier suggests, "these displays were infrequent because the crowd sometimes took the side of the criminal" (Valier, 2002: 183). It can be seen in that argument:
"their [the young] culture, rather than being a search for the authentic' as in modern culture, is an endless search for the inauthentic; that is, a culture that is empty of the authority and the imperatives that come with authenticity" (Presdee, 2000:114).

In the same way, photography has become another interesting side of representing the young people. Like other parts of media, "these mass-produced photographs form part of a society's resources for representing a confusing and contradictory social world as a natural and sensible one" (Dewdney, 1998:10). Photography with its power of representation has created new life dimensions with young people in what Barthes called "photography has a power to convert which must be analysed" which leads to Hall's argument "the meaning of the photograph, then, does not lie exclusively in the image, but in the conjunction of image and text" (Barthes, 1993:91 & Hall, 1997:228). The photography of schoolgirl Shanni Naylor, 12, after she was attacked with the blade of a pencil sharpener by her classmate made the front cover of national newspapers because of the horror that took place. The picture shows the girl with the cuts needing thirty stitches', one of the cuts narrowly missing her eye (Taylor, 2005: 9). This picture really brings to attention what is meant by dangerous youth. According to Presdee, "the whole world of youth subcultures has turned the rhythm of life upside-down" (Presdee, 2000:118). Graef's argument "the beginning of empathy is the beginning of understanding and the beginning of understanding is the change" is key point to this representation (Graef, 1999).
Games, like other media, are most powerful when they reinforce the young people beliefs, least effective when they challenge their values. They can be influential teaching tools. However most games do little to encourage youth to reflect and converse about the bad behaviour or the nature of violence. In the games like Mortal Combat all, the young characters are violent. In Super Mario Brothers 3 a game where Jimmy beats an older arch rival or Jach Palance's evil black-gloved gunfighter in Shane whom little Alan Ladd defeats under a young boy's admiring gaze. "Characters such as Sonic the Hedgehog and the Mario Brothers were considered universally appropriate", but warriors in the Mortal Combat game are now "restricted to the over 15s" (Myers, 1994:153). If anything the assumption these game represent is meaningless discourages rather than fosters such reflection. Kuider describes, "the Nintendo craze as a madness that-like most-strikes hardest at adolescent boys and their young brothers" (Kuider, 1991:102). According to that dangerous youth is represented in games as much as in any other media. This figure is used through these discourses to cash in.
Music plays its role on the producing of the figure of the dangerous youth. It becomes a strong relationship with this figure and "as there is niche marketing so there is niche music", as each club offers its own particular music to particular groups of people, creating their own anthems for doomed youth' (Presdee 2000:120). For Springhall "popular music has long been a favoured candidate for moral panic" (Springhall, 1998:149). Nonetheless, music can contribute to the atmosphere of violence "in the roll-call of rap stars, their names and song titles reflect not only their clashes with the low but also the violence" (Presdee 2000:131). Raps like Murder Dem' and Murder Weapon' or Piss on the brainless police machine' are the most affective in this point. Examples such as shooting of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls in rap warfare clearly understand of that Presdee pointed out "rap completes the criminalization of youth styles and creative culture" (Presdee 2000:132). According to that, music negatively affects the young people by repeatedly exposing them to themes such murder, suicide and sexual violence.
Another prime example of portraying the youth in our society is due to the influence of the journalism, in all of its forms. Youth are rarely portrayed in positive circumstances. Youth violence dominates television news coverage. The reason can be on what Gladdis's argues "action against the packs of feral youths causing mayhem on our streets has been reduced" (Gladdis, 2005:24). The overwhelming number of stories did not concern youth or violence. However, more news stories were devoted to violent crime than any other single topic and the figure of the dangerous youth is in centre of these stories. For O'Brien " 30 per cent of crime is committed by young people and they are more likely to be young victims of crime" (O'Brien, 2005:1). The journalism's representation of this figure leads the argument that "schools should be allowed to punish disruptive pupils'" (Halpin, 2005: 2). Through this portrayal the news creates "the constant division between the normal and abnormal", to which every individual is subjected (Foucault, 1977: 199). According to Foucault "all the mechanisms of power" are composed of these two forms (Foucault, 1977: 200). The dominance of this figure in the news coverage is a clear example of this point.
At last, the point here is that there is a circulation between the representations of the dangerous youth from one media form, the film, into another, journalism, and back again. For Gunter "one of the key factors in defining the role of media in young people's lives is to establish what use they make of different media" (Gunter, 1994: xiv). Public debates about dangerous youth and its discourses in the mediascape is what Hall called "material for the construction of an imaginary world" which works over the social and gender contradictions of such events and "returns them to public discourse"(Hall, 1997:341). For Mackdonell "surveillance has been the coercive means with which to regulate the behaviour of pupils" (Mackdonell, 1986: 107). Storey argued "all narratives promise to tell the truth' about something" (Storey, 2001:101). Representing the truth' of youth in the mediascape is clearly connected to Foucault's argument "truth is linked in a circular relation with systems of power" (Foucault, 1980:133).
To sum up, the figure of the dangerous youth produced in the mediascape is on centre of criticism. I have clearly analysed critically this figure in relation to examples from film, scripts, TV, photography, games, music, and journalism. I have pointed out that the mediascape portrayed the figure of the dangerous youth by either opposing or emphasizing the reality that accompany it. Further, I have tried to examine this representation in detail especially the role of the mediascape discourses. It can be said that the mediascape plays a great part in the producing of this figure. In my view, the representation of the dangerous youth and the criticism of this portrayal in the mediascape and reactions towards them must be understood in relation to the reality of our society and its relationship with this category of people. The role of the mediascape in representing this figure should not be described simply as a way of representation, but as a complex and most discursive part of education and representing the reality of this category of people.

Reference:
Dewdney, Andrew & Lister, Martin (1988) Youth, Culture and Photography (1st Ed) London: Macmilian Education, p.10.
Foucault, Michel (1977) The Means of Correct Training', Discipline and Punish (1st Ed) London: Penguin, p. 202.
Foucault, Michel (1980) The Eye of Power' (A conversation with Jean-Pierre Boron and Michelle Perrot) in Colin Gordon's ED Michel Foucault Power/Knowledge (1st Ed) London & New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, p. 162.
Gladdis, Keith (16th October 2005) ASBO Lotto Yob Crackdown is Farse as Cops Spurn New Laws News of the World, p.24.
Graef, Rager (1999) Interview in the documentary: In search of Law and Order: Young Armed and Dangerous Channel Four [Videocassette].
Gunter, Barrie (1994) Foreword in Ann Hagell & Tim Newburn's ED Young Offenders and the Media Viewing Habits and Preferences London: Policy Studies Institute, p. xiv.
Halpin, Tony (21 October 2005) Schools should be allowed to punish disruptive pupils' The Times, p.2.
Hall, Stuart (1997) Representation Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices (1st Ed) London: SAGE, p. 228.
Kuider, Marsha (1991) Playing with Power in Movies, Television, and Video Games (1st Ed) London & Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, p. 102.
Mackdonell, Diane (1986) Theories of Discourse An Introduction (1stEd) Oxford: Basil Blackwell, p. 107.
Myers, Paul (1994) Computer Games Come of Age with Monitor Man; Guardian, 10 February, 1994, p.3 quoted in John Springhall's ED Youth Popular Culture and Moral Panics Penny Gaffs to Gangsta-Rap (1st Ed) London: Macmillan Press, p.153.
Nichols, Bill (1991) Representing Reality Issues and Concepts in Documentary (1st Ed) Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, p.210.
O'Brian, Simon (14th October 2005) quoted in A Police Officer in Every School' article by Dominic Hayes in Lite Standard, p.1.
Owen, Jenny (2005) Lecture 12: The Significant Other Revisited (16/12/05).
Presdee, Mike (2000) Cultural Criminology and the Carnival of Crime (1stEd) London: Routledge, pp. 107-132.
Scraton, Phil (1997) Childhood' in Crisis' 1st Ed London: UCL Press, p.29.
Springhall, John (1998) Youth Popular Culture and Moral Panics Penny Gaffs to Gangsta-Rap (1st Ed) London: Macmillan Press, p.156.
Storey, John (2001) Cultural Theory and Popular Culture An introduction (3rd Ed)
London & New York: Pearson Education, p. 101.
Taylor, Alastair (22nd October 2005) Shanni's classroom slash horror The Sun, p. 9.
Valier, Claire (2002) Foucault, Penalty and Social Regulation' in Crime and Punishment (1st Ed) London: Longman, p. 183.
Weedon, Chris (2004) Identity and Culture: Narratives of Difference and Belonging (1st Ed) London: Open University Press, p. 17.
Wrout, Penny (1997) Interview in the documentary: First Sight: Fine Young Criminals BBC 2 [Videocassette].

Filmography:
BBC 2 (1997) First Sight: Fine Young Criminals London: BBC 2 [Videocassette]
BBC 2 (2002) Crime Kids: Double Trouble London: BBC 2 [Videocassette]
Beverly Hills, 90210 (Darren Star, 1990-2000, USA).
Channel Four Television (1999) In Search of Law and Order: Young Armed and Dangerous London: Channel 4 [Videocassette].
Channel Four Television (2005) Unteachable London: Channel Four Television [Videocassette].
Dangerous Minds (John N. Smith, 1995, USA).
Family Matters (William Bickley & Michael Warren, 1989-1998, USA).
High School High (Allan Kurkush, 1979, USA).
The Substitute (Robert Mandel, 1996, USA).
187 (Kevin Reynolds, 1997, USA).

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