I have always wondered why middle schoolers, or teenagers in the U.S. are always thought to be rebels and little devils. Many parents dread the day when their children enter teenage years. And my friends told me how lucky I am to have never gone to middle school in the U.S, because everyone in middle school is so miserable and they take their misery out on everyone else.
I understand that there are psychological reasons for teenager’s rebellion. But I also think that how teenagers are depicted in the movies play a significant role. Movies reflect the values, beliefs of a society. It is a mirror of its culture. But at the same time, we should not ignore their reinforcing effect on the values and phenomena of a society. It has priming effect. If one watch a violent movie, he/she will behave more aggressively afterwards. If we take a look at the majority of teenagers depicted in the American movies, we can’t fail to notice their anger, insecurity and hostile attitude towards the world around them. Such depictions could be an accurate reflection of reality, yet they also reinforce the behavior, and to some extent trigger it.
I remember watching TV recently with two 8 or 9 year old in the U.S.. First they were watching Hanna Montana. They were dancing on the couch to the music and copying her moves. And then they started watching a show and there was a part where the students were playing tricks on the teacher in a middle school classroom. They were the cool kids in the show. I immediately started wondering, if the kids are copying the singing show, they will copy the kids in the TV show as well. And how these teenagers are depicted will surely have an influence on their behavior, especially when they become teenagers. I remember copying the characters from kid’s TV programs when I was little. I would imitate how they are dressed, what they do, how they speak and even their misbehaviors, simply because I thought it would be cool to try it out. I grew up in China and many of the kid’s program those days were about good kids. So there weren’t too many misbehavior I could copied. Incidentally, I also notice that my friends in China were a lot less rebellious and angry in middle school and high school. I am sure cultural differences play a big role but I also wonder how much of this can be contributed to the programs we watched as a kid. In a society where TV constitutes an increasingly bigger part of our entertainment, TV is no longer only a mirror of our culture, but also a reinforcement of the values and phenomena in the society. Sometimes I wonder which is the chicken and which is the egg.