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Sickening Superficiality Exploiting Suggestible Minds

Posted on 14th November 2009. 17 Comments

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Tom Walker  implores you to run from The Hills…

“Probably most highly regarded amongst an audience of untamed hormonal adolescents..”

the-hills-tv-show‘In order to create an apple pie from scratch,” Carl Sagan memorably remarks in his breathtaking Cosmos series, “one must first create a universe.” If time since the big bang was compressed into a year, I learned from the same programme, Homo sapiens wasn’t even conceived of until 23:54 on 31st December. On and on, a young me sat amazed, learning the incomprehensibility of a googolplex, what atoms consist of and the implausibly low probability of our existence in this universe. 

Fast forward a few years. Amongst the most widely viewed shows amongst young impressionable minds are, with enormous popularity, Desperate Housewives, Skins, The Hills, The OC, Gossip Girl and many other trashy Western shows that I thankfully don’t know the names of. Probably most highly regarded amongst an audience of untamed hormonal adolescents, vacuous aspirations are positively encouraged, promoting under-age sex and an absurdly superficial basis upon which to live. Perhaps I am being pernickety: it is only entertainment, after all, just like football. I fear, however, that these shows go deeper, by glamorously promoting superficiality and a sleazy way of life, whilst laying down false principles for the long-term benefits of susceptible and mouldable imaginations. They portray a phony, and quite frankly pathetic, lifestyle and their unintelligent and make-up-deep attitude is held as a pinnacle, which I worry causes others to uncomfortably try to conform to these values. For there seems to be a mistranslation of cultures. Most people in this country have no experience of living in sun-drenched California, where money appears to be endless, beautiful people of the opposite sex strut around gagging for one another and the only topic of conversation is… the opposite sex. No, here in Britain the weather is drizzly most of the time, we live in melancholy concrete industrial cities, become anxious with too much work and cannot go outside after school for fear of being raped, stabbed or mugged. 

“It cannot be positive for young teenage girls in any form.”

Arguably the worst of them all is The Hills, where it films “real life” dramawhitney_lc and hence breaks down any concept of actor/ character differences. There is no storyline created for effect and it is accepted that what is shown on camera is real life, so for the viewer there is no mistaking it: these people really are as shallow as they are shown to be. Why is this encouraged? It cannot be positive for young teenage girls in any form. 

Watching these sorts of shows, we may feel an unspoken pressure to try to live like they do in The Hills, as if that should be the norm. Consequently, we create a persona of ourselves that makes out as if we go to endless parties, get in uncomfortable relationships at the age of thirteen and, importantly, make sure it can all be seen on Facebook. For I fear the most important thing for many teenagers is giving the illusion of living a life comparable to those promoted in these sorts of programmes. I am totally convinced that people would be far more fascinated by the wonders of the universe than watching Ryan get with Marissa, and the only thing holding this back is the perception by many that it is socially incorrect to be intellectually curious. Why? Because these are the attitudes promoted in the tacky American dramas I mentioned briefly earlier. These shows encourage the concept of building upon inane and shallow relationships whilst simultaneously discouraging the appreciation of science, questioning the world and learning true human values. 

“ It is no surprise that more would rather be glamour models than top scientists.”

EinsteinandAbbaEbanThe adolescent period is a difficult one for so many young people. This is the period we find our true selves, whilst concurrently desperate for affection and genuine friendship. This leads to confusion, speaking certainly from first hand experience, and these shows exploit this uncertainty, portraying these miserable characters’ lives as something we should all aspire too. It is no surprise that more would rather be glamour models than top scientists. Programmes such as these are most at risk of affecting teenage girls, amongst whom visual appearance is more significant than in males. As a result of a quest for happiness, people conform to these dogmas of purportedly happy, glamorous women and so become people not wholly representative of their real character. I am convinced this leads to isolation and a lack of self identity. How could it not?

Magazines spewing the same sort of nonsense, such as OK!, fill quite a similar niche in the market. It is a damning verdict of society that so many people care about Jennifer Aniston’s relationships, or who Peter Andre is dating now. The business is, of course, supply and demand, and that is the most upsetting thing.

Tom Walker


  • Chris Wright said:

    See ‘Jennifer’s Body’ – it’s brilliant!

  • Tim said:

    good, well written article.

  • David said:

    When people are being entertained their conscious filters are down and ideas can be implanted very easily in people’s minds. People can be taught certain values easily through entertainment.
    TV itself actually puts the viewer into a trance like state, therefore TV can act like a skilled hypnotist implanting thoughts and ideas about reality into people’s heads

    Programs like the hills are just part of the assault on young peoples minds through entertainment, and most of it is aimed at girls. Think about a program like Sex and the City, where girls are programmed to believe that sleeping around is a way to achieve personal liberation and empowerment. And remember the Spice Girls? What age group were they aimed at? 12 years olds? They were dressed as prostitutes gyrating in front of the camera and young girls who don’t even know what sex is at that age are copying the moves.
    People should really question why this is being promoted to young people. It’s vitally important because the social fabric in our society has been destroyed. Families are broken, people are alienated and very dumbed down living media saturated lives. As the population are not communicating and interacting properly they cannot create their own culture and the mainstream media like MTV then steps in to provide the public with their culture. The people then accept this artificial culture as ‘real’ mass culture and copy it. The young are especially susceptible to being programmed.

    While high on pop culture, they are being moulded.

    Here is a good article about culture creation and MTV http://informationliberation.com/?id=26995

    So are young people making their own culture? No.

    ‘is MTV truly reflecting the desires of today’s teenagers, or are they stoking a cultural infatuation with music and imagery that glorifies violence and sex as well as antisocial behavior and attitudes?

    In today’s media-saturated environment, such questions, it seems, are becoming increasingly difficult to answer.

    “It’s one enclosed feedback loop,” Rushkoff says. “Kids’ culture and media culture are now one and the same, and it becomes impossible to tell which came first–the anger or the marketing of the anger.”

    Therein lies the danger of today’s teen-driven economy, observers say: As everyone from record promoters to TV executives to movie producers besieges today’s teens with pseudo-authentic marketing pitches, teenagers increasingly look to the media to provide them with a ready-made identity predicated on today’s version of what’s cool. Rather than empowering youngsters, the incessant focus on their wants and desires leaves them adrift in a sea of conflicting marketing messages.

    “Kids feel frustrated and lonely today because they are encouraged to feel that way,” Miller tells FRONTLINE. “You know, advertising has always sold anxiety and it certainly sells anxiety to the young. It’s always telling them that they are not thin enough, they’re not pretty enough, they don’t have the right friends, or they have no friends…they’re losers unless they’re cool. But I don’t think anybody, deep down, really feels cool enough, ever.”‘

    What is MTV’s function? Obviously it is stupefying and dumbing down it’s naive viewers. Take it’s two main stereotypical characters it uses…

    ‘”mook” and the “midriff” — the stock characters that MTV and others have resorted to in order to hook the teen consumer.

    The “midriff”–the character pitched at teenage girls, is the highly-sexualized, world-weary sophisticate that increasingly populates television shows such as Dawson’s Creek and films such as Cruel Intentions. Even more appealing to marketers is the “midriff’s” male counterpart, the “mook.” Characterized mainly by his infantile, boorish behavior, the “mook” is a perpetual adolescent: crude, misogynistic–and very, very, angry.’

    And when this stuff is forced on the population through the mainstream media day after day it becomes the dominant culture and creates the paradigm in society for what are ‘normal’ human behaviour and desires.

  • George said:

    For heaven’s sake…

  • Chris Wright said:

    This comments board evidently doesn’t have an advanced enough spam filter.

  • David said:

    Al Jazeera English – One on One
    05 April 08 “MTV’s pioneering spirit” (can watch online)

    These are quotes form an interview with MTV pioneer and current chairman and chief executive Bill Roedy. He is now in charge of running MTV in 162 countries. He is former military and if you know anything about the military you’ll know that it has huge departments to do with psychological and cultural warfare. Most warfare is cultural warfare, bloodless revolutions. You can actually read government documents online talking about this. Here is an example, this link should work, read it http://www.carlisle.army.mil/usawc/Parameters/98spring/thomas.htm (obviously you wont!)

    Anyway, here is Bill.

    Riz Khan: “Bill, I wanted to ask you about your transition from the Army into MTV. We’ve talked a little bit about your life in the Army and your work in MTV. What I wonder is what made you gravitate towards MTV, which was a very young channel at the time. It was disruptive technology. It was very unusual. What made you think you had a career there?”

    Bill Roedy: “Well, I always loved television and, I don’t know, the power of television, the power to reach mass, groups of people and, if you do it right, to connect. Obviously television does a lot of wrong things, so, I don’t know, it was just an opportunity to, make it then, if you will, change, maybe in a small way, the world”.

    Bill Roedy: “I realized that there was much more power and influence with television that there were with weapons”

    Bill Roedy: “Small things on a large group of people… small behavioral change on a large group of people equals a big thing. So if everybody turns [can't understand what he says] small number in a big audience is equal to a big thing. So we can have an influence here.”

    So he is admitting that he joined MTV to change the culture of society. Straight form the army to MTV to change culture. For benevolent reasons of course. Maybe the dumbing down of society is intentional?

  • James said:

    David, probably just chill out.

  • Uncle Party said:

    What an exciting article!

    A baby that can read our minds! THROUGH the medium of advertising! This is the second most exciting thing that has happened to me all week (I won’t go into the first because it would just be bragging – although you could try reading my mind!!!!!).

    I think the chemist (Jonny Arnold – I’m assuming he’s a chemist) has misinterpreted the article: babies are not being forced to eat chocolate (through ‘bizarre colour schemes’). No! Babies are more susceptible to mind-control and so are being protected with special helmets (pictured above, perhaps below depending on how this is formatted). Surely this is obvious? I would not describe it as ‘brain-science’, but as brain-fun – because it’s fun (isn’t it?)!

    As for your second comment, I didn’t understand it (at all).

    I dread to think what you would see if you read MY mind! Dragons, most probably.

    Uncle Party

    P.S. If anyone would like to attend my 2012 Olympics Party, please post your address details and then I will post you an invitation through the post.

  • Uncle Party said:


    My mother tells me I have posted the above (or below) post on the wrong article! It was actually intended for this one:


    What’s this article about? I haven’t read it.

    Uncle Party

    P.S. I am trying to create some “BUZZ” about my party. Would anyone like to come?

  • Sam said:

    Uncle Party- if you want people to come to your party, probably start calling yourself Uncle Knees Up or Uncle Boum (french for party) to add a bit of excitement and intrigue.

    Can D21 edit people’s (specifically David’s)comments or is that censorship gone mad? Probably censorship gone mad. The sort of madness I’d like to see! More articles like this though- well written, on a popular topic and interesting, hooray!

  • Ben said:

    Does anyone else think the picture of Einstein is the greatest photo ever taken in the entire world? Good.

  • Stevie (Ed) said:

    Yes, the Einstein picture is possibly the best image I have ever seen in my life. Or at least, this week.

  • Uncle Party said:


    So glad you can make it to the party. Is Uncle Knees Up coming as well? Uncle Boum is welcome but there will be no wine.

    Just to get you up to speed on preparation. So far I have purchased:

    - Jelly (lots)
    - A bag of whistles
    - Hundreds and thousands (although I believe there to be millions, not finished counting yet)
    - Chairs
    - Doritos (Apparently my pronunciation, “dorritoss” was incorrect)
    - 6 novelty key rings (for the lucky winners)
    - 2 overhead projectors

    Do you know anyone who would be willing to referree (the party)?

    Uncle Party

    p.s. Stevie/Edward – Do please choose. I’m concerned this might confuse the other readers.

  • Geoff (sub-ed) said:

    Uncle Party,

    You seem to have commented on quite a few articles, I was wondering whether you’d be interested in contributing an article. You have a really good writing style.

  • Vajayjay McGee said:

    Dearest Uncle Party,

    Please post me an invitation to the Party.


    Vajayjay M.

  • Uncle Party said:

    It’s a party!

    Hello Geoff (sub-ed)* and Vajayjay McGee! You can sit with the other guests of honour (none so far, unfortuately) at my party. If you post your address on this forum I will send you your invitation – first class as well (I know!).

    I would jolly well love to write an article! I have a little experience of writing (invitations, mainly) so this would be a chance to ‘break into’ journalism.
    What kind of article were you thinking? I once submitted a short piece about parties in a school competition – it was deemed ‘so confusing as to be almost unreadable’ which I was quite pleased with – ‘almost’.

    Anyway, you will receive my details upon receipt of receiving your invitation! Do get in touch.

    Yours journalistically,
    Uncle Party

    *sunbed? I don’t understand this even slightly!

  • Johnny said:

    I think Uncle Party should interview the editor of durham21 and ask him why he’s not being more accommodating towards this party theme.