Merchants of Cool
Does the restrictive structure of MTV, which limits exposure to a small percentage of artists who have significant corporate backing, mean that someone else is really making music choices for us?
Is this kind of narrow control of music inevitable? Contrast the experience of a group like Limp Bizkit, which had corporate backing, to the careers of artists who have remained independent, like Ani DiFranco. (You may make a more modern comparison; just make sure to do your research! ) • Is the “mook” (the stereotypically crude, adolescent male) real, or just a media construction? How about the “midriff” (the girl as sex symbol)? Do you know any “mooks” or “midriffs”?
Do you think you or your friends are influenced by the MTV standard of “cool”? If so, how? Are there ways to be “cool” without copying media? How do the “mook” and “midriff” stereotypes relate to the corporate interests of the media outlets that perpetuate them (in other words, why these particular stereotypes and not some other stereotype)? • Many media observers have claimed that programs like Beverly Hills 90210 or Dawson’s Creek are popular because they are reflective of teen life.
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In what ways are shows like 90210 and Dawson’s Creek reflective of how teenagers really live and in what ways are they distortions? Do these shows mirror the way you live? (Again, you may use more contemporary shows like Jersey Shore, Gossip Girl, True Blood, etc. ) • Because they do so much research, media makers think they know a lot about you. Consider whether you agree with the following assertion from “The Merchants of Cool”: “No teenager is going to be satisfied with a PG-13 rated horror film. They want to see blood and guts. That’s what they want to do. “