October 7, 2008

The Age of Desensitization

Chapter 20 Part 1.

The images that we are exposed to today from the various forms of media are changing the characteristics of the human spirit that make us, well, human. The TV is such a wonderful invention. It acts as an informant, educator, sedative, a baby-sitter... Pop culture icons and demons like Marilyn Manson and Lindsay Lohan both give us a way to escape our own reality by thinking "god, what must it be like to be them", as well as set roll models for our youth, keeping in mind that our youth is a lot older today than the youth of 2 or 3 generations ago. These heroes just do great things for our kids, don't they? Aside from TV, there is the internet. *sigh*...the internet...where do I even begin? Then there's music --- well today's most popular music is not quite Mozart now, is it? As for zines? Well Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Edition no longer provides swimsuits for their models, but rather, just applies paint. (I wish I was a painter).

There's an endless bombardment of bad news stories reported daily. Domestic violence, gang shootings, incidents on reserves, violence against defenceless animals, arsons, break-ins, whyte avenue stabbings, downtown muggings by groups of 16 year old girls...and this is just the stuff that we get to see between 6:00 and 6:10. From there, we hear stories of another dead soldier, 160 lives ended in another Pakistan earthquake, and then the genocides in Sudan. This stuff though, we don't usually pay as much attention to cuz it is NIMBY afterall. And really, who wants to hear about how many child soldiers were killed on any given day, or how many people died from AIDS? The Edmonton Sun is really not much different now than what I have heard what it was like 20 years agowith respect to some of its headlines and photos. There's nothing much else like looking at pictures of bloody car accident tragedies while we munch on our corn flakes.

Outside of the news but still on TV, we can thank Family Guy to finally take us to where The Simpson's brought us to 20-some years ago. Paris Hilton's BFF, the UFC Championships, Showcase, CSI (or any crime show) are just other examples of the ideas that we get entrenched into our minds as promoting acceptable behaviour when we watch them time and time again.

Movies like Saw, A Clockwork Orange, or Silence of the Lambs depend on the thrill that we get by watching other people being terrorized and brutalized. Needles, chainsaws, bodily penetration with various devices, ingesting human flesh, abduction of pretty girls...Movies just doesn't seem to have any limits/boundaries. SEX in the movies is nothing really new. Harold & Kumar showed us the art of "bottomless parties" whereas Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz were the first to give us our first glimpse of an alternative to "hair gel" on the silver screen. It was Knocked Up with Izzy from Grey's which incorporated both full male frontal nudity and a group of (typical) pothead delinquents who come up with the idea of documenting nude scenes of movie stars. Unfortunately for them, this had actually been done by Mr. Skin (in real life) already. Forgetting Sarah Marshall has some pretty provocative scenes that simply would have never been able to be shown to even 15 years ago. Stanley Kubrick, Nicole Kidman and our dear Mr. Tom Cruise filmed a movie about orgies. wtf.

Magazines are wonderful. How would I ever survive without having my girlfriend reading about those 10 New Ways to Pleasure Your Man?? Maxim is the magazine that you can be guaranteed that at least 1 of the group of students you are flying with somewhere together will be picking up. These magazines give us incredible imagery of the ideal way all people should look, how they should act. Even if the pictures are all faked (or digitally enhanced as they say). Magazine's made Hugh Hefner a millionaire because thanks to the amount of freedom one has in America to pay money for any kind of service, even if it means degrading oneself. If I was a teenager back in the 50s I would be pretty thrilled to see a naked woman any time I wanted to on a piece of glossy paper. But then someone got tired of seeing the same old tits & *ahem* legs time and time again so they came up with something a little more crude. (Try reading about Larry Flynt on wikipedia and try not to puke). There was something for everyone, yet the more a person grew accustomed to a certain thing, the more wild the stuff they would want to see next time. Other forms of literature like Harlequin Romance novels got people to thinking that even text could be brought to life with possibilities beyond even MY wildest imagination. Next thing you know it? Penthouse Letters. Things got crazier and crazier and now it's reached a point where men & women alike are soo addicted to pornography and living their lives vicariously through other people that it affects their families and their jobs. Which leads me to...

The internet.

15 years ago, the internet introduced us to a whold new world. We were connected. To our friends, our family, and to strangers. We know have facebook, myspace, youtube, and blogspot (where I try to corrupt your soul!) to pass our days by and to give us the information about anything we might want information about. Yet it isn't hard to be on the internet and get lost to something that can be incredibly desensitizing to the human spirit. Thank you Britney Spears. But seriously. Again, the images of the atrocities of war are at our fingertips. Sicker stuff that we would been totally unheardof in any other war in history, including beheadings as well as honest-to-life tortures in that little American naval base in Cuba. Personally, I would love to live life without the internet. My name is Ryan and I am an internet addict. It has corrupted, desensitized me to a degree I am certain, yet I am hopeful that I still know the difference between right and wrong. People just need guidance to learn the discretion and morality required to make appropriate, non-destructive use of their time reading/looking at/browsing the net. Brad Paisley wrote a fun song about how much fun it is to be online. Thanks, Brad, but let's try not to cross the line.

My argument for music desensitizing people will be weak. Whether it be Justin Timberlake's Future Sex Love Show posters plastered all over New York City subways and billboards, or the destructiveness in the lyrics on Cradle of Filth's hoodies "Your mother should have swallowed" or "Dead Girls Don't Say No", it's just all bad. I endorse the positive attitude of punk rock songs with respect to bringing down corrupt (all) governments and having strength through unity. And as if you know me you know, the rare country music love song is okay too. Thanks to digitalization of music around the world, kids spend countless hours behind the computer. It is non uncommon to see some of the largest Killswitch Engage fans at the show at the EEC standing no more than 4 feet tall. These kids just need to understand that this music can become just another vice that could be just as destructive to the human spirit as the many other sources of desensitization I mentioned.

With all of this media at our hands, and so much of it bad, it is not hard to understand how a young person could get into bad habits. But rather than talking about sex or violence, I want to talk about profanity. My friend Jen wrote a note called "I Fucking Hate Cats". In it she describes how swearing makes people sound like morons. I don't know if I hear more swearing being around civil engineers or at my part-time job working in the lumber yard. Either way, it's relentless. Fucking bullshit cocksucking mother fucker. Who says that?!?! And more importantly, what can we attribute it to? I have soo much confidence in my friend Jen to give us hope in a less belligerent more thoughtful next generation in the way she handles things. So I cannot put this all back on parents, because it is possibly the case that she too didn't have much of that kind of language in her own household growing up. I live across the street from 2 schools. If I am around home around lunchtime during the week, I can't help but hear 8 and 9 year olds SCREAMING the F word. Followed by the SH and a few B's. I have a pretty good memory and can say with a fair degree of confidence that life wasn't like that when I was that age. With that kind of language comes kids trying to act all grown up and having sex at younger ages too. So thank you Lindsay Lohan for sucking that guy off in your latest movie, and thank you Paris Hilton for letting that guy do his thing on your things. Thank you Michael Richards and Mel Gibson for your tolerance of minority groups and not being able to hold it together for your fans. Thank you George W. Bush for creating a war so that impoverished Americans can go and shoot a gun once or twice before they are killed, so they can be a little bit like their favorite war movie hero. Thank you Family Guy for letting us see the humour in cartoon babies getting sliced open with butcher knives while their fathers turn into pimps for a weekend, and thank you Mary for putting that goop in your hair to make it stand up like that.

Part 2 is going to be about something a little more interesting, I swear.

No comments:

Post a Comment