Adolescence and the Portrayal of Teens in Film and Television
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The media has a major effect on the way people think, and this is especially evident in adolescents. As one of the most prominent forms of media, films have the power to shape the lives and minds of adolescents all over the world. As such, seemingly hundreds of movies are released each year that target the teenage and adolescent audience. Many of these films—and others not directly targeted towards teens—depict life as an adolescent. But, do these films accurately depict adolescence? What kinds of effects do these portrayals have on adolescents?
Common Film Stereotypes
In attempt to appeal to the teenage audience, films tend to present situations in adolescence to which the teens may relate. Some situations and scenarios film-teenagers stereotypical deal with include high school, parties, relationships, social groups and cliques, and parental conflict. The most prevalent themes of teenage life in films seem to be sex and the losing of one’s virginity, consumption of alcohol and illegal substances, and rebelling in every way imaginable. In the eyes of Hollywood, these are the cornerstone of adolescence, with the latter three being teens’ primary focus. While these situations do makeup a large amount of a teen’s life, films exaggerate the role some of these things play in a teen’s life. This not only gives adolescents a bad reputation, but also provides teens with a false perception of what their lives should resemble.
Effects on Psychosocial and Emotional Development
Most films attempt to appeal to the emotions of its viewers. Because of the developing emotions of adolescents due to the onset of puberty, movies can have a huge effect. In a study of retention rate of film details between different age groups, Hadley Cantril (1934) found that “both children and adults remember best material that has a high emotional appeal, that is easily understood, and that is concerned with the movie’s plot.” The material that adolescents will emotionally relate to differs not only from adults and children, but also from teen to teen.
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Sean Faulkner | Therapist Intern | USF Community Counseling Center