The Changes in Representation of Teenagers in the Media. Essay

Since the birth of the subculture ‘teenagers’, these stereotypically rude, rebellious and rowdy young adults have been included and represented in movies, plays and any other type of entertainment. In studying two separate films from two separate time frames, I have found that they depict teens in many different ways, although the root of their problems, values and attitudes are very much the same. This essay will explore and discuss these changes in representation, and will strive to discover the core reasons for this development.

The two movies I have studied; Freedom Writers (2007, directed by Richard LaGrevense) and To Sir with Love (1967, directed but James Clavell), will be my main examples in this report, while also using other materials as backup evidence. Paragraph one will address how teenagers are represented today, and how they were in the past. Paragraph two will explore the reasons behind the differences in portrayal, and paragraph three will decide on whether or not this is a realistic representation of teenagers in society.

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Throughout the years, the ways teenagers have been depicted have changed dramatically in some areas, while staying completely the same in others. An example of this is the values of the teenagers in the two movies I have viewed. In To Sir with Love, the teenagers were valued relationships and being disrespectful, whereas in Freedom Writers, the teens valued respect and acceptance, but on the flip side, both movies represent the teenagers as rebellious, loud, hostile to those not of their social group, or those they do not accept, who are in search of an identity.

These values and attitudes stem from broken homes and violence in both movies, as well as the want, and in some cases need, for respect. No matter what decade you look at, you will find that this is a common basis of problems in the bulk of teenagers. In both movies, and many others beside, you will find that a majority of the teens have a problem with authority, and seek to disobey all powerful figures at any possible time.

Also, in almost all teenage movies, you have an ‘antagonist’, or one person who tends to make more trouble than the others. Sometimes its fairly obvious, an example being To Sir With Love, where the antagonist is clearly Denham (one of the students), but other times it is not, an example being Freedom Writers, where there are certain students who make more trouble, but no defined antagonist. As you can see, over time values and attitudes may change, but the core root of where these problems have stemmed from does not.

The main reason as to why the representation of teenagers has changed over time is because tha values and acceptances of the audience have changed dramatically. The media has to release entertainment suitable and appealing for its audience, otherwise it would receive no money because nobody is watching it. This means that Hollywood, and other people who make movies, must shape the content of their films as the values and interests of its viewers changes, so that it keeps the audience entertained.

So the reason the values and attitudes of the teenagers in the films that I have viewed are so different, is because the values and attitudes of the people in the decades they were released in were so different. For example, in To Sir with Love, there were almost no swear words, except for the occasional ‘bleedin’, whereas in Freedom Writers, there is a whole range of swear words used. This is but one example of the many differences in the representation of teenagers in movies.

In my opinion, the way teenagers are depicted in the film world can be both realistic and unrealistic. Some examples of this in my two movies is the fact that To Sir With Love is a very sexist movie, which is a very real mirror image of London in the 60’s (where it was set). Also, in To Sir With Love, it is very unrealistic that none of the kids swear, because the children of 1960 London would have sworn all the time. This also shows how the media shapes itself for the wants of its audience, as swearing on film was frowned upon.

In conclusion, teenagers can be depicted in many different ways, as I have shown you in this essay, by use of examples, but the core root of their problems, as well as some values, attitudes and beliefs, tends to stay the same throughout the entire teenage history. In this report I have; addressed how teenagers are represented today and how they were in the past, explored the reasons behind the differences in portrayal and decided on whether or not this is a realistic representation of teenagers in society, also giving direct examples from the two movies I have done a study on; Freedom Writers and To Sir With Love.


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