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Geeks Goths Gangstas- ch1.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Marcel Danesi

CH1: Adolescents, teens, and youth culture Intro  Struggles with the ―coming-of-age‖ pubescent period o Columbine incident, 1999  13 high school students killed by 2 boys who then killed themselves  both were deeply troubled young men who saw the other teenagers at school as ‗losers‘ with inferior minds o showed the world how the emotionality that characterizes adolescence can sometimes go awry and bring about overwhelming tragedy and heartbreak o the peer group provides a sort of ―sheltering system‖ and without it, some young ppl will strike out pathologically on their own  attempting to destroy that peer system as a hypocritical and ultimately deleterious one  Adolescents o Danesi believes always existed, but that they were marginalized, repressed, or at least ignored in the past o Expected to assume adult responsibilities straight away o For these reasons, young ppl were rarely given a chance to express their particular kind of world views  Columbine incidents are mostly just aberrations (not the norm) o In fact, adolescent period has always been one of searching for self-knowledge and enlightenment o Not one of criminality!  Examples of this matter-of-fact period of life: o The biblical story of the Prodigal Son  Tells of a father‘s great joy at the return of his wayward son, who had left to ‗find himself‘ and had plunged into satisfying desires and urges, only to come to his own personal understanding of who he was o The Buddha  Tells the story of Siddhartha  Left home in search of enlightenment  Upon finding it, changed the society of his era by introducing a new philosophy and religion in the world  Known as Buddhism  Danesi suggests that the search for meaning of life that such stories encode is what drives adolescence to this day o The experiences of young ppl remain the same at an unconscious level o What changes are the expressive details that encode these experiences Adolescents  3 chronological periods of life set by nature: childhood, maturity, old age o dividing line between childhood and maturity = puberty o any other segmentation of life has a cultural etiology o maturation period has come to be conceptualized by categories such as adolescence and teenagehood  the terms puberty and adolescence were coined in medieval period o puberty = the period during which an individual became physically capable of producing children o adolescence = the age at which pubescent boys left his family to earn a living in a trade, by choice or economic necessity  term literally means ―he who grows up (on his own)‖  teenager coined more recently –late 1930s in America o coinage signaled the fact that adolescents were starting to set themselves apart noticeably from adults  e.g. through dress, behaviour, lifestyles  teeny-bopper and tween o indicative of prepubescent children who manifest lifestyle behaviours imitative of teenage ones  traditionalists, boomers, Gen X-ers, millennials –now also used to peg individuals as belonging to culturally meaningful age-based categories o traditionalists = aka ―the silent generation‖ among the oldest members of the modern world (born b/w 1925-1946) o baby boomers = ―sandwich generation‖ because they tend to take care of their children and their aging parents, the ones born between 1946-1964  they were the original teenagers  world views shaped by rock and roll, Elvis Presley, JFK assassination, Beatles, FM radio, Vietnam war, and the sexual and race revolutions  Gen X = children of the boomers  The ‗slacker‘ or ‗Me‘ generation  Born between 1964-1980s  Influences on their lives: fall of Soviet Union, MTV, punk, disco, grunge, video, birth of internet, google, dot-com industries  Millennials = aka Gen Y, born in 1980 to mid-to-late- 90s  Digital generation often crops up to describe those born after this, though not really named in any way (haven‘t reached adolescence yet at the writing of this book)  Primary influences for them + millennials include the internet, cellphones, facebook, youtube, ipods, instant messaging devices  Most eclectic taste in music of any of previous generations  Ranging from early rock to rap, alternative, even ballroom dance music  Particularly fond of musical styles that emphasize melody and harmony  To be discussed in last chapter, millennials are vastly different from any other previous generation in this way (that‘s us!)  Note how the terms generation and later, generation gap originated o Quote attributed by Ernest Hemmingway to Gertrude Stein  On the title of his novel The Sun Also Rises, he writes that Stein had called her own circle of writers in post- WWI America a ―lost generation‖  The term came at a time when adolescents were starting to unite into a distinct social category and viewed by adults as a lost generation th  The word cool, used by generations of teens, emerged in the 15 century as a term of approval, suggesting calm and refrain o Its modern revival comes from youth culture‘s first musically based lifestyle—jazz  In the ‗20s and ‗30s, jazz was hot, fast, passionate  By late 40s, a softer more romantic jazz was catching on, inspired by Charlie Parker‘s 1947 Cool Blues  Title appealed instantly, the word cool spread among teens in the 1950s to indicate an attractive person  Cool recycled again in the ‗60s and ‗70s by the hippies to indicate a new philosophical stoicism and behavioural nonchalance with respect to mainstream culture  Geek = fantasy gamers, trekkies, neo-pagans, other self- proclaimed ‗geeks‘ o Defined as a person with an odd personality  Pop icon= first used to describe Madonna o Has a religious origin o Previous celebrities came to be called icons, e.g. Marilyn Monroe, elvis, etc.  Nerd = never originally has any connection to computer users, but started out as an insult by teens hurled at other unfashionable teens o May be a euphemism of turd Nature Versus Culture  Passage rites: when societies ritualistically celebrate the 3 main biological stages of life with symbolic rites o Designed to acknowledge in a socially formal way the symbolic and spiritual importance of these life stages o ―coming-of-age‖ rites, inform the child in a public way that he or she must start assuming the responsibilities of adulthood  in contemporary cultures, no such rites virtually exist  consequences of not having passage rites anymore o young ppl left to cope with the passage on their own o left in an ambiguous state of mind o defined by society as neither child nor adult—a soul left to ‗ravage‘ in social limbo  plasticity-theory: put forward by the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky o The idea that the brain adapts to environment, shaped by this adaptive process o Vygotsky argued that the brain was endowed at birth with a unique kind of ‗plasticity‘ that rendred it highly sensitive and adaptive to stimuli, esp during childhood o Argues against neuroscientists claiming that the adolescent brain is structurally different than that of other brains and that this is the source of what makes them different o Vygotsky suggested the brain was not a ‗hard-wired‘ organ, but a highly adaptable and plastic one o Thus, teen‘s brain is really nothing more than the result of the brain‘s adaptive response to environmental stimuli  American anthropologist Margaret Mead was among the first to point out the foolishness of seeing adolescence as a product of nature and not of nurture o Conducted a study to see why children of tribes on the Pacific Islands transitioned so much more smoothly into adulthood  She showed that Samoan children approaching puberty were weaned smoothly into the duties of adulthood through formal enactments of passage rites  The so-called ravages that we in the West expect to emerge at puberty do not exist there  Nature vs. nurture debate o Source: psychologist in 1904, Stanley G. Hall o Argued for the first time in human history, that adolescence was a ‗natural‘ stage in human development o Suggested that the emotional turmoil that pubescent children experience was a the result of a natural maturation process o Adolescence was a stage of growth; a traumatic transition bc it required adaptation and adjustment to new conditions  Being stuck as being neither a child or adult, produced an ambiguity called Angst: a feeling of dread or anxiety arising from an awareness of hopelessness  Trauma theory is used to explain why many of the aesthetic products of youth culture, e.g. music, bear such a high degree of emotion and why themes such as suicide and death abound in these products  Sturm and Drang = German for ―storm and stress‖ o Sturm and drang culture = youth culture, in many ways o Youth movements of all eras were essentially, Sturm and Drang ones, with youths denouncing the rigidity of authoritarian structures and emphasizing the need to express themselves freely  A basic theme of the Sturm and Drang movement was alienation o In a sense, this is what the adolescent years are all about o This theme is particularly evident in the lyrics of a lot of youth-based music  Expressions such as ―I‘d rather die‖, ―my hatred grows extreme‖, ―my head is filled with disease‖, ―I really don‘t know who I am‖, ―this world of piss‖ interspersed through NIN songs  Sturm and Drang has become synonomous with trauma theory  To the romantics of the 19 thcentury, only the young or young-at- heart, were the real idealists and seekers of truth o Old ppl too settled in their ways o The figure of the wise elder started disappearing from the western mindset Repression and Identity Theory  2 other theoretical perspectives of adolescence that are widely accepted: repression and identity theory o the view that adolescence is a period of emotional Angst due to childhood repression (Sigmund Freud) o adolescence is a difficult period of adjustment because it involves the construction of identity, which may or may not be successful  Peer groups provides refuge against the potentially damaging opinions of outsiders (adults, other teens outside clique) o Membership in a peer group allows the adolescent the opportunity to ‗blend in‘ and ‗belong‘ to a structure that replaces the family in matters of great emotional importance (e.g. sex and romance)  According to Freud, all human emotional traumas, but esp those suffered at puberty, are the result of repressed wishes o Id, ego, superego o When the id produces strong desires in someone but the superego intervenes to evaluate such desires as being wrong, then traumas and feelings of insecurity, depression, anxiety, and the like emerge. o This ―cross-signaling‖ of unconscious reflexes creates Angst and discomfort in teens  Adolescents develop defense mechanisms to deal with struggles o Most common one is a new and stronger form of repression: forces painful experiences into the unconscious part of the mind o Result: rebellious behaviour  Couldn‘t rebell
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