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The study of law and society rests on the belief that legal rules and decisions must be understood in context.

Does Social Networking Kill? Cyberbullying, Homophobia, and Suicide 4. Media Health Hazards?

Connecting Social Problems and Popular Culture: Why Media is Not the Answer

Westview Press was founded in in Boulder, Colorado, by notable publisher and intellectual Fred Praeger. Westview Press continues to publish scholarly titles and high- quality undergraduate- and graduate-level textbooks in core social science disciplines. With books developed, written, and edited with the needs of serious nonfiction readers, professors, and students in mind, Westview Press honors its long history of publishing books that matter.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. Every effort has been made to secure required permissions for all text, images, maps, and other art reprinted in this volume. Westview Press books are available at special discounts for bulk purchases in the United States by corporations, institutions, and other organizations.

Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN e-book 1. Mass media—Moral and ethical aspects—United States. Popular culture—Moral and ethical aspects—United States. Mass media and culture—United States. Social problems—United States.

M3S75 While discussions of sexism in various forms of media, for instance, are often lively and provocative, the representations themselves are not the core reason that gender inequality continues to exist. Media images bring it to our attention and may further normalize sexism for us, but our examination of our society should not end with media. In order to understand social problems, we need to look beyond media as a prime causal factor. Media may be a good entry point for thinking about how social problems have a basis beyond the sole individual.

But while that premise can open the discussion, this book aims to help students and other readers take the next step in understanding social problems. We must look deeper than popular culture—we need to look at the structural roots to understand issues such as bullying, violence, suicide, teen sex and pregnancy, divorce, substance use, materialism, and educational failure. Neither media nor popular culture stands still for very long—making the study of both a never-ending endeavor. In this second edition of Connecting Social Problems and Popular Culture, I include a new chapter on fears about social networking and electronic harassment.

Perhaps not surprisingly, social networking is less of a culprit than an attention getter. Additionally, each chapter has been updated to incorporate, where applicable, new research and trend data on crime, pregnancy, birth- and divorce rates, substance use, and other social issues for which popular culture is so often blamed. In handing down this major decision, the Supreme Court decided that California had not proven how actual harm came from playing video games. I address this ruling in greater detail in Chapter 5 on media and violence.

Because popular culture is so ubiquitous—and, frankly, fun—it is a great window for students in a variety of courses to look through as they begin exploring social issues. Beyond simply debunking common beliefs, this second edition stresses the importance of social structure and provides an introduction to structural explanations for the issues commonly blamed on popular culture. By digging deeper beyond simple cultural arguments, readers learn how policy decisions and economic shifts are important explanatory factors for many issues blamed on media.

Each chapter begins with examples from pop culture that many readers will already be familiar with, taken from celebrity gossip and controversial television shows like Teen Mom, high-profile news stories, and other easily accessible accounts. Additionally, each chapter introduces findings from recent research, often breaking down the components of the sampling and methods for readers to better understand how research is conducted and how to think critically about the results presented in the press.

Where applicable, each chapter includes supporting data— and in some cases graphs—from federal sources, such as the census, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to provide evidence of long-term trends, often challenging misperceptions about particular issues.

Because these sources are easily accessed online and URLs are included in notes at the end of chapters , readers can learn to spot-check popular claims about these issues on their own in the future. The evolution of this book, across its editions, has truly been a team effort. Thanks to Alex Masulis, my first editor at Westview Press, to Evan Carver who, early on, championed the second edition, and to Leanne Silverman, who helped bring the book in your hands to print.

I am also very thankful for my student researchers who helped find articles for this book. William Rice, Jessica Sackman, and Mishirika Scott assisted with the first edition, and Kimberly Blears helped with the revised edition.

Several anonymous reviewers provided useful comments and suggestions, and I thank them for helping make this book stronger. I am grateful for the many graduate and undergraduate students with whom I have shared countless hours of thought-provoking discussions. And most of all, thanks to my family, without whom none of this would be possible.

Her only means of communication to her family is through the television set. The angelic child is helpless against its pull and is ultimately stolen, absorbed into its vast netherworld. Ultimately, Carol Anne is saved with the help of a medium, but the imagery in the film reflects the terror that children are somehow prey to outsiders who come into unsuspecting homes via the TV set.

Today there are hundreds of channels, with thousands more programs available on demand at any time. Unlike in , television stations no longer sign off at night.

Our media culture does not rest. What does this mean for young people today, and our future? Much of the anxiety surrounding popular culture focuses on children, who are often perceived as easily influenced by media images. The fear that popular culture leads young people to engage in problematic behavior, culminating in large-scale social problems, sometimes leads the general public to blame media for a host of troubling conditions.

Are they crueler to one another now, thanks to social networking? Does our entertainment culture mean kids expect constant entertainment? Do kids know too much about sex, thanks to the Internet? Does violent content in video games, movies, and television make kids violent? More likely to smoke, drink, or take drugs? This book seeks to address these questions, first by examining the research that attempts to connect these issues to popular culture.

Despite the commonsense view that media must be at least partly to blame for these issues, the evidence suggests that there are many more important factors that create serious problems in the United States today.

Popular culture gets a lot of attention, but it is rarely a central causal factor. Throughout the book, we will also take a step back and think about exactly why it is that so many people fear the effects of popular culture. In addition to considering why we are concerned about the impact of popular culture, this book also explores why many researchers and politicians encourage us to remain afraid of media culture and of kids themselves. But this impact is less central in causing problems than factors like inequality, which we will explore throughout the book.

The most pressing crisis American children face today is not media culture but poverty. In —the most recent year for which data are available—more than 16 million children just under 22 percent of Americans under eighteen lived in poverty, a rate two to three times higher than that in other industrialized nations. Reduced funding for families in poverty has only exacerbated this problem, as we now see the effects of the welfare reform legislation that has gradually taken away the safety net from children.

Additionally, our two-tiered health care system often prevents poor children from receiving basic health care, as just over 9 percent of American children had no health insurance in These same children are admonished to stay in school to break the cycle of poverty, yet many of them attend schools without enough books or basic school supplies.

Schools in high-poverty areas are more likely to have uncertified teachers; for instance, 70 percent of seventh through twelfth graders in such schools are taught science by teachers without science backgrounds. In , for instance, children were killed by. As we will see throughout this book, many of the problems that we tend to lay at the feet of popular culture have more mundane causes.

At the root of the most serious challenges American children face, problems like lack of a quality education, violent victimization, early pregnancies, single parenthood, and obesity, poverty plays a starring role; popular culture is a bit player at best. And other issues that this book addresses, such as materialism, substance use, racism, sexism, and homophobia, might be highly visible in popular culture, but it is the adults around young people, as well as the way in which American society is structured, that contribute the most to these issues.

These issues are made most visible in popular culture, but their causes are more complex. We will examine these causes in the chapters that follow.

The media have come to symbolize society and provide glimpses of both social changes and social problems. Changes in media culture and media technologies are easier to see than the complex host of economic, political, and social changes Americans have experienced in the past few decades.

Graphic video games are easier to see than changes in public policies, which we hear little about, even though they better explain why violence happens and where it happens. What lies behind our fear of media culture is anxiety about an uncertain future. This fear has been deflected onto children, symbolic of the future, and onto media, symbolic of contemporary society. In addition to geopolitical changes, we have experienced economic shifts over the past few decades, such as the increased necessity for two incomes to sustain middle-class status, which has reshaped family life.

Increased opportunities for women have created greater independence, making marriage less of a necessity for economic survival. Deindustrialization and the rise of an information-based economy have left the poorest and least-skilled workers behind and eroded job security for many members of the middle class.

Ultimately, these economic changes have made supervision of children more of a challenge for adults, who are now working longer hours. Since the Industrial Revolution, our economy has become more complex, and adults and children have increasingly spent their days separated from one another.

From a time when adults and children worked together on family farms to the development of institutions specifically for children, like age-segregated schools, day care, and organized after-school activities, daily interaction in American society has become more separated by age.

Popular culture is another experience that kids may enjoy beyond adult supervision. An increase of youth autonomy has. Kids spend more time with friends than with their parents as they get older, and more time with popular culture, too.

Fear that popular culture has a negative impact on youth is nothing new: it is a recurring theme in history. Whereas in the past, fears about youth were largely confined to children of the working class, immigrants, or racial minorities, fear of young people now appears to be a more generalized fear of the future, which explains why we have brought middle-class and affluent youth into the spectrum of worry.

Fears about media and children date back at least to Plato, who was concerned about the effects that the classic Greek tragedies had on children. As in contemporary times, commentators blamed youth for a rise in crime and considered any gathering place of working-class youth threatening. Complaints about the performances were very similar to those today: youngsters would learn the wrong values and possibly become criminals. Penny and later dime novels garnered similar reaction, accused of being tawdry in content and filled with slang that kids might imitate.

Springhall concludes that the concern had less to do with actual content and more to do with the growing literacy of the working class, shifting the balance of power from elites to the masses and threatening the status quo.

Examining the social context enables us to understand what creates underlying anxieties about media. Fear of comic books in the s and s, for instance, took place in the McCarthy era, when the control over culture was high on the national agenda. Like the dime novels before, comic books were cheap, were based on adventurous tales, and appealed to the masses. Colorful and graphic depictions of violence riled critics, who lobbied Congress unsuccessfully to place restrictions.

Others considered pinball machines a bad influence; the city of New York even banned pinball from to as a game of chance that allegedly encouraged youth gambling.

During the middle of the twentieth century, music routinely appeared on the public-enemy list.

Connecting social problems and popular culture : why media is not the answer / Karen Sternheimer.

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Westview Press was founded in in Boulder, Colorado, by notable publisher and intellectual Fred Praeger. Westview Press continues to publish scholarly titles and high- quality undergraduate- and graduate-level textbooks in core social science disciplines. With books developed, written, and edited with the needs of serious nonfiction readers, professors, and students in mind, Westview Press honors its long history of publishing books that matter. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. Every effort has been made to secure required permissions for all text, images, maps, and other art reprinted in this volume.

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