Friday, March 21, 2014

Museum of the American Teenager

The topic of my exhibit is heavy metal! 

It's a genre of music near and dear to my own heart, as I grew up with exposure to some legendary metal bands. I specifically want to explore why metal during the 1980s became so popular with teens, and the cultural conflict that existed (and still does) between metal music, Regan era conservatism (via homophobic, sexist, pro-patriarchy religious icons like Pat Robertson), and the view of teens who listened to metal during this time. My premise is that metal offered many teens (although not all teens, as the fanbase was largely male, and white) a space to be themselves and express themselves as they wished without the harsh criticism and backlash of American society under Ronald Reagan conservatism. Metal, and teens who listened to metal bands, unfortunately did receive backlash anyways in the culture wars of the time: deemed as Satanic cult members and branded as evil, regardless of what anyone's personal beliefs actually were.

Current sources:
- Weinstein, Deena. Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology.
- Wiederhorn, Jon. Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal.
- Harrison, Thomas. Music of the 1980s.   *This is worth a look to a few other projects!
- Bukszpan, D. The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal.
- Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen. Metalheads: Heavy Metal Music and Adolescent Alienation.
- Berelian, Essi. Rough Guide to Heavy Metal.

I'd like to ask everyone how much text they plan on including in their posters.... I am a little nervous about including too much, or too little.

A little sample of one of my all-time favorite bands, Iron Maiden. A lot of my aesthetics for my poster will be linked to this band and their imagery. 

Gilbert "A Cycle of Outrage: America's Reaction to the Juvenile Delinquent in the 1950s"


1. "But for all these positive conclusions Americans remained puzzled and distressed by the activities of postwar teenagers. Perhaps that is why speeches and newspaper and periodical articles sought to introduce and explain to the public a phenomenon that was already very familiar. Certainly adults did not lack exposure to adolescents. Yet hostility and suspicion cast a pall of misunderstanding between generations and within families, communities, and institutions devoted to the young. At their worst - and to many observers, the worst already prevailed - teenagers lacked a sense of the line between good fun and delinquency." pg.12
        This statement could so very easily be applied to any subsequent generation after WWII, I feel. (It could also easily apply to groups other than teenagers for that matter.) But I think that's the point Gilbert wants to subtly make as well: that after the war, it becomes a cycle of adults attempting to analyze, understand, and categorize the new generation of youth and their icons. Humans are generally fearful and suspicious of that which they do not immediately understand, and so we seek to explain and control the unknown by any means we can. It's a more in-depth analysis and historical look of one of our core assumptions: that teens are "other" or alien life forms who make no sense to adults.  

2. "The frenzied dances, music, and ritualized family rebellions forewarned of a larger and very serious social problem." pg. 13
          This strikes me as funny, because Gilbert doesn't comment on what the serious social problem actually was, just on what it was perceived to be at the time. Being a teen is a social construction, so really, the "very serious social problem" being talked about here doesn't have to do with the subjects under scrutiny, but those who are doing the scrutinizing. But this is a historical article, not a gender studies article, so it makes sense Gilbert doesn't say much about this.

3. "Yet to be successful, films had to evoke sympathy from young people who were increasingly intrigued by the growing youth culture of which delinquency seemed to be one variant....These films broke new ground for Hollywood because each simultaneously generated a good deal of controversy (including the accusation of prompting delinquent behavior) and each stimulated enormous interest in, and perhaps participation in, a new youth culture." pgs. 178-179
           Oh, Hollywood. It never fails as a beacon of what's wrong (and, I guess, what's right) with American culture. What came first then, the idea that teens of the 1950s were susceptible to delinquency, people adopting this idea, or movies about the idea? Gilbert uses analysis of movies about this topic because it's easily accessible, we can get a better glimpse of the atmosphere in the 1950s through film because film is directly a product of an era, and since we didn't witness it firsthand, this is the best we can do to understand at a very general, broad level. 

I decided to look up other films surrounding this era and gathered some clips for you to check out:
The Lords of Flatbush (1974) - has the Fonze in it!

Hey Good Lookin' (1982)
West Side Story (1961)

I also would like to have discussed Alan Freed and the DJs who introduced new rock n' roll acts to American teens - or the role of adults influencing youth culture, and the lack of mention of them when people talk about youth in the 1950s.

Raby "A Tangle of Discourses: Girls Navigating Adolescence


I liked what Raby was attempting to do with her study, but found that it's such a small, specific example of people that she interviewed, that I didn't particularly think it was the best reflection of the relationships between teen girls of various generations and the discourse surrounding adolescence (which she does admit, but still, it wasn't easy to relate to for me). I also think that her terms for the five main discourses she's talking about are accurate ways to describe the ways teens are talked about and represented - in terms of "at risk" and "the storm", I don't know how many times I had to hear adults around me talk about hormones and rebellion. Plus, the way in which Catholic school informs you about sexuality is so abhorrently narrow (obviously), you can't help but wonder sometimes if adults are really the problem and not your hormones.

But if I had to really examine the period of time in which I felt I was "becoming", it certainly has been the years immediately following adolescence. Between 19 and 24, I have felt the strongest sense of exploration and uselessness. My dad passed away suddenly on my "sweet" 16, and I think instead of playing into these discourses as a teen, I actively just did the opposite of what anyone anticipated me to do. I just felt so frustrated that adults wrote me off as an angsty teen, so I instead grew up faster than maybe I should have in order to feel like I belonged. I remember the anxiety I had when I got to college and wondered if I'd missed out on something important, and it caused me to just go nuts in my 20s. Actually, I think despite what the media would have us think, teens often just grow up too fast because of this discursive pressure, which can cripple us emotionally in our 20s. My question this week is: Do you ever wonder just why it is that people in their 20s are living at home more than ever before? I think there's a connection between the two ideas, but have a hard time putting why I think that is into words. I just know that having those negative associations that Raby is talking about, including my relationship with my grandma and the generational differences there, I felt more strongly after my teen years as a direct rejection of those things.

  This my best friend, who I met in the absolute worst time in my life (when I was 20), and I circa this summer.
This is me at 16 (holy crap). I still wonder what I missed out on because of adults pressuring me to be a "good girl" and not a "rebellious teenager".

This is just a song by my favorite band, who not only has been a refuge for over 10 years, but often writes about teenage pressures and decisions, and how it manifests as you get to be considered an adult.

Christensen "Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us"


Linda Christensen is arguing in this article that what we perceive as our "culture" is really what systems of power (which I strongly feel is still accurately called patriarchy) use to force or convince us to buy into the systems, beginning with our early development. Patriarchal structures begin shaping children at a very young age what is "normal" and "right". Christensen is calling this a "secret education", because it is so subtle at times that most people never consider there is anything outside of the norm. She uses an extremely relevant example: Disney cartoons. Seemingly cute and innocuous, we as students of gender issues realize that this is not quite the case. What the big secret is is that in our general acceptance of cartoons and other media is that we are in a sense brainwashed to a point where we might stop critiquing media and culture altogether - which reminds me of bell hooks' idea that "the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house", so to speak.(If any non-gender studies people want a great article to think about when it comes to thinking about societal structures and even modern media, I highly recommend it!) Christensen is talking specifically about young schoolchildren, who are being herded into acceptance of media and the gender/class/race/sexuality roles they reinforce all the time, before they even have a chance to develop the skill of critique, which is extremely problematic in terms of striving for equality. She specifically mentions that little girls see Disney princesses and grow up thinking that marriage is the ultimate life goal, that "happy ever after" is something to worked for above all else, which fits perfectly into patriarchal  heterosexism and heteronormativity. It's quite unsettling, both for me and for Christensen it seems, to think that as far as we've come, newer generations still have to battle to crippling pressure to conform.

My question for discussion is: what classic Disney film is the most harmful in terms of reinforcing gender roles, and why? Which is potentially the least harmful? I have a hard time watching The Jungle Book, because the racist content is off the charts.

Also, I always wanted to be a Disney villain as a little girl, what does that say about me?