Generation Me Narcissism and Youth IdentityBook Report

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¶ … lens off Baudrillard that there is less and less connectivity between reality and idealization in terms of weight, weight loss and women's figures: "Thus, we all 'know' that Cher and virtually every other female star over the age of twenty-five is the plastic product of numerous cosmetic surgeries on face and body. But in the era of the 'hyperreeal' (as Baudrillard calls it), such 'knowledge' is ... unable to cast a shadow of doubt over the dazzling, compelling, authoritative images themselves" (p. 104). In other words, the illusion is perceived as the ideal and the possibility of transforming the reality into the ideal appears palpable and possible. What the author illustrates, however, is that this transformation is only possible through artificiality -- surgery, medical pills, extreme dieting -- nothing natural.

The emphasis on de-naturing woman, therefore, in order to produce a goddess image riddles society with a complex of self-doubt and unrealistic attitudes, expectations and desires. Advertising and media are major culprits for such unreal perceptions, which "hook" viewers with their alluring pictures and empty promises (p. 124). These same ads present hegemonic norms and stereotypes in a way that reinforces them -- as in the Haagen-Dazs ice cream ads: the man is shown eating and enjoying more ice cream than the woman, who is only having a little "bite" -- indicating that women should not eat as much as men or allow their midsections to expand as much as a man's (p. 134). On the flip side, African-American culture embraces "a more accepting attitude toward women's appetites" than is the case in "(middle-class, heterosexual) white" culture (p. 103) -- though ads in the 1990s highlighted dieting and "body-image problems" within African-American publications as well in an effort to alter this cultural acceptance.

Breaking the Growth Habit

This article is about how society should protect itself by relinquishing its consumerist, materialistic attitudes and re-orient itself towards preserving what it already has in terms of wealth, infrastructure, and natural resources. The author observes that the recent past is not likely to be repeated, that each age is unique in its own way and requires its own approach to the challenges it faces. Thus there is no point in attempting to do as the generation before us did for we are at the dawn of a new era, one that needs to shift perspective from the mega-monolithic corporate control of all spheres (agriculture, medicine, education) to a more localized source (p. 63). Says the author, "Whoever dreamed growth might come to an end?" (p. 63), yet he notes that the world has just witnessed "peak" oil prices (meaning the world economies that are dependent upon high oil prices are now in decline -- which means manufacturing will go down and the economy will shrink. New energy solutions will need to be imagined and implemented, such as solar and wind power -- and again it should be localized: "Local energy is not some romantic notion" (p. 64).

Society is far too integrated and complex -- to the point where if one sector fails, the whole of society feels the burden: the solution to this problem is to allow society to become less dependent on the various parts and let individual communities become self-sufficient at the local level. This way, if one part fails, the whole is not so adversely impacted (p. 65).

To See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter

This article discusses how social media impacts the character and notion of celebrity. In particular, it examines celebrities' use of Twitter and how celebrities will use the social media platform in order to engage with followers and fans. This allows them to build up a fan base and by sharing "personal" sides of their lives with their fans, fans feel more connected, appreciated and part of the celebrities' lives. Thus the celebrities participate in their own branding and cultivation, yet the behind the scenes glimpses into the private lives of the celebrities becomes a commoditized and artificial in its own way, as everything becomes about what the public will think. Thus the "private" life becomes another persona as well and the reality is that there is no real "democratization" process actually being worked through the medium of Twitter (p. 139), which is otherwise hailed as an equalizer by putting all people on the same network and same level. The fact remains that celebrities maintain their own personal celebrity side and the hordes of followers follow from afar, virtually in a separate world despite the illusion of nearness via Twitter.

The Curious Feminist: The Globetrotting Sneaker

This chapter discusses the fate of women workers around the world in connection with the globalization of gym shoe companies like Reebok, Nike and Adidas. It examines how globalization (Reebok's entry into Moscow after the fall of the Berlin Wall, for example) may have been good for corporate interests, but it did little to advance the causes of women's empowerment. Prior to this expansion, women's labor unions had won rights in places like Korea, where they had won "the right to organize women's unions" as well as get pay increases (p. 48). However, when loss of control over employees due to the fall of authoritarian regimes occurred, big corporations like Nike decided to move on rather than give in to demands of female employees: "In Nike's case, its famous advertising slogan -- 'Just Do It' -- proved truer to its corporate philosophy than its women's 'empowerment' ad campaign, designed to rally women's athletic (and consumer) spirit" (p. 48). In other words, women's rights and activism were good when it came to selling shoes, but when it came to actual fairness on the job, Nike had no interest in raising the bar.

This chapter concludes with the finding that women need to organize on a global scale and continue to work for rights and focus on specific needs -- such as the "need to convince women consumers ... that when they see an expensive row of Reeboks or Nikes on the store shelves, there is more to weigh than merely the price listed on the tag" (p. 56). Namely, there is the price of equality and women's empowerment that should be considered as well -- the fact that corporations who oppress women are the ones selling other women the shoes that their oppressed sisters are making around the world.

Ralph, Fred, Archie, Homer and the King of Queens

This article shows how mass media for decades has reinforced class relations based on capitalistic ideation and stereotypes: "Widespread affluence was exaggerated ... more lucrative, glamorous, or prestigious professions predominated over more mundane ones ... [and] throughout these decades, the few working-class men were portrayed as buffoons" (p. 101). The article cites numerous examples of this male, working class buffoonery, from The Honeymooners to All in the Family to The Simpsons to The King of Queens. Essentially, it is the same formula repeated for every generation: the dopy working class stiff lives with a doting, loving, understanding wife (with whom he is generally constantly getting in trouble for some dopiness).

In this manner, the article notes how "sitcoms have made a significant contribution to our culture's attitude toward the man who makes his living with his hands. It is an attitude based on the presumption that these sitcoms repeated again and again -- that this man is dumb, immature, irresponsible, lacking common sense, often frustrated, and sometimes angry" (p. 107). Essentially, mass media for more than half a century has perpetuated an image of masculinity that should be insulting to men, yet the very men who should be insulted are raised to think this image a norm and raised in its shadow from the earliest age they aspire only to live up to the image.

Image-Based Culture: Advertising and Popular Culture

This article shows how modern society's "most cherished values and assumptions" come largely from the mass media (p. 249). For example, the idea that a diamond ring is a symbol of love when two people became engaged to be married -- this is a concept put forward by advertising agencies for the diamond industry using the slogan a "diamond is forever" (p. 249). There is no cultural value to this concept or basis in tradition -- it is simply a way that the diamond merchants thought up to sell diamonds to a public looking to spend money on something. In one way, this illustrates the lack of substance and cultural traditions at the core of modern society, as ad agencies and mass media can easily put in there whatever they want and get the public to accept it as a cultural norm or ethos.

The problem is that our consumerist culture is being given images of life that are divorced from natural social perceptions because they are rooted in materialistic aims and used for the generation of profits for companies, not for the solidification or meaningful fulfillment of the society itself. What is worse is that "the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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