Millennials and the Media: Five Themes to Watch for on TV, in Books and at the Movies
Back in January, when I wrote about why I love Millennials, I mentioned that Millennials are media cynics who neither watch nor trust what the mainstream media has to say about politics. It's true, and I respect that. Truly.
But I know what some of you were thinking: Yeah, but whether they watch the mainstream media or not, Millennials are still overwhelmingly liberal.
Yep, that's true too. There are lots of explanations for that, just like there are lots of explanations for why senior citizens are mostly conservative. Some are detailed, some are vague. Some are logical, some are just insulting. Some go back hundreds of years, like the one below, which I've heard in one form or another for most of my life (For more information on the origin of this saying, visit: Quote Investigator).
We could talk for a long time about the influence of teachers, parents and peers on the political and ideological outlook of Millennials (okay, and everyone else too), but today I want to just focus on the media's influence on us, remembering that "media" in it's basic form means "medium" -- as in the means of communicating ideas, thoughts and information. In its broadest sense, the media is not limited to journalism, it also encompasses all those who communicate through radio, television, magazines, books, newspapers and the Internet.
So any show you watch on a network, cable or streaming service, any podcast, vlog, tweet, snap, post, vine (before its sudden death), any music you download or stream, any magazine you buy at the airport, even if it's about travel, sports, knitting or guitars, is part of the media -- and all of it is meant to influence you and your decisions.
The influence is often subtle and probably not part of a vast left-wing conspiracy, but rather just the strongly-held beliefs and attitudes of liberal people bleeding onto their work. Still, if you know what to look for, it's pretty easy to identify.
Now, if you are liberal, I want you to understand this: I don't necessarily have a problem with these ideas being expressed through fiction. What bothers me is that the opposite themes are almost never expressed (or maybe, are never allowed to be expressed? Hmm. I'll have more to say about gatekeepers some day), which leaves viewers with the subconscious impression that these are the right ways of viewing things and that an opposite perspective is wrong.
Here are five themes I've seen expressed in TV, movies, books and music over and over again; themes that I don't think younger viewers consciously notice while being entertained, but impact the way they view the world:
1. Corporations are evil
Corporations are almost universally depicted as evil on television and in the movies. CEOs are always money-grubbing narcissists, climbing on the backs of their underpaid workers to finance their lavish lifestyles. On Sci Fi shows, corporations even have armies at their disposal and are taking over the country, the world, the GALAXY!
This concept isn't even subtle anymore, and I think it's getting more pronounced. Just last week I was watching Arrow and laughed out loud when Oliver Queen got on his little green soap box and soundly condemned Crony Capitalists who were, of course, making millions in the pharmaceutical industry while "squeezing out needy families." /smh
The only time corporations are depicted as good is when they are being philanthropic (and usually, even that is depicted as a cover for more nefarious purposes). Don't get me wrong, successful corporations are admirable for engaging in charitable work, but the work they do every day -- you know, exchanging their products and services for money that is paid to their employees so they can buy homes and cars and ballet lessons and braces, invest in the company's 401K plan and retire with a little bit of money to support themselves until death -- that work is important too. And I never see it portrayed that way. Never.
Why? Because liberal thinkers don't think profit is a good thing. They see the wealth of the top one percent and imagine it being spent on education and food and housing for the poor rather than yachts and condos in Sun Valley. They want it taken in penalty taxes and distributed by the government, believing (against evidence) that the government will do that fairly and efficiently and that GOOD will come of it.
What they don't believe is that whenever a rich CEO buys a yacht or a condo in Sun Valley, that puts food on the table of the guy would builds yachts (or condos), builds cabinetry for yachts, builds motors for yachts or knows how to captain a yacht. They don't buy into the idea that, when the rich dude takes his friends out on his yacht (or to his condo), he spends money on a caterer, a florist, a swimwear boutique and a spa (for his girlfriend's blowout and spray tan). He buys ski pants, lift tickets, expensive dinners and Smith goggles, which helps pay wages to my not-so-wealthy friend who works for Smith (true story) so that he can buy health insurance for his family.
2. Every undocumented worker has a heart of gold
Don't get me wrong, there are probably a lot of undocumented workers who DO have hearts of gold. And I personally am not as conservative on this issue as a lot of my friends. (Because if a government has a law saying "stay out," but other laws that pretty much say "come on in," it's confusing -- especially to impoverished people who hear about it second hand in a foreign country they are desperate to leave. Naturally, those people are going to place their hope in the laws that benefit them the most. There is no solution to this issue that doesn't cause hurt somewhere -- because we have collectively let things get out of hand for way too long. Our laws need to be changed so that legal immigration is a straight-forward process and illegal immigration is more trouble than it's worth. *Climbs down from my soapbox.*)
But back to TV, books and movies, undocumented workers are never depicted as hardened criminals, but almost always as mothers being separated from their children. And the Americans who encounter them? It's the same story: the good guys are working to keep illegals in this country and the mean, nasty (probably corrupt) officials who are sending them home are heartless jerks. I saw an example of this on the new show Designated Survivor.
Have you ever seen another story depicted? Have you ever seen a fictional illegal alien commit a violent crime, be picked up by ICE and then released, only to commit more crimes? No, because it feels racist. But is it racist? If there are shows that portray white, black, Hispanic or Asian Americans committing violent crimes, how is it racist to portray an illegal alien committing crimes? Their race isn't being singled out, and it's not as if it doesn't happen.
Yeah, but if you put it on a show, it seems like you're making a statement -- like that people should fear and hate immigrants.
First of all, ignoring the ability of your political opponent to engage in nuanced understanding of issues is petty -- whether you are liberal or conservative. There is a difference between immigrants and illegal immigrants, and we all know it, so knock it off.
And if you're a TV writer with no agenda yourself, why not show BOTH types of stories -- the sad mom being separated from her kids AND the hardened criminal who we really don't want on our streets.
And what kind of statement are you making if you refuse to tell those stories just because, in your view, they "rarely happen?" I'll tell you what rarely happens -- Zombies. But that doesn't keep them off our screens, does it?
3. Abortion is my choice, (but it's never THE choice)
Have you ever noticed this? Whenever a major character finds out she is unexpectedly pregnant, there is a moment when she (or maybe her partner) climbs up on her pink soap box (lots of soap boxes today, huh?) and makes a little speech about her CHOICE and how she is free to exercise it. However, when it comes down to decision time, the character never has an abortion. She always chooses to have her baby.
Why? If we live in a society where you should proudly "shout your abortion," because, after all, it's just a medical procedure, nothing more than removing tissue from your body (tissue with a beating heart, of course, but let's ignore that scientific fact), why are TV producers so reluctant to have their leading ladies have abortions?
I think the reason is wrapped up in the dichotomous psychology of abortion. We have been schooled to believe that we are not truly free-thinking, empowered women unless we embrace the right to have an abortion. However, most of us still find it horrible and tragic. It's why abortion-rights advocates scream bloody murder (no, the irony of my word choice is not lost on me) when a state like Texas simply asks that abortion facilities meet the same out-patient clinic standards as the place where you got your wisdom teeth removed -- you know, staff with a connection to a local hospital in case something goes wrong, aisles wide enough to allow for easy passage of a gurney. But no, we can't hold our abortion clinics to the same standard as other facilities. The result might be fewer abortions -- and we can't have that. Abortion is, after all, the largest source of revenue for Planned Parenthood, a government-funded non-profit entity that makes billions in profits every year.
But that's none of my business.
The truth is, pro-choice TV script writers want to make statements in support of abortion rights, but they don't want to risk losing their audience by having a beloved character go through with it. It may make them less sympathetic to her cause, which costs ratings. Convictions are one thing. Money is something else.
4. Christians are weird and possibly dangerous
Gone are the days of The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie or even Seventh Heaven. Aside from a few random bit characters here and there, I can't recall seeing Christianity portrayed in a positive light in years. Instead, I have seen serial killers spurred by their belief in God, I have seen angels depicted as evil and demons depicted as good. I have seen immorality, pedophilia, incest, drunkenness, extortion, insanity, corruption, human trafficking, child abuse, ignorance, narcissism, racism, hate crimes, embezzlement, and hypocrisy of every kind portrayed by characters who were first labeled as Christians.
And I get it: from a writing standpoint, having a character who pretends to be good but is actually quite horrible makes for good fiction. But where's the balance? I never see Christians portrayed as just normal people who are trying to live their lives according to their convictions. In fact, the only time a Christian is cast in a positive light is when he rejects his convictions and comes to a more "enlightened" understanding of the world and his role in it. And this is how I feel about that:
For example, when have you ever seen a teenager depicted on television who is celibate by choice, as a part of his or her faith, and who is also treated as normal and accepted by his or her peers? Anyone? Anyone?
Now, I want you to go back to what I wrote above about all the negative ways I have seen Christians portrayed. Imagine, instead, that Muslims were depicted that way. Do you think that would be okay? Do you think anyone would stand for that?
5. Science is Settled
Obama said it, and if you don't agree, you're a buffoon, an idiot. Unenlightened and not far removed from the Flat Earth Society. I mean, what rock did you crawl out from under anyway?
Here are a couple of things that are not up for discussion in the movies: Climate Change is a clear and present danger caused by US and we all got here by means of evolution, preceded by a Big Bang.
This mantra is never abandoned. Ideas about creation or intelligent design are assigned to the most ridiculous of characters so that more enlightened Darwinists can laugh at them.
Seriously, even saying "wait a minute, I have a question about intelligent design" or "Who funded those climate warming models you've been sharing?" means you have blasphemed the holy cow of Settled Science.
But here's the thing: Science is NEVER settled. If it's settled, it's not science. If it's science, it's not settled. (Michael Crichton gave a wonderful speech about this at CalTech in 2003. It's long, but worth your time.)
The only exception? Scientific laws, meaning those laws that demonstrate scientific concepts that produce the exact same outcome every time they are tested. Want examples? The first law of thermodynamics, which states that energy in a system can be transferred, but never created or destroyed. Or the second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy always increases in a system (entropy being defined as a gradual decline into disorder).
Let that second law sink in a minute. Everything gradually declines. Everything degenerates, deteriorates, crumbles, loses order. It's a scientific LAW, meaning scientists have never found an exception. Yet, evolutionary theory claims that things evolve, getting better over time. Like the human eye, which had to evolve, but is so complicated, it cannot function without all of its parts.
And what about all the patterns we see in nature? A peacock's feather, the symmetry of a nautilus shell. Are we allowed to question the inherent design of these things? You know, scientifically?
I can probably get away with it. I'm just a lowly writer. I would only be ostracized and maybe fired for asking these questions if I was a member of the scientific community.
And when it comes to our climate, I don't know what to believe about what damage we may or may not have done to it. The people controlling the information -- on BOTH sides of this issue -- are too biased to be trusted.
I'm a huge advocate of recycling -- I'm frugal, I love to repurpose stuff, and landfills creep me out. I also know that new, lower-fossil fuel technology needs time to develop before we start talking about how cost effective it is. But the EPA putting the entire state of West Virginia out of work is not okay either, especially when we know that countries like China and India produce exponentially more carbon than we do in the United States, and are completely unwilling to change their practices at this point. And we're going to kick people to the street on principle? Or how about the attack on power companies, who "don't care about the Eagles electrocuted on their power lines" (Pacific Power spends $1 million a year protecting Eagles, but that story goes unheard). Meanwhile, thousands of birds are killed by windmills every year, but that's different. Why? Windmills are good, power companies are evil. That's all you need to know.
Now stop thinking for yourself and go watch TV.