Have we gone too far?
From Crazyshit to Euphoria, to Instagram, the contemporary Western media is a minefield of taboos. Are we sailing carefully?
First of all, this is an opinion piece. These observations are my own, limited in scope by my own upbringing, gender, age, privileges, life experience, etc. I’m not here to tell you what to eat.
What interests me is exploring our current media landscape and its impact on the highly impressionable, which tend to be younger audiences. I sincerely hope this piece stimulates productive conversation and meaningful reflection.
I must grow old. The signs are appearing. Hangovers are fiercer. I have the compulsion to turn off the lights before I leave the house. I’m thinking of adding garlic to my dinner and buying a Dyson. Scary shit.
Anyway, the last “adult” thought that popped into my head really made me lose my mind: “What are impressionable audiences exposed to today? »
As a child, I remember my parents forbidding the The Simpsons, fearful of embodying the rebellious persona of Bart. I remember wanting to watch the Harry Potter movies, and then I was told to read the books first, so that I understood the themes on a broader level. I remember my first experience with porn and how it gave a very wrong perception of women and sex. Not to mention the whim which was 2 girls 1 cup. Do teenagers today face similar challenges? I think they have worse.
Our post-post-modern media is more diverse than ever, exploring a myriad of complex cultural topics, from sexuality to mental health to drug use and more. It’s productive, but, to quote Father John Misty, “leaves some issues to deal with”. First, portraying sensitive subjects responsibly requires learned experience and foresight. Second, filtering media by appropriate age groups is becoming less and less effective.
Children are curious creatures – and now they have phones. What do you think will happen?
To holistically analyze today’s media, I’m going to highlight three trending media: pornography, TV shows, and social media. For each, I’ll give an example, think about the impacts – both positive and negative, and finally conclude whether there is cause for concern. We might clash along the way, but I appreciate you listening to me.
Porn – VSshit
In the research phase, I was originally going to highlight Pornhub as the main culprit in desensitizing sexual exploits, due to its controversial history. However, in the end, I opted for Crazyshit. Indeed, Pornhub – while still guilty of hosting morally myopic content, also hosts a diverse range of pornography, with some categories depicting sex as consensual and beneficial to all parties. Although unlikely, one could find a video on Pornhub devoid of a disturbing narrative, where sex workers were fairly and ethically compensated.
Crazyshit, on the other hand, dedicates its website to hosting only THE craziest scenarios of kinky male fantasies.
Crazyshit is emblematic of a major problem in the porn industry: the stubborn representation that women crave unwanted, unprotected and rough sex. That’s just not true, but for a teenage virgin who “learns” about sex and takes porn for granted, the results could be – and HAVE been – horrific. This question is further explored in Euphoriabut we will come back to this later.
Has the pornography and excess of harmful perversity found on the Internet gone too far? Has fantasy become brutal? Is porn found on crazy shit cultural desensitization become AWAL?
I believe him.
That’s why I think OnlyFans is a fantastic alternative. Workers are responsible for their own content and believe at best that they set their own prices. If you want to learn more about the dark underbelly of porn, check out this fantastic piece of Fight the new drugwho shares the harmful experiences of sex workers in the industry.
TV – Euphoria
Euphoria is an unfiltered, surreal television show that explores the mental and physical warfare known as American high school, known for its unsanitized depictions of sex and drugs. Euphoria has become a cultural phenomenon, and it’s easy to see why. The characters are memorable, the storytelling is intricate, the camerawork/lighting is immersive, and the scenes unfold at a bullet pace, accommodating our increasingly limited attention spans. As an art project, it’s mostly flawless, but damn it, I hope the miners don’t watch it. Oh wait, it’s a high school show. Doesn’t that make teenagers the default target audience?
A 17+ show like this would never have reached the mainstream a few decades ago, but I know several young people who love it. It’s cultural desensitization at work. I found a piece from IndieWire that expresses the contradiction of Euphoria Perfectly. The show is “strive” for a “intense and authentic experience” for “helping teenagers” understand the dangers of drugs and sexual abuse. However, to quote director Levinson, “I don’t think this is a show for under 17s”.
After hours of back and forth I finally believe Euphoria is a positive example of cultural desensitization. While I think the content is far too heavy for high school eyes, at least underage viewers observe the potentially harrowing trappings of sex and drugs that Western society generally glorifies. While Crazyshit normalizes gray morale, Euphoria portrays him as he is. Morally grey.
if you like euphoria you will love therapy
— Homo Honey (@DixPeyton) January 17, 2022
Social networks – instagram
I sympathize with the current generation of young people. They are the basic social media audience, living a double life all over the world. Double life ? you say. Let’s examine Instagram, a dominant platform in the social media landscape. It’s addictive, narcissistic, and anxiety-inducing, attributing popularity to its users with a numerical figure, inciting fake personas, echo chambers, and lowest common denominator opinions, in order to receive maximum engagement. From what I’ve seen, choke platforms like Instagram have on young people, only getting tighter. And what’s worse, the toxicity of social media is too difficult for impressionable audiences to understand, let alone walk away from.
As you can probably tell, I’m not just against social media for the impressionable. I’m against it, period. Here’s a nugget of wisdom from Bo Burnham’s COVID lockdown experience:
“Perhaps, perhaps the flattening of all subjective human experience into a… lifeless exchange of value that benefits no one except, uh, you know, a handful of salamander-eyed insects in Silicon Valley… maybe as a, as a way of life forever? Maybe that’s, uh, not good.”
“Social media has created jealous behavior rather than illusions. Some of you are jealous of things, relationships and lifestyles that don’t even exist.
— Stephan Labossiere (@StephanSpeaks) March 8, 2022
But how is social media related to cultural desensitization? Unlike Crazyshit and Euphoria, the actual content is not my primary concern. It’s the excessive dripping of content, the obnoxious trap of endless scrolling. I believe it strangles any trace of humanity from an individual’s messages. We just became spoiled for content. We have become consumers. Spectators who judge. So much so that when my friend posted a blurry photo from his vacation, I thought “that’s a pretty average post” instead of “oh wow, looks like they’re having a wonderful time”. Check yourself, Manning.
Clearly, Instagram (and social media as a whole) has brought wonderful changes to culture, such as widespread access to critical information, connecting families across the world, and fueling social movements. Still, at its best, Instagram is a double-edged sword.
Let’s go back to The simpsons for a second, and a quote from the spiky-haired 10-year-old boy my parents feared: “If you don’t watch the violence, you will never be desensitized”, Bart jokes to Lisa. It’s witty and revealing, the hallmarks of the show’s legendary writers. So much so, this brings up an idea that we haven’t even gone through yet:
Is desensitization even a bad thing?
Here are my two cents. In our saturated media landscape, from porn to TV shows to social media, it’s all about accountability. On one side are the media creators. They (including me) should ask themselves who am I targeting? How will this be perceived? Does my work perpetuate lies?
On the other hand, the public has a responsibility. They need to think critically about the content they choose to consume. Does he explore taboos, encourage taboos or warn us about them?
So, what are you waiting for, informed consumer? Hit me.