Friday, February 25, 2005

Images and Their Impact

No matter where you look or where you go images screaming sex, money, more money more sex, violence, education is not important and all of the things that we as adults and our forebearers regarded as the "lesser side of life" has become the mantle of American society. It is better to be an athlete than a doctor or a teacher. Our icons are not those who have made contributions to the larger society but rather those who play games for a living. (and that is not to denegrate their talent--of course). Our children aspire to become the next Beyonce or Michael Jordan--and maybe it's a good thing--if you have something else to fall back on.

Over the years the gradual shift in priorities and expectations, of our youth in particular, has been systematically polluted by visuals: the giant billboards of beautiful men and women half-dress, (is Calvin Klein to blame? hmmm) television commercials of beautiful cars--that you MUST have (even if you don't have the money), the sexually exploitive videos, the elevation of rap artists who croon (croak??) about bling, sex, and booty calls. Not to mention the video games that regularly require that the players blow-up, blugeon, or drop kick their opponent into oblivion. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. And what of fashion... the lower the jeans hang off your butt the cooler you must be and don't forget that the outfits should be a least a size too big, complete with a "hoody" ... and then you have the polar opposite of the barely there ensemble that leaves little to the imagination. Call me old fashion... but COME ON!!!

Literature (speaking specifically about AA lit here) has taken a turn as well. The latest craze is urban lit, hip-hop or street fiction (depending on your frame of reference). These novels tend to take the reader to the underbelly of black life. Some good, some not so good as in any other genre. Their sudden phenomenal success has caused the industry to actually sit back and examine it and even the venerable trade mag Publisher's Weekly has taken a look.

So what are we to do, grumble, grumble among ourselves that our youth are going to hell in a handbasket (I heard that somewhere) or as leaders (even in our own small kingdoms) do we make efforts to make a difference? How do you compete with the barrage of ads, commericials, videos and even laws that say "you can't put your hand on your own children or risk fines imprisonment or both!!"?

What can we bring to the table to counteract what is being spoon fed, force fed and submliminally fed to our youth??

One thing I've always been proud of is that in the novels that I write and the characters that I create, they are all folks that, "hey, I wouldn't mind being her and I'd like my daughter to be a lot like that and I sure hope she finds a guy just like him--or a resonable facsimile!"

That is one of the major contributions of romance writers (using them as an example). They create HEROES and HEROINES. That means something. They show through the written word that success is achieved through hard work, they show what it means to be treated decently and that the rainbow may be a little bit off in the distance but the journey is worth it.

Sure, romances have been joked about, dismissed, considered fodder for water fountain chit chat when all else fails. But they cannot and will not be ignored as shown by the staggering dollars that are plopped down for them daily and the organizations that have been established to support them. They have stood the test of time for a reason, they have infiltrated the hearts and minds of millions for a reason. They provide escape, yes, but they also provide hope and a sense of empowerment--something that is terribly lacking in so many of our youth.

My solution: create positive images by giving every kid you know a romance novel! I'm not kidding. I can't tell you the number of opinions and lives that have been changed with one good read. Hey... it may be a slow process, but change is child at a time.

Hmmm. Something to think about.

In closing my questions to you are: Are there solutions? Where will we all be in another ten years? What do you do to combat "the elements" in your family and life?

Love to hear from ya.


Maureen said...

I am an avid reader and romance has always been my first choice. The romance novels (especially African-American)
I've read have given me hope and goals to aspire for. Most times I am not paying attention to the actual romance, but
what the hero and heroine do when they're not "between the sheets". For example, what they do for a living, what are their
extracurricular interests, what are their morals and how important is family to them. So, romance is more than an escape to me,
it can be a learning experience--a guide, if you must, on how to handle similar situations in my own life. I have passed on my
romance novels to my nieces, my sister, my cousins, co-workers and even my mother.

I am not a big fan of the urban lit, although I will admit I pick one up here and there for my "education." I have young boys and I need
to have an idea of which books to deter them from. I want to be able to say I don't want you to read that because...
Many of those books concentrate on drugs, sex and violence. Sure, we may be exposed to that everyday, but I don't need to read about it.
I can pick up a newspaper and read the same thing. Our youth need to read something that will lift them from that. Show them there is more
outside of what they see around them everyday and it is attainable.

Have we forgotten our great writers? Our real life Heroes and Heroines--Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison,
Maya Angelou. Their work was a positive influence on the community.

A change is going to come.

Anonymous said...

one solution may be personal that I mean the responsible to not make that imagery your life. It does not have to be that way regardless of where you live, it is a choice to be made. Not sure where we will be in 10 years but having a now 10 year old daughter it is a concern for me. To combat.......I would say first I do not advocate nor accept from my daughter her making certain decisions.....i.e. what she wears. Yes, I allow her to pick her clothes the times I do take her shopping with me but I control from what she has too choose. For example, dont like the "hoochie in training" clothes available for little girls so I do not take her shopping to stores which sell mostly that type of clothing. I keep her entertained with tv, books etc which are appropriate for her. I do not allow her, nor is she interested in watching the "adult shows" which I may be watching. I do not take her to movies which are not appropriately rated. I am selective about the people she is around.....and what they may be exposing her to. I talk to her about "things" we see and explain to her why that may not be the best way to be. I try to set the example and direct her interest in directions which are appropriate for her. I am trying to teach her that there are choices to be made and to have the life she seems to want then it is important to make the better choices. Thankfully, her father is fully involved in her life and I will give him praise for the part he plays in her growing/learning. Though divorced, she watches us interact as friends with her best interest as priority. I hope that in my doing all of this I am setting the stage for her to make choices, good choices for her life. Hope that I (we) are giving her a good solid foundation.

Tina said...

Violence on television has always been there. Westerns had shoot outs. In cartoons, anvils fell on characters and they were blown up with TNT. I blew up galaxies playing Atari. Things are more graphic now than they were back in the day though. But, the kids are exposed to more real life violence now also. My son has had 4 of his friends murdered from bullets meant for someone else. When I was growing up I didn't have to worry about what color or pattern I wore. I was taught that television wasn't real, and that the violence on television didn't hurt the characters, but could hurt me if it happened in real life. The sad thing is that the violence happening in the media is a daily occurance in the life of kids these days.

I have no problem with aspiring to be a sports star or performer, but as a parent, it is my responsibility to make sure my child knows that he has to support himself until his singing career takes off and to let him know that he needs a back up plan in case he gets injured and can't play sports any more. I also believe that the people in these high profile professions are role models for the younger generation and have a responsibility to them. Half of the sports stars end up in court for one thing or another and half the rappers end up murdered. Then you have quite a few parents doing drugs, profanity, and having multiple sex partners all in plain view of the kids. In my opinion, this is not how role models are supposed to act.

I don't have too much of an issue with the baggy clothes. I just wish the pants weren't worn below the butt. I don't understand the grown men who wear this look because I feel they should have outgrown that phase.

I personally am not a fan of street fiction. I don't like the vulgarity and I don't understand a lot of the slang. I believe there is room in the literary arena for all types of stories and characters, but I don't like how the street life is glamorized. I believe this is sensationalizing the situations.

When I was a teenager I remember hearing my mother wondering about the fate of the world. Wondering how the world would sustain with my generation being the future leaders. Now, I get to wonder that same thing, but then I run into a teenager that puts hope back in my heart. Are there any solutions? Yes, there is always something you can do. Be a positive rold model for any child who enters into your life. We need to start teaching kids when they are young to have a strong sense of self. We need to teach our kids our history so they can be proud of themselves.

I have one son and a plethora of other kids who call me mom. I tell my kids to create their own coolness. Not to let another person determine what is cool and what isn't. I help them to like themselves and to be leaders not followers. I tell them to use their own brain to determine right from wrong. I use the media and other people as teaching tools to show them ways NOT to act. I live my life as an example to them. I try to be a positive role model.

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