Essay, Research Paper
Television Shows Reflect American Culture
There are many movies and television shows that reflect American culture. A show or movie must address some current societal problem or trend in order to truly reflect American life; murder, rape, racism, and, on a less serious note, parties, shopping, and sports are topics that deserve serious consideration by the public and the media.
The show Beverly Hills 90210 attempts to be an accurate portrayal of the life of a typical well-off American teenager growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. The producers of the show attempt to integrate many real life situations into the show. By doing this they are suggesting to the audience, which happens to be geared toward teenagers, that what the characters do in the show is the ideal way to deal with these types of situations.
Many aspects of American culture are represented on the television show Beverly Hills 90210, or just 90210 as it is commonly referred to. Three to four years ago it dealt with the subject of murder or homicide. One of David’s, a star in the show, best friends was playing with a gun which he had acquired during a summer vacation to the mid-West. The friend shot himself by accident; what followed was a time of mourning for David and a recollection of many fond memories of the times they shared together. This episode’s tragedy brought the characters in the show closer together.
Many innocent children, and sometimes adults, are killed accidentally playing with guns, or by drive-by random shootings. This is a major problem in the United States and the show is trying to get the message out that it is not a safe thing to do. It also raises the question as to why access of guns is so readily available to anyone.
Every night on the news, someone can see many incidents in which there is suffering resulting from guns. Furthermore, the availability of guns makes the public scared. Children have images of adults using guns for hunting or game. In the adolescents’ mind it appears that guns are not a bad item to own, when in reality guns are extremely dangerous weapons. Beverly Hills 90210 makes a strong attempt to impress upon its viewers that these accidents can be avoided if people take the proper precautions. The show sends a message to the younger generation, which are becoming more and more violent, to stay away from things that result in violence like guns. A gun is an item which should only be in the hands of a properly trained and skilled user, in order to avoid horrible tragedies.
Another incident of tragedy occurred last season. Dylan’s girlfriend, whose father was an organized crime figure of some kind, was gunned down by a bullet intended for Dylan. Ironically, the hit-man was hired by her very own father. Not many parents go out and hire people to kill their children’s boyfriends or girlfriends. However, in this circumstance there was a history between Dylan and her father. Her father had killed Dylan’s father before they had meet. Dylan was attempting to get revenge for his father’s murder. In the meantime, Dylan has fallen in love with his daughter. The two lovers had just married and planned on a happy life when tragedy struck. In many ways, this incident portrays the negative images that organized crime reflects on the American culture. Although organized crime rings are decreasing, the problem of organized crime is still a detriment to American society. The producers are doing a good deed in showing this because it sends a message to teens; hopefully, they will want to become productive members of society and will not want to get involved with the harmful aspects of the American culture.
The show also deals with the topic of suicide. One of the newer stars of the show, Valerie, moved to California after her father killed himself because she could not stand to be in the house where such a horrible thing had happened. Valerie did not speak of the incident very frequently, but she was obviously disturbed about something. Her experience was extremely valuable in later episodes when David’s mother was having mental problems and he contemplated committing suicide. Valerie was able to talk to David and relate to how he was feeling about the whole situation. Although in real life the problem might not have been resolved as easily, the show provided a good portrayal of what a teen contemplating suicide would hope that a friend would do for him/her.
Teen suicides are rising because of many influences: drugs, alcohol abuse, mental and physical abuse, alienation from parents, poor performance in school, low self-image, rejection by peers, sexuality, or, as in this situation, a death in the family. Many teens today feel themselves slipping off the edge and they need something to help them through though times. They turn to drugs and other illegal substances when these situations arise. Young people today seem to confide more in their peers than in their parents. Many of them think their parents do not understand them. Their friends provide comfort and advice which is valued.
Although parents may not provide guidance that is appreciated, they do provide money to their offspring. One of the more common stereotypes of American life fits right in with the materialistic values promoted by our society – in print, in television, in commercials, in movies – in other words, in all aspects of the media. All economic echelons of society in the United States are encouraged to purchase name brand clothing and other apparel. The “American Dream” of shopping and credit cards is a reality in the show. The setting of the show is Beverly Hills, California, the home of all the popular trends and famous stars. This location, along with rich parents, provides for the perfect situation to make them look like rich brats. Although Beverly Hills 90210 is not a perfect reflection of American culture, it does lend itself to the stereotype of having a huge wardrobe and living the “American Dream”.
In the five years during which 90210 has been on the air, the show has dealt with many topics. From the Persian Gulf War and high school, to AIDS and the Internet, the show has reflected many aspects of American culture. Beverly Hills 90210 sends a message to the viewers to make the best of one’s life. Hopefully many of the viewers will be able to attain the “American Dream” that is the essence of American culture.