Lessons from Media
I remember a distinct incident from my early pre-teen years. My interests in media were starting to form and were very, very different from my mother’s. She was (and still is) very spiritual, and knows ways to connect any topic at all to her God and the values she knows. I was new to English media, being cut off from cable TV and growing up in a hyper-conservative Indian household, and had just discovered the internet.
I was humming a tune when she called me one day and asked me what my favourite song was. I replied, very enthusiastically, “It’s Shooting Star by Owl City! It’s from the movie Escape From Planet Earth, and the song is really pretty and makes me feel good.” Then she asked me to sing it, which I did. Halfway through my performance, she shook her head, made a disappointed noise, and asked: “It doesn’t have much meaning, does it?”
That made my smile and excitement just vanish. Note that ‘meaning’ here refers to the ‘good values’ that my mother lives so rigidly by.
I then (halfheartedly) proceeded to sing We Are One from The Lion King 2, to which she replied, “Hmm, this one’s better, it actually teaches you something, though it could be better.” And left it at that.
I think back on this incident as one of the many that have caused this deep sense of morality to be rooted in me, to the point where it’s not really healthy. Today, I am struggling to find reasons to care about myself before helping others, to appreciate media and characters that exist in a grey area morally, and to find a purpose and reason to exist other than to help others and cause a positive change.
It is very important in any form of media, especially media for little children, to have lessons in them that teach them the right things. Parents do it, teachers do it, and media does it. Little kids who have absent parents or irresponsible teachers consume dangerous media grow up with a skewed sense of morality that could become harmful for society. And most children’s media — if not all — know this. Literally, every single episode of many (thankfully older) children's shows has some or the other lesson learnt by the end of it.
And for kids, I guess it’s important. Children do learn more by the examples around them than by any media, so their greatest influencers would be their peers and the adult figures around them, but reinforcing some lessons through media won’t hurt.
As they grow up, they usually start exploring media on their own, which has the potential to go a lot of ways. The wrong websites and pages online can be very dangerous for a child. But there is such a thing as (mostly-)mindless or pointless entertainment, which should not be frowned upon.
As children grow and start taking up more and more responsibilities, they feel the need to just have entertainment to relax to and take their mind off of things more and more. It is debatable whether this is the right way to spend your free time (or maybe this is my toxic morality talking once again, as I feel guilty if I have not done anything productive in a day), but it is definitely not harmful unless you watch for too long and/or get overly addicted/attached to it (…which can also be useful to some extent — a topic for another time).
mindless entertainment - Off the Syllabus
Watching... (Photo Courtesy of Patrishe) By Abigail Chadwick Edited by Bethany Blue Editor's Note: This article…
This is a short blog article I read on this topic, which I completely agree with.
Many modern forms of media today, including children’s shows, have changed their format to a narrative storyline that is easy to understand, yet presents nuanced and complex narratives and characters. The lessons taught through them are usually in the form of a season finale, and more often than not help one of the characters grow and progress in the story. And most importantly, there is no new lesson every episode. It’s just a well-written storyline. Some adult media don’t even have a proper lesson, they just tell a story or present a situation that is a reflection of society in some way. And these are so important.
I am purely speaking my opinions formed by my experiences here, but children today need to know that you don’t need to find a lesson in everything. There is an argument that everything in life — literally everything (refer to my previous blog entry for a complex understanding of what everything truly is) — teaches (or should teach) you something, but I am strongly against that argument. It is completely okay to like a movie or show just for its story, its characters, or its score. It is alright to like a book just for the immersive world it lets you escape into. And it is valid to like a song for just its tune and beats and the feeling it gives you.
It is also alright to try to find a life lesson in everything, from a documentary to a tune, if you’re into that. And it is important that the messages in media should not be blatantly ignored for the sake of finding entertainment, because more often than not they help us in life in some way. But a piece of media does not become worthless just because there is (seemingly) no life lesson or ‘moral value’ or whatever in it.
There’s also a bigger point here, which is that there is no fixed concept of morality! Right and wrong differ from person to person! In the vast, beautiful, complex, and deep field of ethics, not everybody will agree with everybody else. There are some ‘rights’ and some ‘wrongs’ which are considered as fixed, though even this will vary from society to society, even person to person. A children’s episode that teaches them not to tell lies is crucial for them when they’re young, but as they grow older, it is essential to tell them that sometimes you have to lie, and that’s not wrong. And who will teach that? Not the parents and teachers who grew up in a whole different generation and don’t really understand children and the changing society today, for sure. There’s a very good chance that a form of entertainment will be the one to teach that, which might be shunned by more morally uptight people for teaching the ‘wrong’ lessons.
So what is the point of this article? I don’t know. Maybe there is no proper conclusion to all of this, maybe it’s just my thoughts put into words. Maybe there are multiple messages that you can derive from it. Maybe you don’t find any proper message and still like it as a way to get your mind off of other things. Maybe you disagree with me. As a reader, you have a right to your interpretation and takeaways from any media. Tell me what you think in the comments, and have a great day!