The Negative Influence of Reality TV on Teenage Girls

Many of us may have conversed around the water cooler about the provocative behavior that is displayed on some reality TV shows. It’s like junk food: we love it and we know it’s bad for us, but we—and our children—watch anyway. You might say that it’s a parent’s duty to steer a child in the right direction; however, with loads of technology available at our fingertips on a variety of devices, it can be next to impossible to shield a child from junk TV. Reality TV is popular entertainment that may be having an impact on teenage girls, making it seem that the impertinent verbal exchanges and sometimes violent confrontations displayed heavily on reality TV shows such as Basketball Wives and Real Housewives of Atlanta are normal and desirable forms of behavior.

A research report commissioned by The Newspaper Association of America Foundation, Fitting into Their Lives: A Survey of Three Studies About Youth Media Usage by Vivian Vahlberg, found that “young people spend about as much time consuming media everyday (7 hours and 39 minutes) as their parents spend working.” Also, “if you factor in the additional media usage consumed in multi-tasking, young people pack 10 ¾ hours’ worth of media content into every day.” Many studies over the years have documented that some of our opinions are formed by what we consume through the media. Reflecting on over 10 hours of daily media consumption, it is reasonable to wonder how teenage girl’s behavior and perception – of society and of themselves – are being influenced by the portrayals of women on TV.

Jennifer Pozner, the director of Women in Media & News in New York City and the author of Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV, shared her perspective on reality TV in an online interview with Anne Kingston of Maclean’s, a Canadian weekly magazine. Pozner emphasized how reality TV shows are all scripted with “Frankenbites,” which help exaggerate and distort a character’s true motives or intent. For example, she notes that formerReal Housewives of Atlanta cast member Deshawn Snow was kicked off the show after the first season because she did not fit into the producers’ desired depiction of black women. Instead of highlighting the positive aspects of Snow as a dedicated student, an advocate for women of color, and an avowed Christian, the producers instead wanted to focus on negative imagery of black women.

The internet has become another host to negative depictions, through the posting of videos showing violent real-life confrontations such as the recent physical altercation between two teenage age girls in Ohio over a Twitter dispute that was videotaped and posted online—with over two million viewers. While there may be at best a tenuous connection to the Ohio incident, there is little doubt that its presence online is aimed at audiences who have been conditioned through media, including reality TV, to accept as normal, even heroic, behavior we would once criticize. It’s time to take a step back and reassess our TV standards and take a serious look at the psychological and behavioral impact television, particularly reality TV, has on today’s young women and girls—and vow to do something about it.



Georgia Public Higher Education Conference

Georgia students stand in solidarity with other college students across the nation fighting for public higher education. This August 7-8, Georgia Students for Public Higher Education (GSPHE), will be hosting our Summer Conference in Atlanta. All who want one should be able to get a college education.

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McCain Gets A Not-So-Friendly Welcome To Atlanta

On one side of Peachtree Center Avenue, members of Georgia's organized labor community held up "Teamsters for Obama" signs and picketed in front of the Mariott Marquis hotel chanting, "Bush, McCain, Same Thing." On the other side of the street, anti-war protestors, armed with bullhorns, led several cadences of "McCain says warfare, we say healthcare."

There's no word if John McCain saw or heard any of the demonstrations against his Atlanta visit today but nevertheless, the several dozen protestors gathered downtown this afternoon intended to express their dissent at a John McCain presidency.

Among those in attendance at the protest were state Democratic Party Chair Jane Kidd and state Sen. David Adelman (D - Atlanta) who used John McCain's visit to highlight his ties to controversial Republican Ralph Reed.

"We are here today on the streets of Atlanta with real Georgians who are struggling and need our support. Later today, inside this fancy hotel, John McCain will be meeting with Jack Abramoff's colleague Ralph Reed and other lobbyists to hear about their clients," Kidd said at a press conference directly across the street from most of the protestors.

"Instead of meeting with Georgians and hearing from us about what we need from our country, John McCain has chosen to talk only with people who are giving him thousands of dollars."

In recent days, Ralph Reed and his connections to disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff have been the target of criticisms from Democrats after the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that he had agreed to serve on McCain's "Victory 2008" fundraising team.  Associated Press reports say that "Reed's public relations firm...received $4.2 million from Abramoff to mobilize Christian voters to fight the opening of casinos that could compete with Abramoff's Indian tribe clients." [Source:  Associated Press, "McCain nets $1.75 million at Reed-linked event", August 18, 2008]

Also, according to the AP, John McCain raised over a million dollars at the "Ralph Reed-linked" event.

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John Edwards in Atlanta

Nearly 300 Atlanta-area people braved yesterday's atypical snow to see and hear former Sen. John Edwards speak at the IBEW Local 613 union hall.  Had the weather been better, I have no doubt the room would have overflowed.  As it was, the room was full of people, full of positive energy, and full of fierce determination to stand by our candidate, come what may.

Mark Taylor, Georgia's Lt. Governor from 1999 to 2007, took the microphone about 2pm to begin working up the crowd.  Despite his loss in the 2006 governor's race, he's still got the fire in the belly.  Taylor spoke to our desperate need to win the White House in 2008, ("We knew George Bush would mess up America; what we didn't know is that he would mess up a world!")  and how it is Edwards who can best compete in more states than the other candidates (meaning Georgia).  After about 15 minutes, Taylor handed the mike to Governor Roy Barnes (GA governor from 1999-2003).  He again hammered home the electability issue saying, "Georgia Democrats can not afford to apologize for the head of our ticket!"  It is no secret that Democrats here have been beaten down for the last 3 cycles, with devastating consequences on issues like water, transportation, taxes and health care.  Barnes paid due homage to the union movement, then seamlessly at 2:40 pm, only 10 minutes behind schedule, he thundered "Ladies and gentlemen, John Edwards!"

The P.A. system began playing John Mellencamp's "This Is Our Country", but it was barely audible amid the cheers of the crowd.  I was positioned near his entrance to the stage, so I was able to receive an intial handshake from Edwards himself.  He took to the stage, joined by Barnes, Taylor, Richard Ray (a well known labor leader in Georgia), several members of the Georgia Legislature (including Senator Vincent Fort, a real hero in the fight to preserve Grady Hospital), and two past chairs of the state Party.  

I saw very little of Edwards speaking, as Governor Barnes was between me and the candidate.  That was OK, as the sound system worked well.  Some have suggested Edwards has a desire to form some kind of alliance with Obama; there was no evidence of that yesterday.  He blasted Obama's invocation of Reagan as an example of transformational change.  Edwards also mentioned the fact that the candidate who has raised more money from the defense industry, Big Pharma, and insurance interests isn't a Republican - it's Hillary Clinton.  JRE got in one good line I hadn't heard before.  "If you can join the Republican Party by signing a card, the same should apply to a union!" The rest was a pretty standard Edwards speech; end the war - Nataline Sarkisyan - we're the underdog because we don't kowtow to the corpoate structure - that's why we need to win.

He spoke for about 25 minutes, then waded into the crowd to shake hands and sign plackards.  I got my chance, but asked him to sign my copy of the 80-page platform booklet.  "I'd like you to sign this, because it's the ideas that matter".  He signed it for me, saying "You're absolutely right." Suffice it to say, that little booklet has just become one of my prize possessions.  After taking a cell-phone photo for the lady next to me, I left the scene to give others a chance.  On the way, I met up with fellow Cobb County Democrats, as well as those with whom I went door-to-door in Greenville, SC.  Afterwards, Edwards held a brief impromptu news conference with the local ABC and FOX affiliates, as well as Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  He also took a few questions from regular folks, including a teacher upset with NCLB, and another concerned about mental health issues.  About 3:40, John Edwards left the room and headed off to the next event.  

Mind you, this was before the disappointing numbers from Nevada came through.  That said, I do not believe knowing the numbers would have deterred a single person there.  Certainly not me.  After coming back home (a 1.5 hour journey on mass transit), my apolitical but very observant girlfriend asked the following question: "Are you supporting John Edwards out of self-defense?" My answer was yes.  That's why I cannot give up on this campaign.  I am working class to my very core, and I stand in defense of my right to live, and to have some effect the course of our society.  I depend on having affordable housing and mass transit available to me (the former mentioned directly in Edwards' speech).  

Compromise is not an option.  John Edwards is the only potential leader of the Democratic ticket who can stop the bleeding here in Georgia.  While it looks like the worst parts of Speaker Glenn Richardson's tax plan (eliminating property taxes in exchange for a huge sales tax increase) will be blocked this year, there will probably be increased regressivity in the tax code worked in some other way.  The water plan is inadequate, and mass transit and public health will be further neglected.  We must turn the corner here, and unfairly to be sure, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are not the ones to do that.  The tranformational change we as a country need will not come by accepting corporate lobbyist and PAC money, nor will it take academic self-importance.  

John Edwards cannot give up, and neither can those who support him.  How can one compromise the principle of self-defense?

I hope to post some pictures later, assuming some friends of mine remember to email them.  Thank you to all who read this for keeping the faith!

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Bill Richardson brings Mi Familia al estado de Georgia

This is the first in a three-part video series I'm doing for Huffington Post's Off the Bus.

Bill Richardson spent Friday, October 5, in Atlanta, GA, where he chartered a Spanish-named campaign infrastructure in a state with its fair share of anti-immigrant sentiments; enjoyed a lonely lunch at the Varsity with a nutritious "Yellow Dog;" and, in a bit of a switch, helped local Democrats raise a little money for their efforts here at home.

Video below the fold...

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