In the L.A. Times last week, Enid Portuguez presented an interesting piece about the hit show Gossip Girl, in which the show's producer insisted that the show does not "glamorize" teen drinking or sex:
“When people say the show glamorizes teen drinking and sex, they aren’t really watching the episodes,” said Savage. “Not all the characters drink or have sex, and when they do, it’s always put in a context. Behaviors are rooted in character. There’s decision-making, regret and consequences involved.”
For years, I've heard similar arguments about all kinds of different media and always heard similar language: "there's sex but it's not glamorized "there's drugs but it's not glamorized." I have not seen Gossip Girl nearly enough to judge one way or the other. But I think the phrase "it's not glamorized" can cover a multitude of sins. The larger question this article raises is, what do you specifically have to do to keep bad behavior from being glamourized?
Bad behavior is pretty common in our media. So here are five things you can do to make sure the role model's bad behavior is "not glamorized" in your movie:
(5) Kill the role model: This is the most obvious and perhaps the most effective deterrent. It subconsciously reminds us that death comes to people who do bad things. If you smoke weed, you're considerably more likely to be killed by a masked serial killer. In a horror flick and having an extra-marital affair with your best friend's husband in their dark basement bedroom? The killer is in the closet. You're both dead. Examples: Chris from Carrie. If you are having premarital sex with your boyfriend and pick on dorky girls, you may get your car telekinetically flipped and die brutally.
(4) Beat down the role model: Next most effective deterrent. If you do bad things, you're going to get seriously beat up. The reason this is effective is that the person can come dangerously close to #5 during the process. Examples: Edward in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe -- You betrayed Narnia, so you're going to get kicked around by trolls, goblins and ice queens. Lucky for you your sister has a magic juice bottle to bring you back.
(3) Exile the role model: All the role model's friends stop spending time with her. The girlfriend dumps the male role model, perhaps screaming "you're just not person I used to love anymore!" It subconsciously reminds us that people don't like you if you do bad things. Examples: Michael in the Godfather -- If you become a mafia boss and begin killing off family members, your wife might not want to be married to you anymore. Also, Charlie from LOST. If you do heroin, your brother won't join a band with you, you'll crash on a mysterious island where even a bunch of outcasts won't want to hang with you.
(2) Jail the role model: The role model gets some time behind bars to think about what he did. Perhaps not the most efficient deterrent because now there is plenty of media out there that make jail look like a cake walk. This one can also include all sorts of legal action from restraining orders to community service. Examples: Barney in How I Met Your Mother. If you pee on the side of churches, you may end up working in a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving. Also, Jerry on Seinfeld. If you build an entire show on making fun of people, you probably will end up in prison at the show's finale.
(1) Punish the role model: This is the one seen most often and is probably the least effective. The role model does something wrong and then gets yelled at, grounded, etc. In teen shows, this only serves to further the myth of "evil adults don't want you to have fun." When the only consequence to bad actions is upset parents, we tend to think maybe it's the parents who are out of line. We tend more toward blaming parents especially when the parents themselves are depicted as having made their own bad choices. Example: Grace in The Secret Life of the American Teenager. If you date someone when your parents tell you not to, they might be upset with you...but they can still make a few witty jokes to lighten the mood before commercial break.
Are there other ways to make sure bad behavior isn't glamorized? Anyone have better examples?