Children's Media Present Meets Past Final Copy

In this day and age, television is flooded with countless reality TV shows. From The Real World to the Jersey Shore to the pressure of Keeping Up With The Kardashians… children are exposed to the ugly truth of adulthood. Between the age of 11 and 15, children are drawn to watching these vulgar television programs. From the 90’s to the year 2012, the “child content” believed to be acceptable has changed tremendously. As a child growing up in the 1990s, I have lived through this vast transformation and have become aware of the similarities and differences in children’s media today.

The Jersey Shore is a television series aired on MTV, a teenager’s favorite channel and a parent’s worst nightmare. This American TV series consists of eight housemates, also strangers, who were chosen to live in a house for the summer directly on the shore of New Jersey. While all of age to drink and make poor decisions, MTV records and video tapes their every move to sift through and broadcast the juiciest moments for people, mainly teens, to view at home. Along with the everyday drama that comes naturally with young adults (love, hook ups, friendship betrayal), the Jersey Shore caught the eye of teenagers worldwide because of the emphasis on Italian-American stereotypes, and in this case, reality. In August of 2012, the sixth and final season of Jersey Shore was aired and declared as the network’s most viewed series telecast ever.

Rewinding back to the year 1993, the most popular show to hit the air was a TV series named Boy Meets World. Unlike the Jersey shore, this program was not manipulative and crammed with scrutiny. Twenty years ago, ABC network aired television series filled with moments of self discovery, family problems and lessons learned through high school and college. Long story short, Boy Meets World is an American TV sitcom about a boy named Cory Matthews from Philadelphia and his life journey to his wedding day as a grown man in the seventh and final season. Although there are a handful of similarities between Boy Meets World and today’s Jersey Shore, the differences between the two series open your eyes to how drastically children’s media has changed from the past to the present.

An important theme in both of these shows is “family.” Family is depicted in various ways throughout, but none the less, family is referred to frequently. This being said, the main characters of Jersey Shore all start off as strangers. But, as time passes, and friendships and enemies are made, the Jersey Shore cast realizes they must stick together as a family. Season after season, they laugh and fight and fight some more, and even become sexual partners at times. When the private lives of these eight young adults are exposed to the world, they eventually gain a connection so deep, they declare themselves family.

On the contrary, in Boy Meets World, family is portrayed as the everyday definition thought by many. Cory Matthews lives in a loving house with his mother and father, younger sister, and older brother. They disagree and argue, but by the end of every episode, the family conflict is resolved. For example, in Season 8 Episode 16, older brother Eric decides to quit school and pursue his dream of being a weatherman at the TV station full time. Shortly after, he finds out the hard way that he’s going to need something other than a pretty face to succeed, an education. In a way, Boy Meets World was a step by step guide for children viewers teaching them how to deal with certain issues at school and home. Whether it was sibling fights or disagreements with parents about being “grounded”, Boy Meets World was full of very helpful lessons for children to live by.

As decades have passed, Jersey Shore and Boy Meets World have made it quite evident that the meaning of the term “family” has shifted from traditional to untraditional means. For one, our country has passed several state laws asserting same sex marriages as legal. This is just one example of how our nation is constantly growing and learning to accept each other’s difference, thus adapting to what is seen as acceptable. In the eighties, “family” behavior such as that shown on Jersey Shore would not be tolerated on television or by others. For example, the cast ganging up to drunkenly fight other club goers, the cast hooking up in blatant sight of the cameras, and cursing, throwing vases and glass bottles at one another during a conversation gone sour. But, times have changed, and in this day and age, riotous and vulgar behavior is not only accepted but encouraged on television by viewers. As you can infer, the Jersey Shore television program is outstandingly explicit compared to the educational, kid-friendly Boy Meets World. The shows are completely opposite in lessons learned throughout each episode, yet connected by the assortment of traditional and untraditional meaning in the word and theme of “family.” Concisely, you can conclude as the years have passed, children’s media for teens is no longer for the benefit of the child, but solely produced based on what the network will profit from most.

Furthermore, another theme in the two shows is stereotypes. Stereotypes, although greatly frowned upon, are inevitable and apparent practically everywhere. Jersey Shore has created a worldwide phenomenon with copyrighted sayings and popular phrases said by the cast in the show. For example, sayings such as “Yea Buddy!”, “GTL: Gym, Tan, Laundry”, “grenade”, “landmine,” and the use of the words guido/ guidette, etc. This may seem like a positive outcome for the show’s ratings, but it is negatively impacting the Italian- American people and culture. For example, the fifth season of Jersey Shore was filmed in Italy which provoked problems with the United States MTV network as well as trouble amongst the cast with locals. The natives, of the area in Italy where the Jersey Shore cast filmed, condemned the cast and show altogether because they felt they were being represented as a group of overly tan, belligerent sinners.

Quite the opposite, Boy Meets World stereotyped an American family by depicting them as full of life and love and always willing to help one another. Although this may be the case for some families, it is not always so pretty within the household (i.e. divorce, only child). In the very first episode of Boy Meets World, the viewer is introduced to the Matthews family and their good friend, neighbor, school principal and everyday mentor George Feeny. The stereotype of white Americans being family oriented, having a comfortable income, and living in a safe neighborhood is obvious in each and every episode. Although both in the wrong for stereotyping, the difference between the two are Boy Meets World produced and aired positive stereotypes full of hope for children while Jersey Shore aired a cast of young adults embarrassing their family names by drinking and getting into trouble constantly.

From the 90’s TV series to the reality TV series of 2012, media has changed monumentally. Although the slight similarities of themes and stereotypes still appear in both, it is obvious television today has a bigger concern than fun and enlightening teenage programs; and that is “how cheap and fast can we produce this thing?”

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Online. Visited October 16, 2012.
Online. Visited October 16, 2012.