Readers, Writers, Texts

Youth Culture

Popular youth culture is often considered ‘cutting-edge’ or involves a form of expression that works in opposition to a mainstream culture as promoted by adults, corporations and schools. Therefore advertising that appeals to youth culture considers what young people believe to be cool and interesting so they can cultivate this growing market and its long-term brand loyalty. There are two significant areas of interest when studying advertisements that appeal to young people. One is, again, a question of representation. In order to bottle this ‘counter-cultural’ spirit, what do adverts make young people look, sound and act like? 

The second is in the study of the cycle in terms of what is seen as new, fresh and original. In many youth sub-cultures, young people push away from what is seen as corporate and develop a rebel style all their own. This new style has very strong appeal, however, and may be quickly copied by commercial producers wishing to profit from what is cool and new. Therefore, corporations put a lot of time, effort and money into predicting and determining what the next big thing will be in youth culture. This effort results in a ‘feedback loop’: To find out about this phenomena, watch the Merchants of Cool documentary (above), and explore these articles: 

Class Activity: Coolhunting

Select a real company with an international range that markets ‘cool’ products towards young people: this could be a TV company like MTV, a clothing company, or another brand aimed at young people. Create either a written or spoken report for the CEO of this company. At the heart of this report should be the understanding that the meaning of ‘cool’ is not fixed; it changes from place to place, person to person, and culture to culture and is subject to the forces of the ‘feedback loop.’

Learner Portfolio

Choose an advertising campaign or television show that is trying to be ‘cool’ and write an attack piece criticising the way it represents young people.

Body of Work: Diesel Advertising Campaign††

Diesel’s new campaign from Anomaly New York is just plain stupid. The risqué work celebrates stupidity as a kind of liberating antidote to intelligence, which, in the current political climate, you might think is a dangerous philosophy to have. According to the brand’s “Be Stupid Philosophy” (posted below): “Stupid is the relentless pursuit of a regret-free life. Only stupid can be truly brilliant.” Discuss the way young people are represented in these adverts and the way the adverts construct meaning using genre tropes and elements of visual and lexical language.

Towards Assessment: Individual Oral

“Supported by an extract from one non-literary text and one from a literary work, students will offer a prepared response of 10 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of questions by the teacher, to the following prompt:

Examine the ways in which the global issue of your choice is presented through the content and form of two of the texts that you have studied. (40 marks)

IB Language and Literature Guide

The Diesel Advertising campaign would work very well as a non-literary text in your Individual Oral assessment. ‘Diesel’ and/or ‘Anomaly New York’, which is the marketing company commissioned to develop these ads, can be considered the author of these texts. They can be explored in the light of two Global Issues: Culture, Identity and Community and Art, Creativity and Imagination. Speak to your teacher about your ideas for pairing literary and non-literary texts in your Individual Oral. The following are suggestions you might like to consider when selecting paired texts, but speak to your teacher abut your choices as well:

  • Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice – look at the way the younger characters in the play are portrayed, particularly: Bassanio when he speaks and behaves in Act 1; Jessica’s character as portrayed in Act 2; Jessica and Lorenzo in Act 5, Scene 1.
  • Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions – Tambu’s behaviour during Babamakuru’s homecoming in chapter 3, her interactions with Nyasha in chapters 4 – 5; Nyasha’s conflict with her father in chapter 6; Tambu’s homecoming in chapter 7.
  • J.G. Ballard’s Empire of the Sun – look at the way young people are portrayed in this novel by focusing on the representation of Jim, his behaviour and attitudes at the start of the novel.

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