The term media can be defined as the main means of mass communication and it plays an essential part in developing and shaping public opinion (Ruddock, 2013). When the media represents people it often classifies them based on their age. Prevailing representations of youth in the media is often stereotypical and negative. The terms ‘hoodlums, ‘yobs’ and ‘thugs’ are often used when describing young people in the media (Ruddock, 2013).
This reinforces judgement of young people as being a social problem. This analysis I will be exploring different ways in which delinquents are represented in the media. The media piece i have chosen to analyse is the trailer of the movie Kidulthood which came out in 2006. This piece is of relevance as it is set in Britain and the themes within the media piece are drug and alcohol abuse, sexual activities and violence; all of which are increasing social problems amongst youths in today’s society (Kaufman, 2017).
Using the media piece I will analyse how young people are represented and relate it to subcultural theories such as Albert Cohen’s status frustration theory (1955), Walter Miller’s focal concern (1958) and Cloward and Ohlin’s three types of criminal subcultures (2013). Subcultural theories developed from Albert Merton’s Strain Theory. Instead of adjusting to classical perspectives within criminology, subcultural theorists focuses on how deviancy occurs when a person conforma to the social group that they affiliate themselves with rather than the culture of mainstream society (Shoemaker, 2010). In other words Kaufman (2017) states that it is the peer group that encourages individuals to immerse in delinquency and crime notably when the group the individual belongs to has different norms and values to the rest of society. Often delinquency and crime is the picture depicted by media regarding young people. The piece I am studying is the trailer of the movie Kidulthood. Kidulthood (2006) is a British Drama Film directed by Menhaj Huda and written by Noel Clarke which addresses british youth and street culture. The movie focused on the lives of the teenagers in impoverished areas of West London.
After the tragic suicide of a bullied student Katie, school was closed for the day and the movie followed the teenagers through that day. Partying, Bullying, drugs, sexual activity, teenage pregnancy, money and violence was presented as daily norms throughout the movie. Subcultural theorists suggest that a few groups obtain contrasting norms and values from those held by the rest of society (Kaufman, 2017).
Albert Cohen (1995) speculates that deviance only occurs within the lower class and characteristics amongst delinquent individuals often involve them being in the bottom tiers in schools and living in deprived areas (Cohen, 1995). According to Cohen (1995) this results in these individuals not being able to succeed through legitimate means. Thus Juvenile delinquency represented in the media can be explained as status frustration. The chosen media piece was set out in two poor areas of West London; Ladbroke Grove and Latimer Road.
They are deprived area whereby many are faced with challenges such as lack of social mobility, employment opportunities and poor housing. The three boys Trife, Jay and Moony align with with Cohens working class boys. The boys suffer from cultural deprivation and because of this they do not have the necessary skills to achieve. This media piece represents these young boys as having inadequate education and are of low social class. This is reflected in their clothes which consisted of baggy clothing and hoodies and also the language they used. The characters used a lot of slang words such as ‘blud’, ‘fam’ and alot of swearing which can be seen as an extension of the youth subculture that the young characters identify themselves with. Due to factors such as cultural deprivation young people reject mainstream cultural goals and create their own subcultural system of values (Cohen, 1995). This subculture overturns mainstream norms and values and instead offers rewards to deviant behaviour (Kaufman, 2017).
An example of this is status and this can be acquired through breaking the rules and being mischeivious. For example in the trailer of kidulthood, they gain status and respect by engaging in delinquent activities such as causing trouble, intimidating others and breaking both the school rules and the law. Mooney and Trife are seen smoking on the school playground showing no remorse for authority as the teacher calls them in to resume lessons. There is also a lot of violence shown in this film, which is another way the teenagers gain respect and status.
A lot of media representation of young people involve violence and this is also portrayed in the media piece. Sam is seen as the school bully who has gained status through his malicious behaviour and fear. In the media piece he confronted the trio and stole Jays Game boy. When Trife tried to defend him, Sam threw him on the floor and started beating them up.
The media shows that in order to get what they want teenagers resort to violence; and in retaliation the boys decided to go round to Sam’s house tying his brother up and went on to beating Sam up when he came home. The Focal Concerns Theory reiterates the roles of social networks within subcultures. Walter B. Miller (1958) suggested that lower class cultures have developed a number of concerns and mechanisms that they use to cope with their situation. He called these focal concerns and they are toughness, smartness, trouble, autonomy, excitement and fate.
In adolescence these focal concerns are exaggerated as individuals belong to peer groups which demand conformity as a way to gain status (Shoemaker, 2010). These focal concerns are seen in many parts of the media piece. People within the lower class subculture value toughness as an important trait; however this can result in assault and violence (Shoemaker, 2010). As mentioned previously, assault and violence is seen repeatedly throughout the media piece. Some of the characteristics that are held by the characters in the media piece all support Millers theory. This included masculinity, fearlessness and daring. Seconds into the trailer a group of girls are seen kicking, slapping and pulling the hair of another student inside the classroom.
Straight after is the confrontation scene of Trife and his boys with sam. Sam is seen kicking trife to the floor and laughing. In another scene Jay was seen assaulting a shop owner throwing glass bottle as the owner refuses to serve him.
Scenes portraying violence and assault is repeated bolstering the notion that youth are a social problem as they always turn to violence. In addition, another focal concern seen in the media piece is autonomy. Lower class culture are eminently hesitant about being controlled by others (Miller 1958).In other words they detest being told what to do and in turn this brings them into conflict with authority figures. In the scene of the playground a teacher turns to Trife and his boys and says “Get inside now before the second bell”. Trife approaches the teacher giving him direct eye contact as they stand centimeters apart. The confrontation amongst the two almost felt like a standoff. With in seconds the teacher looked away losing all power in the situation, only then was when Trife walked away.
This was also repeated when Trife was stopped by a policeman. This shows that the media represents youths as being anti authoritarian. Media representation of youth often portray them as a social problem, immoral or anti-authoritarian. As a result the behaviour of youth has attracted disapproval especially when it comes to drinking and drug taking (Ruddock, 2013). This links to another one of Miller’s focal concerns; excitement. This culture continuenly looks for excitement and thrills which often means taking part in what Stanley Hall (1906) calls risky behaviour. Having the whole day off to do as they pleased, the characters in the media piece are experimenting excitement. The characters are seen smoking weed, drinking, sniffing cocaine and engaging in sexual activities.
Young people are often associated with behaviours that are looked down upon by the reset of society. However a combination these ‘focal concerns’ has lead to subcultures that recognise crime and deviance as normal. The representation of youth in the media often illustrates them engaging in delinquent behaviours and committing crimes (Ruddock, 2013). There seems to be an overrepresentation of youth crime in news coverage. One study found that a third of articles focus on the issue of crime when reporting young people (Hasley and White, 2008) and. In the trailer of Kidulthood, the young characters are seen committing numerous crimes and Cloward and Ohlin (2013) suggest the reason for this is due to the lack of opportunities which lead to the formation of three types of delinquent subcultures; criminal subculture, conflict subculture and retreatist subculture.
Cloward and Ohlin (2013) clarify that there are two types of opportunity structures; legitimate and illegitimate. They emphasise that not everyone can access the legitimate opportunity structure due to strain. In areas such as the one in the media piece young people live in a location where they are faced with both material and cultural deprivation. Within these areas there are existing deviant subcultures (Kaufman, 2017).
The legitimate opportunity structure in such areas is blocked and because of this young people turn to illegitimate opportunity and join the existing deviant subcultures. This is evident in the media piece as the characters display behaviour that fit in with Cloward and Ohlin’s deviant subcultures. The criminal subculture is based around organised crime. Those within this subculture live off of commiting crime. Career criminals tend to target young people and socialise them into their own criminal career( Shoemaker, 2013). This is seen in the media piece with Trife and his gangster Uncle. As seen in the media piece the sequence of boys rejecting mainstream culture and forming delinquent subcultures first starts off in school. However this can be come far reaching as they grow up, taking on serious criminal behaviour.
In the media piece Trife was being tempted into the world of crime by his ruthless gangster uncle as he gave him money to make replica guns. Trifes Uncle was socialising him into a criminal career for economic gain and material success. However Trifes Uncle was exploiting his vulnerability this can be said for many young people who are involved in criminal activities. However things like this are not shown in the media representation of young people. Conflict subcultures are involved in a lot of territorial violence and gang fighting (Shoemaker, 2013). The media piece includes elements of conflict subcultures. In the playground scene different social groups form and everyone knows their place on the playground. Overstepping in a someone else ‘turf’ can lead to violence which is seen in the many violent encounters such as Sam and Trifes’.
Cloward and Ohlin (2013) explain that the retreatist subculture often involve them dropping out of both legitimate and illegitimate opportunity structures. They then turn to drug abuse and alcohol abuse. The media piece did not necessarily indicate the characters dropping out of both opportunity structures as they all had goal so not necessarily a retreatist subculture but there was a lot of drug and alcohol abuse.The trailer of kidulthood looks at the stereotypical teenagers.
It seems to focus on a number of isues faced by teenages. The main themes that arise is violence, sexual activities, drug and alcohol abuse which arise from them being part of a deviant subcultures. The themes are do occur within youths but they are stereotypical it does not provide a realistic representation of youths. However, it does provide realism on how young people act within certain subcultures. By using the trailer of kidulthood I analysed how the youths are represented in relation to subcultural theories of Cohen, Miller and Cloward and Ohlin. Cohen (2013) suggests that the juvenile delinquency represented in the media could be explained as status frustration. This is evident in the media piece as the film took place in deprived areas of London. Miller (1958) explained how lower class people use mechanisms that they use to cope with their situation which he calls focal concerns.
Many of these focal concerns were seen in the behaviour of the youths displayed in the media piece such as toughness, excitement and autonomy. Furthermore Cloward and Ohlin (2013) identifies three different delinquent subcultures; criminal, conflict and retreatist subculture. The characters in the media piece display behaviour that fit in with their theory. Thus the way in which delinquents and delinquency are represented in the media can be explained by subcultural theories.