Why Teens Are Ruining Our Cultural Climate & How to Stop Them
Written by: Violet Myers
Teenagers. A strange and turbulent breed. Hormonal, angst-ridden and very, very powerful.
As a demographic teens are some of the most desirable in terms of flogging movies, music and tech. Their lack of financial responsibility, habit of flocking in large coordinating groups and regular fat cheques from grandma, means that 14 year old Dani-with-an-‘i’ carries huge economic influence. As well as deciding if they’re more of a Cumberbitch or a Belieber, teens are often the ones who will decide whether an artist will sink or swim and what films will be going into production, inevitably shaping popular culture dramatically.
One Direction are one of the the highest selling music acts in the world and are the highest selling act in the UK. The British bred boys earned $130 million in 2015 alone (according to Forbes.com) and they constantly fill out stadiums, with screaming teenagers and their haggard parents.
Similarly Taylor Swift, whose music is almost entirely targeted towards the teenage demographic, made a staggering $80 million in 2015 (Forbes.com), making her not only one of the wealthiest musicians on the planet, but also one of the most powerful celebrities of our generation. A spur of the moment tweet from the megastar could provoke an army of Swifties to invade a country, all in less than 140 characters. She’s joined by Ed Sheeran, whose harmless melodies about the dangers of tumble drying your cardigans, have cemented him in the top 3 of global album sales in 2015.
Swift, Sheeran and 1D’s music is delicately sculpted to bode well with tweens, teens and maybe more importantly, the parents purchasing the merchandise. Their music is clean, respectful and ever so cleverly taps into the teenage psyche. Motifs of not fitting in, growing up and unrequited crushes run through the top 3 albums, speaking directly to their audience’s Claire’s Accessories pierced ears. Of course, all three hit-makers have fans over the tender age of 19, with many of us succumbing to the charms of Swift’s lobotomisingly catchy ‘Shake It Off’ earlier last year. Yup, that’s right, we shook it off.
Even the Queen recently had dear old Ed perform at The Royal Variety Performance, I hear she loves that one about going mad for a couple of grams.
But why Swift, a 26 year old, and Sheeran, 25, are so rigidly relating their music towards teenage fans is no mystery. Why risk alienating a committed, frenzied fan base with themes they may not understand or lyrics that could upset ma and pa? Teens devour pop culture in a way older fans don’t. You only need watch 30 seconds of a 1D concert to see the delirium, tears and screams of what sounds like absolute terror, to know that buying a fave singer’s album, concert tickets and limited edition toothpaste is about a lot more than just music. It’s about identity, belonging to a vast and expanding team, at a time of life when teens are shaping who they are in the world. These fan-bases become integral tribes and the mass sales reflect this.
So, what’s the big deal? This isn’t a new phenomenon. Beatlemania was led by none other than pantie throwing, tour bus chasing teens with a hunger for Lennon’s bowl cut. It was this teenage love that catapulted what would be known as ‘one of the greatest bands of all time’ into popularity.
But album sales like Swift’s are hard to ignore, her inoffensive breed of music have proved a winning formula for keeping producers well stocked for money fights. What it means for the rest of us, who aren’t studying for our mock GCSE’s, is a cultural landscape totally designed around the whims of a demographic who caused #Who’sPaulMcCartney to trend on Twitter. Are we really OK with our generation’s pop music legacy being almost entirely influenced by relationships that start and end in the same Maths class?
It’s not just music being shaped by this need to please the world’s biggest spenders. A film can suffer a financial death sentence if given anything higher than 15 certificate. Director Shane Meadow’s campaigned heavily to assure his coming of age drama ‘This is England’ received a reduced certificate, aware of the importance of the teenage market. You have to wonder, if it isn’t teenage boys seeking a good fart joke then who is seeing all of those Adam Sandler movies? Much like with music, a teen’s viewing habits differ greatly to working folk, with the cinema still being a social, group experience, resulting in hoards of teens piling into The Maze Runner, high hopes of some over the bra action with Ryan from Year 9.
This is by no means a criticism of teenagers, nor of the people their fandom has made popular. Teens wholeheartedly commit to pop stars in a way most people would struggle to apply to their ‘IRL’ relationships. Their adoration goes further than parting with the cash they earn from their paper rounds, hours of effort are sunk into creating fan-art and fan-fiction. It’s hard to believe just how much Harry Styles BDSM fan fiction there is on online and the sheer popularity of it, give it a year, there will be an adapted one for the screen, with Daniel Day Lewis in the title role.
The point is, these kids are showing an enthusiastic passion for something they love, in an age when apathy is cooler than having 10,000 views on your street photography Tumblr. If anything it’s admirable. Perhaps it’s time to take a leaf out of the average teen’s second hand text books. If we want our cultural landscape to reflect more adult themes it’s up to us, the over 19’s, to show the same enthusiasm for the culture we love. Buy that album instead of downloading it, go to see that film in the cinema and then buy the DVD, make time to get to gigs and scream louder than anyone else in the room. Teens have high metabolisms, don’t deal with rush hour and have never even heard of the horrors of council tax, they can’t control the media too. Adults of the world unite! Be passionate, make time for culture and would it kill you write some erotic fan fiction?
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