THE MERCHANTS OF COOL
aspiring modelshome
watch the program
what teens think
themes
Interviews
media giants
discussion
Discussion

What are your opinions on the tactics and techniques of the marketing media who are targeting our teenagers? Have they gone too far?

Dear FRONTLINE,

i haven't actually viewed this yet, but i will. i am getting very tired of others judging my world from the out side.

i am a juggalo, a follower of the insane clown posse, in fact i was at the show this halloween when footage was recorded.

this title of rage rock actually puts me into a rage, people make it sound as if because i am a proud juggalo i must hate gays, woman and everything else for that matter, and that i must be very immature. sure there is plenty of violence and profanity.. but there is an underlying message. you see, people hear the violence, but what they don't hear is this violence was done to a racist wife/child beater., sure it may not be gods words, but there is a large amount of people whom feel that that very message has helped them. i was raised in a racist environment{my town} and i despise the ignorance of my neighbors. like it or not i disagree very much with some of what i've read, but i agree with a whole lot of it too.BOTTOM LINE------KIDS, TEENS, ADULTS, ARE GOING TO DO WHAT THEY ARE GOING TO DO....OUR MORALS GUIDE US, NOT OUR "FASHIONS", OR ALL THIS HYPE

jeff thalisoN
ionia, mi

Dear FRONTLINE,

Since your show was pre-empted by the commentary on

Pres. Bush's speech--at least here on the East Coast--is there any chance you will be rerunning the

show soon? I was really looking forward to it--and

quite disappointed that so much was not shown. Thanks.

susan geary
williamsburg, VA 23185

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Please contact your local station about rebroadcasts of this report.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I missed some of your program because it was pre-empted by a speech from the "President," but the part of "The Merchants of Cool" that I saw was excellent, thoughtful, thought-provoking television -- in other words, totally uncommercial. I hope to catch the whole program in a rerun. Keep up the good work. And thanks for the excellent Web pages on the program.

Alan King
New Braunfels, Texas

Dear FRONTLINE,

I've always been skeptical about the entire advertising industry which is either ironic or coincidental since I am a 24 year old graphic artist working at a company whose client list includes 50 fortune 500 companies.

I can remember when I first saw MTV I thought it was just another cool TV program which made my favorite bands seem so much closer. As I grew into a teenager though, my interests turned towards the punk music and very low key bands which are to this day performing independently having surpassed major label opportunities. Being a member of such a social group enhances your skepticism not only of advertising and media but everyhting and everyone. As years passed, I realized that I not only hated MTV for it's "over-commercialization", but moreso because I knew how many kids everywhere were accepting the idea that it is cool to emulate this cliche dimeanor which MTV promoted. MTV did an amazing job as far as target marketing and execution of propagation to their demographic.

I am amazed with the thought that MTV could put such an importance on monetary success and ratings as to totally dismiss any thought of their role in setting up the ideology of an entire generation. ...

MTV has brought the attention focus of a generation down from bettering themselves and the world they live in, to living for the moment and not contemplating their futures. When MTV exploits the nonsense which goes on at springbreak, that tells kids" this is cool, everybody does it and its normal, so go ahead, show your tits and rub your crotch all over the ass of some guy you met three hours ago." This is so destructive at a time when the world is advancing faster than ever; and kids barely know themselves...

Im sure some would say that Im just another wannabe trying to sound like Im "different" but I disagree, as I went through my "rebelious punk" phase years ago. I still dont smoke, drink or do drugs; still play punk music and still thumb my nose to the corporate whoreswho are now my bosses- but I feel I just surrounded myself with the right people who became my friends and we all forged a way around the MTV ideal and became individuals.

Not definable by a television channel but by our actions and contributions to the world. Thanks

Kevin Husted
Lansing, Mi

Dear FRONTLINE,

As usual, the high quality of your work has brought to light the real machine behind the curtain. I must admit, as an owner of internet properties, and an old worrier or the music business, while watching the program, I was less concerned with the damage this does

to our society as I was in playing the same game- only better. Human nature is a drag sometimes.

Unfortunately this goes to show that when ambition and desire meet, especially among corporate behemoths, society becomes nothing more than sheep to be herded and shaved. I hope for much better for our society in the future.

William Wilkins
San Franciaco, California

Dear FRONTLINE,

I very much enjoyed your expose...

One quibble, however. I must protest that you did not include Tom Frank, editor of THE BAFFLER in your discussion. His two superb books, THE CONQUEST OF COOL, & COMMODIFY YOUR DISSENT are the sin qua none in the field, and your correspondents dimly acted as if they weren't even aware of them. Doug Rushkoff is okay so far as he goes, but he is a recent convert to the critiquing "the consciousness industry," and less than a decade ago he was still enthusiastically supporting it. Frank and THE BAFFLER had it right from the beginning; perhaps it is their no-compromise style that led you to exclude them?

Bill McCormick
Charlottesville, Virginia

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was surprised and relieved to read your discussion with the teens who viewed the program. Much credit should be given to all of those individuals for the intelligence and lack of naivete they displayed. They seem much more aware of the world around them and the media machine's place in it than I was at their age.

I am 29 and part of the generation that was originally "culture f*ck*d" by the media. It was not until I studied public relations at a major university that I began to understand the workings of the media machine. What is shocking and appalling is that people my age are most likely those in charge of youth marketing efforts.

In any case, I hope that young people continue to become more and more advanced so they can keep up with the exploitation curve. After all, in 5 years, the current group of youth marketers will be completely out of touch and will be replaced by today's 18-24 year olds, who are undoubtedly much more adept than the people in charger today.

Danny Rigby
Gainesville, Florida

Dear FRONTLINE,

Mr. Rushkoff is always a delight to see out in the media turning people on to the idea of epistemology. I think it is vitally important for everyone in the world to have at least a basic understanding of how information and ideas move in our world today.

I notice in some of the commentary posted in this forum the natural need to be distinct and different, something that this documentary really focuses on. What is the next 'different' thing is constantly on the move. Rather than being a depressing "cycle" of bad begets worse, I submit that it is a very healthy and active organism that is fully capable of going both up AND down. When the kids are saturated with sex and violence, whenever that happens, maybe they'll pick up a nonfiction book. I, like some other teens, consider myself on an edge. My edge is that I dig minimalism, careful research, and the reduction of pointless stimulus in my life.

That said let me add one more thing here about the internet and the reorganization of identity. In AOL Instant Messenger you can search for chat partners based on interest categories, and Yahoo!Profiles has a sophisticated system of identifying your interests and hooking you up with like minded people.

This sort of thing is no longer reserved for college and professional organizations, but it's working its way right down to the high-school level via the internet. The teenage population is in my opinion the last population to be "conglomerate" in nature, hence, when it stops being so cookie-cutter-like, corporate conglomerates simply cannot treat it in a cookie cutter way. Good riddance. My website is at xovoxovoxo.com

Michael Henley
Tampa, FL

Dear FRONTLINE,

As an independent thinker, and a 20 year old male, I find it frightening to think that in our country, supposedly "the land of the free", that there are so many legions of executives trying to keep a deathgrip control over my generation. Basically, those in power are just out to sell us fear. In media, it's fear that you won't be cool enough if you don't buy the latest $80 Abercrombie shirt and the new $19 Jennifer Lopez CD. This reminds me of how, for centuries, religion has been selling the public the fear that they'll burn in hell for eternity if they don't support the church. Very creepy parallels, here.

Well, all I can hope for is that other young people who are disgusted by the dogmatic control of media will get involved in trying to make a difference somehow, instead of just sitting in the sidelines, complaining. As an artist, web designer, and musician, I try to do my part everyday.

Evan Hayden
Toledo, Ohio

Dear FRONTLINE,

"The Merchants of Cool" has exposed the underbelly of the American consumer society in a way I have never seen a program do before.

This was not just another program on the rage of parents or consumer groups over the raunchy language and sexual content; or about the

likely influence of media in the increase of violent and/or premature sexual behaviors. It exposed the market tested and approved approaches of Madison Avenue.

The technological advances of the last two decades have largely been directed at the exploitation of those most acclimated towards it -- youth. Many in the Boomer generation, having themselves been over-indulged beyond all predecessors; have now gone off the scale as the financiers of the very phenomenon that makes them cringe. The guilt of so many in the Boomer generation, over their Lilliputian role in parenting have learned to use "money and things" as a substitute for nurturing.

One comment made during the show that rung true with me because I have made the same comment so many times before myself. This generation, as far as forms of expressions through the arts is concerned, seems to have nothing truly of its own. The music today is predictable and monotonous. The "entertainment" is contrived and developed by focus groups and computer

programs.

Even rap music must rely upon music tracks from past rock and soul music artist because so few of it's entertainers know much about music -- except what they hear from the speakers of a stereo. The only true music they possess is "rage rap" which would be more

accurately described as a desperate scream for help alas, it seems even the rage rappers can be co-opted.

We Boomers have always known it was the media. We just couldn't explain exactly how it was being done -- now we can. Cancel your subscription to MTV. Its a start.

John DeGraphenreed
Nashville, Tennessee

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a teacher in an inner city urban Catholic High School with a dress code in place. Our students do not have to compete with each other for who has the "best look". I try to educate my students about the dangers of consumerism and of judging a person by what he has rather then who he is.

Along with my informed students we are trying to educate our staff and student body on "consumer power" in the area of Fair Trade Coffee and in developing an anti-sweatshop purchasing policy for the Arch-diocese of San Francisco. Many of my students realize the banality and seductive nature of corporate advertizing. Yet, for some "Selling one's soul for the company store", at least in the Untied States, begins in adolescence.

San Francisco, California

Dear FRONTLINE,

It's a pleasure to see frank depictions of America's media monopoly outside of the small alternative press or academia.

Tonight's documentary was so compelling that I almost forgot about the parade of commercials prefacing it. Unfortunately, watching PBS sell the gloss of high culture to its corporate sponsors underscores the dangers of media monopoly. Commercials in public programming, whether they're called commercials or not, cast a long shadow over the ideal of public service programming. Welcome to the machine PBS.

Bill Raskolnikov
Levelland, Texas

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for producing this segment. I have been inpired to learn more about the effects of the manufactured culture we have allowed to define our lives.

Joel Cardinal
San Francisco, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a teenager I was not in the hip crowd, and so I developed other interests in my community.For instance, sometimes I would get laughed at by the "mall rats" for choosing to wear things I found in thrift stores which supported charitable causes I liked.But I didn't care to be part of those "cool" kids oppessed about the latest trendy things ...

Those marketing to teens are particularly looking for kids who are bored and don't know what else to do with themselves.That is what makes it especially scary about all the sex and violence promoted in television shows and products marketed at teens. In fact its gotten to the point where a kid cannot do anything that is shocking or rebellous anymore.

This is why being a part of the conservative Christian culture, which teaches sex is meant for marriage is the best counter-cultural and anti-commericial thing a teenager can do.

Michelle Kunert
Sacramento, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a 19-year-old college student who is powerfully aware of the effects of the "midriff" persona, yet nonetheless trapped by its allure. Although I boast a `great personality', I suffer from low self-esteem if my appearance does not fit cozily into the mainstream. I am aware of the sexualization of my gender, yet have fallen prey to it.

However, I refuse to accept MTV's packaging music into a tidy container of sex, glitter and catchy rhythms. As a teenager, I am a fan of Tori Amos, Tracy Chapman, Pearl Jam and others who speak to the true power of music. While MTV claims it caters to the whim of adolescent issues, their glaring mistake is to assume such issues are limited to boyfriends, lipstick and sex. I am a teenager, but more so, I am a real person, and by suppressing my social consciousness and personal awareness, the media is truly cheating the entire society.

I appreciate your program and hope that MTV executives take it into account. However, I am disappointed by your exclusion of minorities in your discussion. The "midriff" is exclusively blonde and white-- her body, hair and personality is different than the African-American, leaving young women in a trap of cultural preference. Ethnic women are delegated to hip-hop videos solely as thong-models. Hip-Hop itself began as an underground movement, a voice for the silenced Black masses. Now while groups like "Dead Prez" still make political statements, the likes of Puff Daddy and his commercial appeal have come to dominate Black presence in music. They are now imitated in white rappers and the "rap metal" rage. If we want to discuss the "Merchants of Cool", please include the exploitation of the Black Americans; envied for their style, imprisoned for their color.I appreciate your forage into the commercialism of teen culture. As a young female, I hope there are more opportunities in the future for society to discuss it.


berkeley, ca


home · what teens think · themes · interviews · media giants · discussion
landscape · inside trl · getting close · cool hunting · eminem
synopsis · douglas rushkoff · producers · tapes & transcripts · press · credits
FRONTLINE · wgbh · pbs online

some photos ©joel page
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

NEXT ON FRONTLINE

Solitary NationApril 22nd

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS