In an attempt to explore what’s currently hip ‘n’ happening with young folks, I conducted a couple of interviews this week. Jill (pseudonym) is a 17-year-old music-loving female about to complete her final year of schooling. Jack (also a pseudonym… could you guess?) is a 14-year-old sports-and-video-game loving male, almost finished Year 9. I thought it might be interesting to compare two different perspectives.
As expected, each respondent had contrasting views on what texts were “popular.” I suspect that their contrasting responses had far more to do with gender difference than age gap. While both indicated that they don’t always like the same things as their friends do, I believe that similar interests and attitudes may have been a significant actor in the formation of their friend relationships. When I have the opportunity to observe these two young people interact with their friends, all members of the group display similar preferences in clothing choices (for example).Due to the number of questions and the length of the interview responses, this will be the first of a series of four separate posts to report on these interviews.
Which “texts” are most popular (in each of the following categories) with people of your age…
Jack: I don’t read many books but I like funny books best. None of my friends talk about books much.
Jill: Twilight, all the series with mythical creatures, angels and fairies and things like that, love stories but with violence in them. We love all the magic. I guess it’s just really intriguing. They have romance but they’re not your typical boring high school teenage romance. They have fights and wars and it’s more imaginative. Everyone loves Harry Potter of course. Books about the future and fantasy are just more interesting to read that reality because they combine so much more.
Jack: Elysium because it’s full of action. It’s set in the future and it’s really interesting because you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. All the effects and acting are really well done.
Jill: Anything on at the cinema really, people will go and watch. There’s all the old favourites like Mean Girls and Pitch Perfect. All the Disney movies everyone just loves. Early 90s movies everyone is obsessed with because we grew up with them. I guess we’re in love with them because they’re part of our childhood and they’re family movies that everyone can enjoy. Oh, High School Musical! Everyone loves that, though a lot of people don’t… Enchanted too I forgot that one.
Jack: I couldn’t say. I don’t really watch TV and neither do my friends. I watch YouTube videos a lot though. I like work out videos like fitness and weight training stuff. Also gaming videos.
Jill: Everyone loves the Carrie diaries – it’s like the prequel to Sex and the City – Pretty Little Liars, Glee. People like reality TV shows like Biggest Loser, Big Brother. Also Packed to the Rafters. Scrubs. iCarly. A lot of the old cartoons. Quite a lot of people like Sponge Bob. In grade 5 it would’ve been a baby show but it’s cool now. I’ve never been into it but a lot of people my age like it.
Jack: Dub step is the best, like Skrillex and Noise Storm.
Jill: One Direction, Justin Beiber – still, would you believe? – Cody Simpson, Rhianna, Lady Gaga, Pink, Paramour, Kate Miller-Heidke. Everyone loves pop stuff that you can dance to – good ones that everyone plays at dances and parties. People like upbeat music. It makes you happier than the sad depressing songs but those often have more meaningful lyrics but they can be really relaxing to chill out to. Oh, Gangnam style! People try to memorise the lyrics but everyone does the dance move. It (music) depends on the occasion really. For general iPod use that’s pretty much it.
Jack: A lot of guys are wearing long pants that cut off at the shins and collared shirts with all the buttons done up. Flap caps as well. I don’t really like flap caps but they’re popular.
Jill: All the animal print stuff is really in right now, which I personally hate. There are so many variations on fashion now. There’s playsuits, onesies. People like layering a lot. Peplum – it’s like that style where it fans out at the waist. Denim and leather are kind of standbys. People wear REALLY short shorts. A lot of people are into maxi dresses. Then there’s all the things you can do with your nails. There’s nail polish with smells and sparkles and you can get little stickers. I really don’t know – the magazines have so much and it changes every month. Depends on the seasons. I just wear pastels all year round.
Jack: First person shooters, there’s no doubt about that.
Jill: Ones that we can all play together like Just Dance, maybe the Wii Sport ones…? I think that’s still in. SingStar! Karaoke games are cool.
Jack: Everyone loves their own sports. Tennis, basketball, rugby and soccer are the main ones. Everyone watches NRL and state of origin.
Jill: Facebook and Instagram mainly. Then there’s all the different sports.
How does popular culture differ between boys and girls of your age?
Jack: Obviously the fashion would be different… it just depends what they like.
Jill: Girls like all the romantic comedies and chick flicks. Guys are more into sci-fi and violence. That goes for books too. A lot of guys aren’t into reading though. More girls read than guys. Girls have more things they can do in fashion. It’s really rare with guys to find someone who has fashion sense unless they’re gay. With music, guys like more heavy metal and rock. Girls like One Direction but guys don’t, at all. Guys feel pressured by bands like that ‘cos girls all love them so much. Guys have to be manly so they’re too cool to like the boy bands. There can be a lot of stereotyping though. I actually know girls who are into violent movies but not many.
Do you usually like what your friends like?
Jack: Yeah, partly because everything’s more fun when you do stuff with your friends. My friends like the majority of the same stuff I do but that’s not as important. We just get along really well.
Jill: Not really. We all have different tastes. If it’s me and F*, we have our music stuff and play our instruments. L* and N* do horse riding and Surf Club. E*’s into craft and making things. We just all have different interests. But then we all like to shop together, that’s fun.
*names have been removed to maintain privacy
Some things to think about…
- To what extent does a person’s friendship group shape their personal preferences for particular popular culture texts?
- Is it more likely that a person’s own cultural preferences influences their social identity and choice of friends… or that the collective preferences of the friendship group influence our own personal tastes? This seems to be a variant of the age old “chicken or egg” question and one to which I’m certain there is no definitive answer…
- Rather, do personal preferences in cultural texts AND social identity (friendships) depend on an individual’s personality and character traits?
Featured Image: “Stage light” [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0] by Dan Brady on Flickr