Branded by Alissa Quart

Alissa Quart’s novel should have had a warning label on the front stating, “Would you like to know what’s really going on around you or just keep living your life. ” While reading this novel I felt like I was being led by Morpheus, showing me the world after ingesting the red pill. Quart explaining the different pressures that society forces on young teens was very eye opening. Quart sparked a lot of childhood memories when explaining brand identification and the pressures peers put on each other. One memory that really sticks out is walking through the mall with my mom and buying clothes for the start of seventh grade.
I insisted on only going to Abercrombie and telling her that I wasn’t shopping at Old Navy or Gap any more. Looking back made me realize how silly I was, but I understand why I felt this way. Quart explains how marketers bombarde magazines, commercials, billboards, etc with their advertisements. Back in seventh grade, Abercrombie was cool. Everyone wanted to be one of those sexy models in their ads. Quart did make me feel a little brainwashed; I didn’t choose the clothes because I liked them but only because advertisements told me too.
So much of our daily lives has media exposure that its hard not to look, especially at young ages when your open to almost anything. CINEMA OF THE IN-CROWD This chapter was one of my favorites because going to the movies is something I’ve always enjoyed. However, I’ve never thought about how they were affecting me afterwards and the product integration that was taking place. Honestly what Quart describes really works. When you watch a movie your not thinking, “Oh this must be an advertisement,” or “There just trying to get me to buy that. The products and the people using them are apart of the movie and its very hard to decipher all of this when all you wanted was to watch a story. It did make me a little disheartened that something I really enjoy is getting provoked by marketers but now I feel a lot more aware and will try to not let them get to me. FACTS She’s All That, Bring It On, Clueless, Legally Blonde,Varsity Blues and Mean Girls. Mean Girls came out after this book was written but it perfectly fits into the mold these movies have created and further shows the power this genre holds.

What has made these movies so popular and why were they all a must see when they came out? First, each of these movies has a popular crowd and one of these popular people has a problem. This doesn’t sound like a plot that would grab a lot of attention, but that’s only because its not about the plot. These movies bring large crowds because it’s the people in it. With out Alicia Silverstone’s smile in Clueless or Reese Witherspoon’s long blonde hair the movies would have definitely been different. So I am convinced that the first thing you need to make a blockbuster movie is attractive people.
Second you need them to wear revealing or designer clothes. This is showcased in Bring It On when basically all they wear throughout the movie is revealing cheering outfits and workout wear. The Third aspect is particularly showcased within these films because of The Breakfast Club and the infamous Ally Sheedy transformation at the end. This aspect is the makeover. I never caught on to this until reading this chapter. Each of these movies has the main character go through some sort of change and of course the change only makes them better looking and more popular.
The third aspect isn’t new but the film always tries to mask it as something that you wouldn’t expect. I feel that this is done so people, especially young people, don’t catch on. VALUES These movies “also has the ring of a diary entry, of what life is really like when our parents or teachers leave the room” (Quart 78). This is the key element when trying to decipher what the value is amongst these movies. What is really going on here when you strip the stars of their makeup, clothes, and posh attitudes? Sadly, it’s popularity, only because these teens will do anything to be popular.
This is what motivates them throughout the entire movie and in fact is what gets them into most of their trouble. Also popularity is the one thing that they will throw away everything for. “If your not popular, your nothing” is the message young teens are coming away with. These movies get away with a value like this because there is so much covering it up. Amongst the comedy, drama, and violence it’s hard to figure out what all of this is means. I don’t feel like popularity is a good value for a movie to have.
Before reading this chapter I pictured these movies as great, some even as a must see. But now I’m disgusted and look at them as shallow. Popularity is meaningless; however if I was writing this paper in middle school or high school I wouldn’t be agreeing with myself. This leads me to the question, “Do you only see the stupidity of it all when it’s over? ” Right now I would have to say yes, because when these movies came out I was at the age they were targeting and this is very silly to say but, I admired all of the main characters in these movies.
I once thought Elle Woods in Legally Blonde was courageous, it made me want to be a lawyer. But now I realize that I only looked at her this way because she was popular and she needed to maintain her popularity by going to law school. PRINCIPLES These movies need to be applied to Kant’s categorial imperative. What these movies have are good looking people. However, because their attractive people don’t look at what they are doing as much as just looking at them. In turn because their hot they get away with a lot more. When you apply Kant’s philosophy it tares down these movies even more.
This is because Kant states that its not whose doing it but what the action is in itself. So take away Alicia Silverstone, Reese Witherspoon, Lindsay Lohan, Kirsten Dunst, Rachael Leigh Cook, and James Van Der Beek. Now all you have are their actions trying to uphold their value. Since their value is popularity most of their actions are aimed towards how to become more popular. This is the most apparent in Mean Girls and the lead Lindsay Lohan. Taking Lindsay Lohan out of the picture and only reading the script it is very apparent that the main character Cady Heron is a liar.
All of these lies are aimed towards trying to make herself more popular than Regina George. At the end Cady gets sort of a wake up call but everything still comes together for her. When this movie came out it was huge; it was all over TV, the internet, and in school. For this movie to have such a big opening I know it impacted alot of teenagers and I know it influenced them to do what ever it takes to be popular. Especially when there was a string of movies right before it that glorifies popularity its nearly impossible to tell teenagers that popularity doesn’t matter.
These movies have created a society of young adults that only care what others think of them and completely twisting their feelings regarding themselves. If a student isn’t viewed as popular among their peers they are going to dislike their body, their clothes, or whatever it is that they feel is holding them back from being well liked. LOYALTIES Each main character has one main loyalty, this is themselves. All of them throughout the movie try to better themselves, sometimes through buying designer clothes, wearing makeup, or the extreme of going to law school.
The conceited nature in all of these characters makes the viewers very aware that this is acceptable. None of these movies help others in a way that is selfless. Yes, Cher in Clueless tries to make over Ty, Brittany Murphy’s character, but Cher admits that its only for her own enjoyment, she even goes far enough to call Ty her project. The characters loyalties also extends to their brand names they use, but I feel that this loyalty is only to uphold their loyalty to themselves because the brand names make them cooler. I feel that these movies have been a catalyst for plastic surgery.
When someone gets plastic surgery it is to better themselves. These movies showcase that it’s acceptable to do this through the characters actions. Most of the characters go to the mall to make themself feel better or they start putting on makeup so their peers like them more. The characters even backstab each other to make themself more popular. I feel that these story lines not only increase plastic surgery but also fights in school. I feel like students pay more attention to what each other are doing than the school work.
Young minds are easily influenced and its especially hard to erase the well put together images that these movies create. Although teenagers wouldn’t openly admit that their using these characters as role models its hard to argue their not. Most teenagers actions are completely mimicking the main characters of these movies and honestly I feel like its not their fault, especially because I used to do the same thing. CINEMA OF THE IN-CROWD CONCLUSION Overall not every movie is like this but the handful that are do a lot more damage than the society realizes.
Although, of course, if these movies were removed from theaters teenagers will always act sort of like this but I strongly feel that these movies don’t help the situation. These movies also glorify the actions that teenagers are supposed to be learning not to do. Since these movies are teaching kids to be popular no matter what and to only think of yourself I’m not surprised about the reports of what happens in todays middle and high schools. The bottom line is teenagers need to be educated on what is right and wrong. If they are aware that you should lways try to be themselves and to help others selflessly these movies messages won’t be brainwashing them as badly as they could. UNBRANDED/ DIY KIDS This section of the book was particularly interesting because I wasn’t aware of all of the ways kids are rebelling. I thought this section was a nice conclusion to the first half because it gave me hope that some students do think for themselves. It actually made me really proud that some had the courage to stand up to their own principles and faculties. I know that I wouldn’t have had the guts to do something like that, especially alone.
I thought it was really cruel the way they were teased by their peers. When did conforming start to be cool? I also has no idea about students going to schools with no grading system. I think this is great and I really liked the quirky concepts that the home schooled students had. It was a very relieving section, the contrasts between the way the kids conform to other nonconformists could be it’s own book. FACTS “An estimated 850,000 American kids or 1. 7 percent of U. S. students from five to seventeen” (Quart 203) are home schooled. Or as John Holt calls it “unschooling. These unschooled kids are not a big part of the population and most of them never go to mainstream schools. I thought that the contrast between their outlook on schools and the Logo U chapter was very appealing. Both sides were extremes and I being in the middle realized how silly they both were being. I don’t think its healthy to be either of them. I think kids should be enrolled in school because they get interaction with other kids their own age. On the other side, when you are enrolled in a mainstream school the child needs to be aware of what’s going on around them and not get stressed out like the Logo U kids.
I especially feel this way about unschoolers because I’ve met home schooled kids and their usually out there. You can easily tell that these unschoolers aren’t the normal. Now this isn’t bad now when their young but will an employer higher them. Since these unschoolers need to go out into the world eventually they will have to conform one way or another. Also, these days, you need a college degree so never going to college just because you’ve never gone to a regular school has it’s set backs when trying to find a career. Quart also explains the punk scene.
I have never been into punk but I’ve always liked the way they rebelled. I think that doing your own thing. if thats how you feel, is very healthy and schools should be more accepting to this. Especially when this rebelliousness only lasts during the youth years. There’s no reason to stifle something like ripped jeans, flannel, and loud music; it doesn’t hurt anyone. VALUES The core value that both of these unschoolers and punk kids have is to be yourself. Which is the complete opposite of the blockbuster movie value, popularity.
I have to give both the unschoolers and punks credit because in a world where mostly everyone wants to be Alicia Silverstone or Freddie Prince Jr. its takes a lot of courage to do your own thing. I feel that in alot of ways its easier to just conform and not go against the grain. Quart entitled this chapter “do it yourself kids” because thats what these two groups have in common. When everyone else goes off to school the unschoolers stay home and do it themselves. On the other hand the punks may go to school but they do their own look, their own music, their own lifestyle; which completely contradicts the mainstream preppy is cool mantra.
In a lot of ways these kids are going to turn out as better adults. This is because they will be better parents. I feel strongly about this because my parents were punk like in a lot of ways when they were young. When they were teenagers in the 70’s it wasn’t called punk, it was hippie. Hippie and punk are basically the same thing except two different generations labeled it with different names. My parents were always telling me to be myself, and as a public school student I feel this took some pressure off of growing up.
I knew that they would back me no matter what. Also, when it came time for college they told me straight out you don’t have to go if you don’t want to. This was completely contradicting what my friends parents were saying and it took a lot of anxiety off of my shoulders when acceptance letters came in. LOYALTIES The loyalty that each group has is to their own cliques that they have created. I think this because unschooled kids look at schooled kids as different and by them not wanting to be in a clique they have created their own.
Through the home schooled kids i have known, they told me how they would meet other unschoolers and would create their own groups within that. So actually they are forming what they tried to avoid. Home schooled kids in some ways can have pompous attitudes, acting like their better because they don’t do what everyone else does. I’ve even met unschooled kids here, at MU. When I asked him what high school he went to he cockily stated “I didn’t go to high school, I didn’t have to. ” It’s not fair to say that all home schooled kids are like this but its definitely out there.
For the punk kids they have their own loyalty to each other. It was very apparent in my high school because they would always walk together in the hallways and smoke cigarettes in large groups on the curb. No one bothered them but they made it very obvious they were their own group and they all identified with each other. This is something Quart didn’t discuss. She made each group sound very independent but in fact they are dependent within each other. PRINCIPLES John Stuart Mill’s utility principle can better explain the do it yourself kids perception. The utility principle emphasizes the outcome.
The outcome that both groups want is to not have a mainstream. Also stated in the utility principle is an act’s rightness and how this is determined by it’s contribution to a desirable end. I feel that both groups have a desirable end in mind. The punk kids, especially just want to do their own thing. Their basement concerts show this because they are just trying to have fun, theirs no marketing involved, no celebrities, just kids in a band. I have gone to a few local shows like this and its a completely different vibe than at a mainstream high profile band.
The local shows shows the joy of music with out all of the fluff the mainstream music throws in. The outcome is more genuine than anything I’ve seen at Madison Square Garden. Unbranded showed me that it is possible to live within this society and not be lured into everything you see. These kids show how you can think for yourself and do what you want. All of my life I have been a basically mainstream person. However, this book as a whole as taught me to open my eyes and realize what’s going on around me. it truly is a lot more evading than I thought.
At times while reading this book I felt like I was completely brainwashed. I think every parent should read this book so that their aware of what’s going on around their children. It’s a lot different then when my parents grew up and most of the time they don’t realize the impact of these changes. I feel that the most important lesson a parent can learn from this book is to be aware and don’t be afraid to talk about it. Communication is defiantly what kept me grounded in my household and I plan on sharing that with my children as well.

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