What is the media stereotype?
Look at these words, and then answer the questions that follow.
Which words describe teenage boys as you see them depicted in the media (including movies, TV, and advertising)?
Which words describe how you would like to be known?
Likely, your answers to the first question came from column 1 and your answers to the second question came from column 2. If so, that’s good. Why? Because the media’s portrayal of males probably doesn’t reflect who you really are
The media often portrays males as violent and rebellious. The book Why Boys Don’t Talk
—and Why It Matters notes that the most popular male characters on TV, in movies, and in sports are “those with great physical strength who exhibit aggression. . . . The message is that cool is defined by being tough and rebellious.”
To think about: Will an aggressive disposition help you become a better friend, coworker, or husband? When provoked, which takes greater strength
—to vent your anger or to control it? Which would give evidence that you are a real man?
The Bible says: “The one slow to anger is better than a mighty man, and the one controlling his temper than one conquering a city.”
The media portrays males as obsessed with sex. “In movies and on TV, boys change girlfriends more often than they change their clothes,” says 17-year-old Chris. Gary, 18, takes it further. “The typical boy in the media is sex-obsessed,” he says. Some movies, for example, make it seem as if a boy’s only goals in life are to party, drink, and have sex.
To think about: Does that stereotype reflect the kind of reputation you want to have? Does a real man treat women as sex objects, or does he treat them with respect?
The Bible says: “Each one of you should know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not with greedy, uncontrolled sexual passion.”
—1 Thessalonians 4: 4, 5.
The media portrays boys as irresponsible. In many popular movies and TV shows, teenage boys are often shown as lazy and incompetent. Perhaps that’s why some adults have little confidence in the potential of boys. Gary, quoted earlier, says: “When I turned 16, I found it difficult to get a job because business owners in my area wanted to hire only women. They felt that all teenage boys were irresponsible or untrustworthy!”
To think about: Is the stereotype of the irresponsible and untrustworthy teenage boy fair? How can you show that you are different?
The Bible says: “Never let anyone look down on your youth. Instead, become an example to the faithful ones in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”
—1 Timothy 4: 12; footnote.
What you should know
The media can have a powerful effect on you. For example, the media can make you feel that you need to adopt the current fashion trend to be popular. “Ads show what guys should dress like and show the girls hanging all over them,” says 17-year-old Colin. “It makes a person want to go out and buy those clothes. I’ve done that a few times!”
To think about: Does the way you dress reflect who you really are, or have you become a follower? Who really profits when you spend money to keep up with the latest trends in fashion?
The Bible says: “Stop being molded by this system of things.”
Copying the stereotype could actually make you less appealing to girls. Consider what some of them have said:
“I would prefer a guy who is true to himself over one who is insecure and puts on a show to try to prove himself. Really, a boy who tries too hard only ends up looking ridiculous!”
“Advertisers make boys feel as if they need to have certain gadgets or a certain look to appeal to girls. As girls get older, though, they look beyond those things. Instead, they see a man’s inner qualities and observe how he treats people. For example, girls like it when guys are honest and loyal.”
“Often, the ‘perfect-looking guy’ is haughty, and I don’t want to be around anyone like that. You could be the best-looking guy in the world, but you would be ugly if your personality didn’t match those looks.”
To think about: Describing the boy Samuel, the Scriptures say that he “kept growing in stature and in favor both with Jehovah and with the people.” (1 Samuel 2:
26) What qualities do you need to work on to have that kind of reputation?
The Bible says: “Carry on in a manly way.”
—1 Corinthians 16:13.
What you can do
Question the stereotype. Note this statement in the Bible: “Everything in the world
—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life —does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world.” —1 John 2:16.
The media capitalizes on those very things and portrays them as normal. So learn to question what you see. It’s often no more than the creation of marketers who are out to make money.
Carve out your own path. The Bible says: “Clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it”
—not according to the image promoted by the media. —Colossians 3: 10.
To help you follow that advice, think back to the qualities you identified at the beginning of this article
—the qualities for which you would like to be known. Why not start working now either to acquire them or to improve in them?
Find positive role models. “The one walking with the wise will become wise,” states the Bible. (Proverbs 13:20) Which men in your life have shown themselves to be wise? Some might be in your family, such as your father or your uncle. Others could be mature male friends or acquaintances. Jehovah’s Witnesses have many exemplary men in the Christian congregation. The Bible itself contains role models, including Titus, who set a good example for young people to follow.
—Titus 2: 6-8.
Suggestion: Use the book Imitate Their Faith to learn about Bible examples of outstanding role models for men, including Abel, Noah, Abram, Samuel, Elijah, Jonah, Joseph, and Peter.
What does it mean to be a “real man,” and how can you become one regardless of your circumstances?