November 2002
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Common Courtesy in the Media: A Lost Art?
By Shauna W., Grade 10, Delta Secondary School, Delta, BC

The media today is becoming more and more scathingly opinionated than ever before. It's no secret that the tabloids can reveal your worst and best-kept secrets, regardless of whether or not they are true. But when we are greedily gobbling up the movie pans and fashion faux pas articles, pages splashed with unflattering pictures and mocking cartoons, do we really think about the people on the receiving end? Celebrities are a sort of worshiped enemy in today's society. It is deemed appropriate to insult and criticize them with ruthless cruelty, both in print and spoken word, as though they are sort of emotionless entities, both incapable of accessing modern media, and feeling the burn when they do read horrible things about themselves.

Beneath the surface it is taught to us that celebrities are awful and nasty people, who deserve the things that are said about them, because of some evil trait they all possess. But who's to say that they don't read some of the truly insulting, and sometimes completely inappropriate articles about themselves, and are very honestly offended? I know for one that I would be, if I opened a magazine to find my face splashed across the page, with the words "wannabe starlet" or "washout" printed across it. How on earth would anybody know these things were true about me, and, if never having met me, how would they acquire any grounds to prove their accusations?

Now, don't get me wrong, this isn't an article based solely on defending and worshiping famous people whom I have never met or talked to, nor is it meant to state that absolutely nothing written about celebrities is true. In fact, some things, such as legal reports and court cases, are perfectly legitimate, if not substantially exaggerated. But the many articles and web pages let into the world every day, highlighting embarrassing and often extremely trivial instances involving anybody of any Hollywood caliber, are what I mean to address.

For example, I recently opened a magazine to an article centered on today's reigning queen of pop, Britney Spears. The half-page spread sported a witty title, ‘Oops She Did It Again', and several pictures of Spears at different times, each one with a red circle around her waist where her thong underwear had managed to poke its way into view. Now, at first you most likely think ‘well she deserves an article like that if she is so crude to parade around with her panties hanging out in such a way'. But stop for a moment and think; how many times have you noticed a girl at school bending down at her locker, or a young woman at the mall reaching down to the lowest rack, with the exact same unfortunate thing happening to them? Many I'm sure. Chances are it's happened to you as well. And I'm willing to bet that nobody, not even the illustrious Ms. Spears, meant for, or even knew, such a thing was happening. Therefore, if she didn't know people could see her undergarments, and most likely didn't want just anybody who could open a magazine to be able to, is it right to publish an article over something so trifling and frankly very common, just because it happened to a celebrity? And I know what the argument will most likely be: Britney Spears is horribly underdressed in her low-as-low-can-go pants, and if she's going to wear things like that she should expect her underwear to find its way out, as after all, there's not much material to escape from. And personally, I agree. I don't much like the way she dresses either, but that's not for me to complain about. And if one is going to deem the thong article appropriate because of the rise of her pants, then it would have to be okay to publish the same article regarding all the other girls in the world who wear pants just as low, if not lower.

Perhaps this issue of media frivolity and cruelty isn't as pressing as some of the harsher realities of the world, and perhaps not everybody will agree with me. But personally, I think that if you wouldn't go up to someone in a tacky hot pink dress and tell them that they look like a reject from the Malibu Barbie House of Horrors, then you shouldn't publish it in a magazine that they could read. It's just plain courtesy if you ask me, and today's media completely disobeys all of the rules of civility laid down to us in stone as children. It seems to be commonly accepted that the media is exempt from all rules of simple manners, and that it's funny rather than cruel to insult somebody. But if this is true, then perhaps a scathing article on the poor fashion sense of newspaper and magazine reporters is in order.

To be honest, I doubt that this article will have any effect on what is published in the future, nor that anybody who reads this will think twice while pouring over the lasted Best and Worst Dressed article, but it feels good to have my point made. And besides, you never know what unfortunate victim of the fashion police might agree with me later.


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