American Society Should Take Responsibility for its Troubled Teenagers Research question: Regarding Green Day’s twelve-minute-long music video “Jesus of Suburbia” as well as its lyrics, how have the problems of American society led to the problems of American teenagers? Candidate Name: He, Jing Candidate Number: 001458-039 School Name: Shanghai Pinghe Bilingual School School Code: 001458 Word count: 3672 Abstract: I’m concerned about America’s troubled children and curious about the cause of their problems after I watched Green Day’s 12 minute music video “Jesus of Suburbia. Their discontent and self-destruction shocked me. Therefore, regarding that music video and the lyrics of “Jesus of Suburbia,” this essay is going to focus on how the problems of American society have led to the problems of its troubled teenagers. This essay is divided into two parts. Part one presents two main problems of troubled teenagers, which are substance abuse and an apathetic attitude. Part two further discusses three reasons teenagers are doing all these things and the social problems which are likely to cause their problems.
First, schools, which give up on their troubled children too easily, and irresponsible parents are responsible for teenager’s lack of education. Then the irresponsible parents’ problems are further discussed by analyzing the role of the mother in the music video, which indicates that the impact of broken homes and the parents’ own self-destruction on teenagers is profound. Thirdly, the hypocrisy of the American government is a big part of the cause of teenagers’ discontent. Its hypocrisy is embodied in its negligence of overty and unemployment, and general lack of awareness of poor people. Finally, the irresponsible and unethical media is responsible for mass negative advertisements and TV shows, and neglecting the existence of troubled teenagers. The conclusion is that the hypocrisy of American government, schools and the media and irresponsible parents cause teenagers’ apathetic attitude. Mass negative advertisement and parents’ self-destructive behaviors give teenagers the impulse to try these behaviors themselves. Overall, the society fails to save those teenagers who can be saved.
Or more than that, is it possible that Americans agree with the social problems mentioned in the songs? Then I have to question: Society is supposed to be a safe place for its own people, but why are these so many Americans who hate their country? Why are there numerous Americans who don’t want to be American? Why does the youth complain about society so much? Are the use of drugs, alcohol and all of negative behaviors of young Americans caused by the problems of society?
This essay, regarding Green Day’s 12 minute music video “Jesus of Suburbia” as well as its lyrics, is going to focus on the problems of American teenagers who live in terrible environments which have high crime and unemployment rates, and how they are the result of problems in American society. “Jesus of Suburbia” consists of five parts, which are “Jesus of Suburbia,” “City of the Damned,” “I don’t care,” “Dearly beloved” and “Tales of another broken home. ” All the lyrics mentioned in this essay are from Green Day’s 12 minute music video “Jesus of Suburbia. Also some lyrics in the song will help to analyze the main ideas. Part 1: Problems among Teenagers Presented in the Music Video as well as in the Lyrics The music video begins with two couples fighting each other, which presents the life style of abandoned, self-destructive and disaffected American teenagers. Nasty streets lay under lost kids’ feet; they stared at the “city of the dead” with their eyes wide open. Their problems are more than just tattoos, body piercings, and strange make-up; they cheat, steal and lie for a reason; however, the two major problems are substance abuse and an apathetic attitude.
Substance Abuse: Apparently, substance abuse is the most severe problem among American teenagers presented in both the music video and its lyrics, where the lyrics said “to alcohol and cigarettes / and mary jane/ to keep me insane / doing someone else’s cocaine” (19-22). CASA report claimed that “the consumption of alcohol, the use of tobacco and marijuana and the abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise among teens. ” However, more attention should be focused on how teenagers obtain the drugs.
For economically-dependent teenagers who can barely afford drugs, they can only steal or rob other’s drugs or “do someone else’s cocaine” (22), but who is the person referring to in this line? He could be a gangster, a drug dealer or even a parent. Any of these possibilities indicates how American teenagers are affected by the drug use and the society they lived in. Apathetic Attitude: The repetition of “I don’t care if you don’t” (56) in part III of “Jesus of Suburbia” has made teenagers’ apathy in American society clear.
They don’t care about the negative effects of theft, violence and substance abuse to society and themselves; they don’t care if they are wasting their youth; they don’t care if cheating on their partner is unethical; the only thing they pay attention to is their temporary excitement and joy. In the music video, the characters are addicted to night clubs, sexual promiscuity and so much more. The music video might be exaggerating and one-sided. However, The Washington Post reported in 2008 that “In the past year, 30 percent of U. S. igh school students have stolen from a store and 64 percent have cheated on a test, according to a new, large-scale survey suggesting that Americans are apathetic about ethical standards. ” Therefore, the apathetic attitude is a general problem among American teenagers. Part 2: How are the Problems of American Teenagers the Result of the Problems in American Society? Lack of Education: Apparently, schooling, the role of education, was absent from the music video in which American teenagers seemed to have nothing to do except wasting time.
The lyrics “oh therapy, can you please fill the void” show the vacuum inside American teenagers’ hearts and minds. This vacuum is mainly caused by being out of school. There are two main reasons why teenagers are out of school. First, they are expelled by schools. A study published in The New York Times found out that “[in] the last 20 to 25 years, there have been dramatic increases in the number of suspensions and expulsions. ” This finding explicitly showed the growing number of troubled kids. However, implicitly, it showed a weakness in the American education system itself. Is suspension the right solution to teenagers’ problems?
Mr. Capo, a vice president of the Houston Federation of Teachers told The New York Times “Are suspensions the tool to improve student behavior and help them be successful? No, I don’t think that’s the case. ”3 He claimed that teachers are simply avoiding the problems American teenagers have and the chaos it might cause to have them in school. I would say, they’ve abandoned their kids and their responsibility. Even the educators couldn’t care less about the problem kids, so it’s no wonder the lyrics would say “Lost children with dirty faces today / no one really seems to care” (54-55).
After they are expelled, the possibility for them to be accepted by another public school is much lower than before. If they can’t afford to go to private school, then their options are either to find a job or be abandoned. The realistic music video presented the worst case in which the kids have a rotten life. Although the educators are not responsible for the bad nature of those students, it is their fault that they give up on their teenagers too easily when they can do something to save them. The second reason many teenagers don’t go to school is because of rresponsible parents, who don’t care whether their kids are being educated because they themselves are not well-educated and probably accidentally become pregnant due to lack of birth-control. It’s a vicious cycle. If their kids don’t want to go to school and consider it a waste of time, then their parents won’t bother, or they are not capable of, persuading them to go. The damage caused by irresponsible parents to their children will be further discussed in next section “Irresponsible Parents. ” Irresponsible Parents:
Analyzing the role of the mother in the music video “Jesus of Suburbia” The first scene the mother appeared in the music video is in the night club where she had drinks and cigarettes in hand, drunk and overjoyed, and even refused to go home with her son. She is as troubled as her son, only older with plastic surgery done. Her other problem is that she is not capable of educating her son. She is not only unemployed so she has nothing to do just like her son, but also living on the fantasy of lottery tickets which her son considered stupid.
He said to his mother “You sit there with your f**king scratch off lottery tickets. You think ‘oh maybe maybe tomorrow it’s all gonna change. ’ You never gonna get the f**king right numbers. ” Her son showed no respect to her, throwing four-letter-words in her face, and he was aware of his mother’s problem better than she was. Apparently, she is not a responsible parent. The mother’s poor parenting has for-reaching consequences on her son. First of all, her son imitated all her behaviors; hangovers, drug use, sexual promiscuity, smoking, swearing etc. “Teenagers had attitudes more like parents than peers. An eight-year study of 300 teenagers by Francis Ianni of Teachers College of Columbia University compared teens in urban, suburban, and rural environments showed this result.  Although it might not be the only trigger of teenagers’ substance abuse, the bad influence parents have on their kids is profound. Second, she had no regard for her son’s life, since she made no attempt to get her son under control. In addition, she was not capable of educating her son, not to mention the fact that she had to tolerate her son throwing garbage in her face. At the end of the music video, she even watched her son runaway.
Third, the absence of the father in the family also indicated it’s a broken home. The lyrics also complained “A living room on my private womb / while the moms and Brads are away” (16-17). Instead of “dad,” Green Day used a stranger’s name “Brads” to indicate that he was from a broken home and his mother didn’t care about him, only her own sexual satisfaction. Apparently his mother failed to understand the huge impact of the broken home on her son. Another story written by Stacey King who comes from a broken home shows the inside of an injured child’s heart.
She suffered from attachment issue and communication barriers; she said “I settle for less than I deserve. ” She attributed all of her problems to her family, in which her father “never tried to connect with her,” her mother was addicted to drugs and was eventually murdered in a drug deal. Stacey was lucky to survive from the pain and protected herself from drugs, cigarettes and drinks. However, the kids in “Jesus of Suburbia” didn’t. In the lyrics “born and raised by hypocrites,” (61) the teenagers’ frustration and anger boils over and they describe their parent as hypocrites.
They depend on drugs and hangovers to forget about the pain, and eventually became addicted to them. Although parents might not be the only people Green Day refers to as “hypocrites” or the only cause of teenagers’ rotten lives, bad parenting and broken homes are definitely big factors of teenage problems. Then let’s discuss what social problems have caused the problems of irresponsible parents. The most important one is that society neglects the life of the poor which means the poor don’t get the help they are suppose to have from the government.
The American government’s problems will be further discussed later in the section “Hypocrisy of the American Government. ” Resentment of Life and Society, and Taking Revenge Analyze Punk Subculture in the Music Video: The first thing that will get your attention immediately in this music video is its catchy punk culture, from the oddly-dyed hair to the strange make-up they are wearing; from the body-piercings to the grim tattoos; from the unconventional personal decoration to the dirty graffiti they left everywhere.
They are all part of the punk subculture which cultural sociologist Dick Hebdige once described as “the sartorial equivalent of swearword” (Hebdige, Dick. 114). Besides, Green Day’s music style, although still hard to be accurately defined, is derived from punk music. Punk music originated in England in 1976 when the Sex Pistols came out shocking the crowd by their famous song “God Save the Queen” to express resentment and discontent towards the government.
Although punk music was only popular for 18 months, the punk subculture has survived, and now Green Day has brought punk music as well as the spirit of punk music, expressing out resentment and anger towards society, life, politicians or government, to mainstream culture. I consider the revival of punk music in the late 90s as history repeating itself: government again failed their teenagers just like what happened in 1976 in England. The second part of the song “Jesus of Suburbia” is titled “City of the Damned” which described a city without love, care and trust; instead it was full of “misleading signs” and “lost highways. This part alludes to American society as a whole, a country without faith. The Source of Resentment: Hypocrisy of the American Government In the music video, social workers tried to brush away the dirty graffiti in the bathroom, but there was never a role to help the teenagers who created the graffiti. Green Day’s message in this scene might be that the government doesn’t care about those teenagers. Instead, it only cares about outward appearance. It betrayed its own vow of “No Child Left Behind,” the educational bill passed under George W. Bush.
The lyrics “lost child with dirty faces today / no one really seems to care” (54-55) not only refers to the irresponsible educators and parents, but also refers to the American government during George W. Bush’s term, since Green Day release this song in the year 2005. The hypocrisy of the American government is embodied in three main perspectives. First, the American government failed to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. Data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) showed in 2009, 43. 6 million people were in poverty and it is still increasing. 6] Even worse, the New York Times indicated that in 2007 “[the] top 300,000 Americans collectively enjoyed almost as much income as the bottom 150 million Americans. ” It also claimed that the policy attempted to narrow the gap was not as efficient as former president Bush said. As a matter of fact, it benefitted the wealthy even more. An unemployed American citizen, Dan Larkin, said, “They’re sending $87bn to the second richest oil nation in the world but can’t afford to feed their own here in the States. ” The allocation of government expenditure is irrational, because it didn’t give priority to people’s welfare.
Secondly, the high rate of unemployment is definitely a big issue in America. More and more people are out of a job; the policy made by the government doesn’t work the way it was supposed to be. “The nation’s unemployment rate shot up to 6. 4 percent in June, the highest level in more than nine years, in an economic slump that has added nearly a million people to jobless rolls in the past three months,” the Associated Press published in an article titled “Bush’s Economy. ” Apparently, during Bush’s term, people blamed him for the unemployment issue. Many other artists also discuss this issue in their work.
For example, Pink released a single in 2006 titled “Dear Mr. President” with straightforward and cynical lyrics: “let me tell you ‘bout hard work / minimum wage with a baby on the way / let me tell you ‘bout hard work / rebuilding your house after the bombs took them away” (28-31). The unemployed mother in the music video was just one of the victims. She couldn’t afford a better education for her son, resulting in her son’s lack of education and self-destruction. When poor or unemployed people are not able to support themselves and their children’s lives, government should guide them out of poverty.
If not, the problems of the poor will worsen, such as unemployment, lack of education, drug abuse etc. , and will eventually affect their children’s behavior and lives. For example, for jobless and unskilled working-age people, the government could give them job training so they can find their own jobs, or become self-employed. Alternatively, the government can set up government-operated charities to offer them jobs to build the infrastructure of the country. In addition they could offer temporary shelters for homeless people until they find a job that allows them to support themselves.
Also better education, healthcare, and food are the things the government should offer to the poor to improve their living standard. The American government has done much less than they could have to help troubled teenagers and their parents, which leads to the reason for teenagers’ apathetic attitudes and resentment towards society. The way American teenagers in the music video lived was very similar to the lifestyle of hippies – full of sexual promiscuity, drug use and unconventional attire. The difference is that hippies separated themselves from mainstream life; however, many American teenagers are isolated by American society.
From the media, American teenagers realize how different life could be in other areas of America like New York City’s Upper East Side. This will naturally evoke their resentment towards American society because it has abandoned the responsibility of taking care of their people. More ironically, a large segment of the American population isn’t aware of and, even worse, doesn’t care about the poverty in America, just like what the music video “Sleeping Now in the Fire” by Rage Against the Machine showed. It constructed a show where candidates would be rewarded when they answer the questions correctly.