Every day we make quick, snap judgments about the world around us based on preconceived ideas about products, politics, music, and people. One of the biggest contributors to these presumptions is mass media. Groups of people are often viewed in certain ways due to the way they are represented in television and movies.One such group is the community of young adults who live with their parents. Fifty years ago, this group was represented as a normal part of the nuclear family; however, modern media has inaccurately changed the image of young adults living with their parents into lazy opportunists, as depicted by movies like “Failure to Launch.”
What the Media Says
The first artifact that I analyzed was the show “Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” This show depicts a family of four (Ozzie, Harriet, and two boys: Dave and Rick). The show ran from 1952 to 1966 so viewers got to see the two boys grow up, get married, and eventually move out. Before they moved out, though, they got stable jobs and dated. One episode stuck out in particular. In season nine, episode 4, both boys act independently despite living at home. They have their own funds to spend on meals and entertainment (even though they mom makes meals, too). There are even some episodes that they don’t appear much in because they are living their own lives. More importantly, their friends and girlfriends take no notice of the fact that they live at home. This would suggest that living with one’s parents as a young adult is not unusual. Rather, it is socially acceptable.The creator and writer, Ozzie Nelson, must have felt that young adults should stay home until they are ready (in this case get married). To many, though, this show is dated and just reflects the 50’s perfect suburbia. Thus, Nelson’s depiction of his household might be perceived as more of an ideal than a reality. Also, there might have been some bias since Nelson wrote and starred in the show. Nonetheless, Dave and Rick were depicted positively. They were made out to be hard working adults getting ready to leave the nest.This might have been a comedy, but the comedy didn’t come from the young adults, it came from a realistically quirky family.
It’s hard to believe that the 50’s and 60’s were 50 plus years ago. In that much time, it makes sense that media would change its depictions of many different groups. For stay-at-home young adults, though, the perception almost flipped completely. My second artifact was the 2006 movie “Failure to Launch.” This movie stars Matthew McConaughey, who plays a 30-something old adult who still lives with his parents. He has two other friends who also live with their parents (Demo and Ace). They live a very comfortable lifestyle. In the beginning, Tripp doesn’t have to worry about cooking, cleaning, errands, or other major responsibilities. The movie also barely shows the guys working. Instead, they are shown hanging out, hiking, rock climbing, playing paintball, and playing video games. This was a purposeful choice that shapes the image of these characters. When it comes to independence, he is in the sense that his social life is completely separate from that of his parents; however, he is extremely dependent on them for life’s necessities. The characters in the movie itself described them as lazy and selfish adults who took advantage of their parents and other people. In fact, Tripp’s own parents want him to move out. It is a comedy, but it consistently reinforces the stereotype that it establishes. I agree that some pressure is taken off by living with my parents, but I still have to work hard. Unlike the characters in the movie, I do have to help around the house, work hard at work/school, and balance my social life.
The last artifact that I looked at was a series of interviews called “Grown and still at home: Why young adults are moving back home and staying longer” conducted by Yahoo Finance in 2015. The interviewer speaks to several young adults and their parents, whom they live with. All of the young adults had jobs but did not feel like they were financially able to be completely independent. Everyone who was interviewed pointed to the economy as the primary reason for living together with their parents. Each young adult in the interview said that they didn’t contribute much to the bills and barely did chores. Understandably, it can be difficult to gain stability in the economy, so contributing to the bills might be difficult. It’s interesting, though, that they brought up chores. It kind of showed a struggling, maybe even lazy, view of young adults living with parents. Yahoo chose who they wanted to interview and what to ask, which means they agree with the image that they depicted of this social group. Overall, Yahoo gave a more balanced view of young adults who live with parents; but the lazy opportunist stereotype was also presented.
By looking at media from the early days of television, pre-recession entertainment, and post-recession news, a trend becomes noticeable. In the mid-twentieth century, young adults were not looked down on for living at home. As time went on, society changed and so did its views. By the early 2000’s, that perception had transformed into the stereotype we see today: lazy opportunists. The Great Recession brought economic hardships, which justified this behavior. Unfortunately, it appears that negative stereotypes still persist.
For many young adults, moving away from one’s parents is just a part of life, but some decide to stay home with them a little longer. The reasons vary from person to person, but there are an increasing number of young adults living with their parents. In fact, the Pew Research Center reported that the percentage of young adults age 18 to 31 who live with parents is 36% (as of 2012) compared to 32% in 1968. Economic struggles and declining marriage rates are cited as major reasons for this trend. Enrollment has also increased a bit since the Great Recession. Economically, the unemployment for young adults is much higher proportionally than the rest of the population. To illustrate, those in the workforce age 16 to 34 have an unemployment rate of 51% despite making up around one-third of the population (Fry). Interestingly, employment has always been higher for young adults (Desilver). Could this trend be attributed to more than the economy?
It is possible that the changes within families are a factor. One of the most significant change was that “the share who were married and living with a spouse fell” dramatically (Fry). In 1968 about 56% of 18 to 31 year-olds were already married. The percentage was done to around 23% by 2012. Culturally, this makes sense. After World War II, “family structure in the 50’s was based around one central necessity: a secure life.” (Hussung). This lead to a very stable nuclear family and “children became emotional rather than economic assets.” (Hussung). Culture and family structure changed dramatically over the following decades. These attitudes meant that children were allowed to stay home until they were ready (in this case married and working). That has changed a bit from the idyllic 50’s. Now empty nest homes are much more normal. Also, singleness is now viewed as “…flexible in terms of moving in and out of their parents’ home…” (Qian 12). More people might be staying home because they want to wait until they are able to explore life’s possibilities. Personally, I’m not avoiding responsibility. Rather, I’m just trying to find my barings before venturing into a quickly changing world.
The media has increasingly depicted young adults in a negative way. Through TV, movies, and even news, these young adults have been painted as lazy opportunists. Statistics and trends have offered another explanation for their decision to live with their parents. Economic and family conditions have changed dramatically since the idyllic 50’s. Maybe young adults just need some support while they begin to navigate the complicated world of work and social possibilities.
This has ended up being my favorite SINQ classes because it has changed how I view everyday things. For starters, the “Influence of Advertising” unit in week 4 showed me the hidden messages behind the bombardment of media. I found the video “Ways of Seeing” especially enlightening. The video pointed out that advertising tries to sell you a fantasy by depicting a bright future and an unsatisfactory present. Now I can’t look at commercials without doing some analysis. One can almost imagine the marketing group’s pitch for the ad.
Another learning moment was in week 7 during the lesson on intellectual property. Before, I saw that issue as pretty straight forward. Anyone had the right to protect their ideas and thoughts. After watching the video, “Art in the Era of the Internet,”I understood that the issue is not black and white. Really there are instances where people should allow their content to be used so that creativity can be allowed to flourish. In other instances, people might want their content shared to spread awareness, but not taken advantage of financially. I really appreciated this class for expanding my perspective.
Ahn, Jeanie. Grown and Still at Home: Why Young Adults Are Moving Back Home and Staying Longer. Yahoo Finance. N.p., 30 Oct. 2015. Web. 01 May 2016.
DeSilver, Drew. For Young Americans, Unemployment Returns to Pre-recession Levels. Pew Research Center RSS. N.p., 2015. Web. 10 May 2016.
Failure to Launch. Dir. Tom Dey. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Jessica Parker. Paramount Pictures, 2006.
Fry, Richard. A Rising Share of Young Adults Live in Their Parents’ Home. Pew Research Centers Social Demographic Trends Project RSS. N.p., 2013. Web. 17 May 2016.
Hussung, Tricia. The Evolution of American Family Structure. Concordia University St Paul Online. N.p., 2015. Web. 10 May 2016.
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Prod. Ozzie Nelson. Dir. Ozzie Nelson. Perf. Ozzie Nelson, Harriet Nelson, David Nelson, and Rick Nelson. Viki. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.
Qian, Zhenchao. During the Great Recession, More Young Adults Lived with Parents. US2010 Project (2012): 1-29. Web. 17 May 2016.