Thrill Seekers In The Media
Popular Culture misses the mark for numerous types of people, in numerous ways. There are so many images given to us throughout the media that can morph our views of ourselves, and our views of others. Popular Culture has missed the mark in their attempts to display people who are thrill seekers or adrenaline junkies. I will explain how the media displays thrill seekers to be very specific and unrealistic types of people, with high adrenaline activities kept exclusively for them, and how the media discourages other types of people to be thrill seekers even though there are numerous benefits to such personalities and activities.
As I was actively seeking to find how the media portrays thrill seekers, I noticed a pattern arising. Even though there were seemingly diverse types of people that the media portrayed as thrill seekers, they all seemed to have something in common, abnormal abilities or lifestyles. As I explain this pattern, I will show the reader different movies where thrill seekers are the center of the story. One will most likely see the pattern as they read through these examples.
James Bond Casino Royale:
The first example I examined that portrayed a thrill seeker was the movie James Bond Casino Royale. This first artifact almost instantly caught my eye since it is such a high adrenaline movie. The entire movie is centered around the character James Bond whom is a British spy. This character is a very common thrill seeker displayed by the media. This is because there are numerous movies that portray the lifestyle of a violent man who is always chasing the next life threatening high adrenaline activity.
In the movie Casino Royale, one of the opening scenes is a foot chase between Bond and his target. This scene shows Bond chasing this man (who turns out to be a parkour veteran) through a massive city scaling construction structures and buildings. Though this is exciting, this is where we run into our first unrealistic display of a thrill seeker. Bond is undoubtedly a thrill seeker since throughout his story he is constantly chasing different thrills. Such thrills include life threatening violence, gambling millions of dollars, and many more similar activities. An issue surfaces when examining such a character because it is such an unrealistic version of a person. Bond is an “over-the-top” adrenaline junky that doesn’t mind risking his life when working, or risking his money at a poker table. This is an issue because not all high adrenaline activities are life threatening, but Bond seems to be incapable of doing anything else.
Not only does Bond constantly take part in high adrenaline activities, but those activities are often paired with immense destruction to a person or the surrounding environment. This is a very common way of displaying high adrenaline activities because people often associate those types of activities with conquering nature or some overwhelming force. This too is a negative way to portray thrill seekers because it communicates a need to be an aggressive conqueror. Perhaps this is why only about 4% of activities people do while on vacation are high adrenaline activities (“Most Popular Multi-Generational”). Are people under the misconception that these activities are life threatening and aggressive? When popular culture displays thrill seekers as purely conquerors, it excludes all the many different types of personalities that may just want to face their fears or feel an adrenaline rush.
The next artifact that I examined was the movie Spiderman. Spiderman displayed a very different type of character than James Bond, with some major similarities under the skin of the character. In Spiderman, Peter Parker receives powers that allow him to scale walls like a spider and swing in between buildings with spider web coming out of his wrists. There are numerous scenes that are purely to display such powers matched with fighting and action.
Spiderman does differ from James Bond in a very specific way, Spiderman does not seek out thrill inciting activities, but rather seems to just accept them, sometimes begrudgingly. Though there are differences in character personality between Peter Parker and James Bond, both movies are displaying a very unrealistic way of living with high adrenaline activities. With such an extreme character, the viewer is left with an extreme feeling towards high adrenaline activities. Like James Bond, Spiderman’s high adrenaline activities often level buildings and the surrounding environment. This again communicates the “conqueror” mentality in thrill seeking.
Though different to James Bond in some ways, Spiderman displays very similar concepts and views towards high adrenaline activities. Why must those who love to feel a thrill be aggressive and violent? Why must high adrenaline activities be life threatening and destructive? These are all portrayals of thrill seekers and the high adrenaline activities that the media displays over and over, and such forms of portrayal can lead to negative feelings towards thrill seeking types of people and their activities.
The last artifact that I examined was the movie Interstellar. Interstellar sings a very different tune than that of Casino Royale and Spiderman. In Interstellar, there is a father who is pushed by his love of excitement and the unknown to leave his family, explore space, and find a new planet for humans to live on. This movie actually displays a more positive view of thrill seeking and high adrenaline activities.
Fortunately, Interstellar invokes in incredibly strong feeling of wonder and excitement. Where Casino Royale and Spiderman display crime fighting and destructive characters, Interstellar display the opposite. This was perhaps the only media artifact I found that genuinely seemed to try to push the viewer to go and explore their world. This artifact displays a type of thrill seeker that can positively encourage all to partake in such activities. This movie does this by displaying the main character as a man looking for possibly the most exciting activity one could partake in, exploring space.
This movie is a great example of popular culture operating in one specific way that it should operate. In this movie, popular culture is showing us that facing the unknown is exciting and productive, and even very important. When I was examining these artifacts, I came across an article explaining that when more people partake in high adrenaline activities, it has positive effects on the environment. The article explains that since so many high adrenaline activities are outdoor activities, partaking in such activities connect the participant with nature in a deeper way therefore leading to a desire to protect the environment. “Feelings of connection, unity or being a part of the natural world, according to this eco-psychological perspective, are a causal step to emotional care and behavioral commitment, to wanting to protect the natural world, and to being willing to endure sacrifice in order to look after the natural world” (Brymer, Downey, Gray).
The unfortunate reality however, is that there are far less movies, TV shows, and other popular culture artifacts that reach our culture on such a massive scale that portray thrill seekers in such an attainable and meaningful light. Though exploring wormholes and black holes is out of our reach for now, Interstellar shows us a type of person we all can be when we adventure into the unknown and excitement.
Unfortunately, the media overwhelms the concept of thrill seeking with aggressive conquering, life threating activities, and exclusivity. If the media portrayed thrill seeking the right way, more people would be encouraged to face their fears and experience more of the earth that we are so fortunate to have. Thrill seeking is not just for those who are always looking to risk everything, but also for those looking to connect with nature and themselves. This is why it is so important for the consumer of popular culture to filter what they see through an introspective lens. Thrill seeking is not about testosterone or conquering, but about finding the parts of yourself that you may have yet to find, or overcoming the fears that may be holding you back.
Throughout the term, I have learned a lot about popular culture and its influence on our lives. The most influential aspect of the term for me was learning to examine artifacts at the beginning of the term with the help of John Berger. These skills of analyzing popular culture artifacts has helped me mentally notice different ways that popular culture misleads us or subconsciously influences us to think in certain ways. The other major learning point for me was when I picked one of my favorite movies to see how many characters were like me. This made me realize how very narrow our cultures media characters are portrayed.
Brymer, Eric, Greg Downey, and Tonia Gray. “Portland State University – Single Sign-On.” Journal of Sports & Tourism. Journal of Sports & Tourism, 1 Dec. 2010. Web. 19 May 2017.
“Most Popular Multi-generational Trip Activities in the United States as of February 2015.” Statista. AARP, 2015. Web. 18 May 2017.