In the advertising world, teenagers are simultaneously courted for their high ratio of disposable income, and discriminated against as a means of making older consumers feel comfortable buying a product. This is something that I find truly bizarre. I'm not insinuating that we live in any sort of post-discriminatory culture, but I am still surprised how accepted it is to just openly bash on teenagers. Take, for instance, this Allstate commercial posted by Lisa over at Sociological Images.
This commercial openly affirms a number of stereotypes about teenagers. It opens with a shot of a pink SUV cruising in a movie theater parking lot. Obviously it's pink, because pink is the color of idealized femininity, something all teen girls strive for. Also, it's a custom color, implying that this is not a hand-me down car or a used car. This giant gas guzzler was bought for our protagonist, who clearly doesn't care about the environment, or people other than herself. Like all teens, she's, like, soooo spoiled.
In the car, the "teen girl" speaks in internet lingo, saying things like, "my BFF Becky." Gasp in horror, onlooking adults, as she denigrates the English language! When she finds out her best friend has kissed her crush, a problem all-consuming in her tiny teenage world, she throws her bedazzled phone into the backseat. Look how little respect she has for her possessions! Gosh, teenagers are so unappreciative!
The video culminates with the teen crashing her behemoth of a stereotype-wagon into a modest, gray parked car. Adult Woman is pissed. She was just trying to do some shopping in her humble vehicle, but teenagers and their hit-and-runs are always messing up her day. The teenager in the car advises, "Get Allstate, you can save money and be better protected from mayhem like me."
Mayhem is defined as "needless or willful damage or violence." Watch out adults, teens are out to get you! We care about ourselves, don't care about our stuff, and certainly don't have any sense of responsibility when it comes to minding how we conduct ourselves in your world.
Seriously, though, all of these things are ridiculous. I think that you'd be hard pressed to find other television advertisements that so conspicuously mock a group of people through stereotypes. This commercial would never make it past production if it were meant to mock men older than 85, a demographic that causes more than twice as many car-related deaths as the teen girl demo.
This video is just one more indicator of how teenagers are one of the last true frontiers of discrimination. We have no significant income or power, so feel free to wreck on us as much as you want! Or don't... after all, media like this sets an expectation for people of all ages as to how is acceptable/expected for an adolescent girl to act. That is, if you don't want us behaving like this, stop telling us that we do.
And it's not just an isolated incident.