Is violence on the streets caused by violence in video games? Does cyber-bullying lead to an increase in suicide rates? Are teens promiscuous because of Teen Mom? As Karen Sternheimer clearly demonstrates, popular culture is an easy scapegoat for many of society's problems, but it is almost always the wrong answer.
Now in its second edition, Connecting Social Problems and Popular Culture goes beyond the news-grabbing headlines claiming that popular culture is public enemy number one to consider what really causes the social problems we are most concerned about. The sobering fact is that a "media made them do it" explanation fails to illuminate the roots of social problems like poverty, violence, and environmental degradation. Sternheimer's analysis deftly illustrates how welfare "reform," a two-tiered health care system, and other difficult systemic issues have far more to do with our contemporary social problems than Grand Theft Auto or Facebook. The fully-revised new edition features recent moral panics (think sexting and cyberbullying) and an entirely new chapter exploring social media. Expanded discussion of how we understand society's problems as social constructions without disregarding empirical evidence, as well as the cultural and structural issues underlying those ills, allows students to stretch their sociological imaginations.
Sternheimer (Kids These Days) unpacks the media's penchant for sensationalizing and misdirecting public discourse about the real causes of poverty, disease, materialism, sexual license and substance abuse. She argues that news coverage engages in misleading "media phobia" blaming popular culture for entrenched social problems by fingering convenient scapegoats (e.g., movies, video games, rap music) for teen pregnancy, lower educational attainment and violence. Sternheimer illustrates how reports of children's increased violence after video-game use are based almost entirely on spurious or contradictory studies, and how arguments about media phobia deflect attention away from such basic issues as unequal access to skills, education, jobs and resources: the "real culprits" and causal links the media ignores. Revealing how frequently and perniciously social research is manipulated, Sternheimer demonstrates how to hold the media accountable while addressing the more entrenched and salient problem of child poverty that she believes is to blame.