How media trends take shape and morph over time
In the past 10 years, beauty has taken on new meaning, hashtags sparked movements, distrust in the media has grown and athletes and celebrities used their social status to champion causes. The Student Writers Advisory Group (SWAG) followed these media trends through the decade.
Beauty through the decade
After the 2019 Met Gala, my newsfeed was inundated with galleries of Harry Styles sporting a sheer-topped Gucci ensemble, heeled leather shoes, a manicure and one diamond earring. On the same red carpet walked Lady Gaga in four outfits that she unveiled consecutively in a dramatic, 16-minute-long performance. These celebrities, decked out in distinctive, imaginative pieces, celebrated the event's theme, "Camp: Notes on Fashion," a testament to "self-expression and individuality," as Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour explained.
At the beginning of the decade, however, beauty and fashion looked much different. Makeup artists breathed life into dark, moody eyeliner and sultry smokey eyes; the runway featured models in skinny jeans, geometric print blouses and neon-colored tights.
But what's evolved is not limited to the trends themselves. What's even more significant is who these trends are catering to. As these industries have carried out most of their marketing through the media, they've also expanded their target audiences to reflect a more diverse range of consumers, resulting in an undeniable shift in the "American beauty mindset" over time.
Age diversity, for one, has blossomed in a traditionally youth-oriented industry, as exemplified in February 2019, at the end of a Marc Jacobs show when Chrissy Turlington, 50, appeared almost makeup-free in a rare return to the catwalk. Or maybe it was when designer Simone Rocha, inspired by artist Louise Bourgeois — who lived until she was 98 — held a show that featured models in their 30s and 40s, a compelling move when the average age of a model is 18. Or perhaps it's Jennifer Lopez, 50, who closed the spring Versace show in her iconic green Grammys dress and continues to be an entertainment icon and active philanthropist. In an era when we've highly prized "looking young" and "feeling young," older faces are finally having a well-deserved moment in the spotlight.
Along the same lines, body diversity has continued to thrive: right now, there are 11.5 million #bodypositive posts on Instagram. Ashley Graham, a "curve model," as she calls herself, is an ambassador for Revlon's Live Boldly collective and graces the January 2020 cover of Vogue. In a shimmering, Oscar de la Renta gold caftan, she's celebrating "inclusivity, mothers, pregnancy and love," she wrote. Or look to Lizzo, Time's Entertainer of the Year, who embellishes her self-empowering work with Valentino, Moschino and effervescent glam on the red carpet and the concert stage.
And briefly, another noteworthy development: driven by prominent influencers on Instagram and Youtube, a "clean beauty" movement has arisen through leading makeup brands like Glossier, RMS and Kosas, which emphasize skincare and enhancing natural features over covering up what we perceive to be undesirable, a warm embrace of all skin types.
In an article titled "Why is Beauty Important to Us?", acclaimed author André Aciman answers, "Under the spell of beauty, we experience a rare condition called plenitude, where we want for nothing."
So when these industries tell us, through media and marketing, that having blemishes or aging or being curvy or skinny or none of those things is beautiful, they're telling us to be content with those aspects of ourselves. We all have the prerogative to be individualistic and self-expressive, and that, in the end, is truly the beauty of it all.
Andrea Yang, Lake Oswego High School
What's real and what's just for show in celebrity activism
In today's social media saturated environment, celebrities develop personas bigger than those that came before them. And oftentimes, these personas feature a great deal of opinions on the big social issues of the world. While celebrities have been marching and speaking for causes and endorsing politicians since as early as the 1920s, it seems like today, most celebrities, not just a few, wade into real world issues.
Celebrity activism as we know it began in the 1960s when celebrities began to get involved in the civil rights movement and the antiwar movement especially. Notable names include Sidney Poitier, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno, Paul Newman, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, among many others. It continued through the 1970s with more anti-war activism, through the 1980s and 1990s as celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Elton John and Magic Johnson got involved with activism regarding AIDS and HIV, as well as the famous music collaboration "We Are The World" for Haiti in 1985.
As the fight for LGBTQ+ equality emerged into the limelight of politics in the 2000s and the 2010s, celebrities like RuPaul, Laverne Cox, George Takei and Zachary Quinto involved themselves with the LGBTQ+ rights movement.
From celebrities who have long been involved in numerous activist movements like Jane Fonda and Oprah Winfrey, to environmentalists like Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, to the many celebrities involved in the Time's Up movement, part of being a celebrity now seems to be a firm conviction on the issues of today.
But that requirement also poses a few simple questions. Is their work for these causes sincere, or is it just a vehicle for relevance? And, if it is just a vehicle for relevance, does it really matter as long as the cause is getting publicity too?
Unfortunately, neither question has a simple answer.
While a celebrity promoting a cause on social media can bring that cause around to their fans, if the celebrity is presenting false, unfounded or intensely opinionated language and information then they are clearly doing more harm than good.
A more recent example of that type of celebrity activist is celebrity endorsement of "anti-vaxxing," or being opposed to vaccinations. Actors Jenny McCarthy, Jessica Biel and Jim Carrey have spoken out against mandatory vaccines.
Meanwhile, a fair indication of whether or not a cause is worth more than just publicity to a celebrity is whether or not they put money into it. While talk is free, donations aren't. While tax incentives exist for people to donate big money, why would someone donate money to a cause if it didn't mean something to them?
Though, perhaps the real tell of whether or not celebrities being a part of social causes is a good thing or not, will come tomorrow, like the answer to whether celebs of yesteryear were right to march.
While today, most people can easily say that it was a good thing for celebrities to transform their power over their fans to help causes like civil rights, perhaps we still need a few years to figure out the potency and sincerity of celebrities being a part of big movements of today.
Ethan Gill, West Linn High School
Consumer backlash after media coverage of Amazon behavior
Recently many people have been noticing and reevaluating their use of Amazon as a great deal of information about the company's behavior has come up. The mistreatment of the company's workers and the lack of federal taxes that the company pays has blown up across social media, and more recently spread into news and TV coverage. The spotlight that current events are thrown under circulates quickly and through a variety of topics — never staying in one place for long. Information spreads quickly and like a wildfire across social media, news stations and countless other platforms. Things can exist for a long span of time without the public paying much attention to it, but once social media and the news decides to throw it under a very massive amount of coverage it's all everyone seems to be talking about.
The current media fire Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, is under for having paid zero dollars in federal income tax for the year of 2018 — along with the ways in which the company treats its employees — has blown up across the media. The information on the taxes that Amazon pays is information that the general public has had access to for many months now but the topic didn't start coming under a massive amount of scorn until late November of 2019. And now, it seems to have gotten to the point where it's all anyone can talk about. It's becoming a phenomenon that has grown into an entire movement in itself.
This mass scrutinization is on many platforms across a wide variety of age groups. Many young people have been exposed to the story through the "eat the rich" hashtag on platforms like Tiktok, Instagram, and Twitter; a lot of the first conversations about Amazon's status occurred on these platforms and the hashtag began to grow quickly across social media with comments including: "why do i, a lower-middle-class slob, have to pay like 15-20% of my paycheck to the government but super rich people like Bezos pay $0? ZERO! Jeff gets that third yacht but I can't afford new prescription glasses? #EatTheRich" (Jason Liddle' on Twitter) and "Jeff Bezos & Amazon — like all other billionaires & large corporations — don't care about your safety, security, or happiness. They have one goal: profits #EatTheRich" (Sean O'brien on Twitter). Adults have seen it through platforms like Facebook and the coverage on news channels that the topic has grown onto, and it's been growing in relevance so much that I even had the chance to observe my family having a conversation about Amazon over Christmas dinner. If someone didn't know who Jeff Bezos was at the beginning of 2019 there is a very good chance they do now and it's all thanks to a growing movement across the media.
This recent concern with Amazon hasn't stopped there though. Coverage has grown so much that many people are beginning to boycott the company in solidarity with employees who are being underpaid in lacking working conditions. My parents, grandparents and even some extended family were all very proud to say that they had completed all of their Christmas shopping without purchasing anything off of Amazon this year. It's starting to turn into a movement that is working its way into even my local community.
The media has the ability to spread topics so quickly that Amazon's behavior has gained a massive amount of attention in a literal month. This isn't something that would have been possible 15 years ago. In a period of time where so many media platforms are able to spread topics so quickly to all different kinds of people it is, we are living in a time where people are able to take power into their own hands and do what they can to make positive changes to the world they're living in and it's all because the media is able to spread information to them so quickly. As the movement continues to grow into 2020 many people are hoping to be able to see some positive changes within the company due to the action that many people are taking.
Ainsley Mayes, Wilsonville High School
Joe Burrow Raises Awareness for Poverty
An uplifting story in times of political and social turmoil has been trending across all media platforms, bringing people together to help those in need.
On Dec. 14, Joe Burrow, quarterback for Louisiana State University, won the Heisman Memorial Trophy and became the first LSU player to win in 60 years. Burrow is from Athens County, Ohio. It took an immense amount of dedication, hard work and genuine support from people for Burrow to rise above the adversity he faced and reach his ultimate potential.
Burrow's personal and empowering speech raised awareness of poverty and hunger as he addressed the harsh conditions of his hometown. He had declared in his acceptance speech, "I'm up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here too."
Burrow's speech gave rise to a fundraising effort dedicated to the Athens County Food Pantry, and as of Dec. 21, had raised almost $500,000 for the cause. This heartwarming act reminded people of the power unity has in helping those in need. Imagine what our world would be like if people with platforms like Burrow all pitched in to raise awareness on these major issues in the world.
Other athletes who have used their platforms to raise awareness include Michael Phelps, who founded the Michael Phelps Foundation in 2008 to provide kids with opportunities to participate in swimming, and is partnered with the Level Field Fund to aid those with financial need.
Eli Manning, a graduate of the University of Mississippi, brought attention to pediatric care in Mississippi and has raised millions of dollars to fund the Eli Manning Children's Clinics in 2009.
Lebron James had spoken out on race and interactions with police in the US during the 2016 ESPYs Awards, and founded the LeBron James Family Foundation in 2004 to raise money to help educate children. Kevin Love has spoken out on mental health and depression in the Cohen Auditorium while discussing an essay he had written concerning his own personal struggles called "Everybody's Going Through Something," published in 2018.
Throughout the years, athletes have been able to make a positive difference in the world by using their platform to spread awareness and ignite conversations across the world. With the use of a platform, their message is able to become more widespread, creating a bigger impact and more change.
Influential and respected figures are able to reach more people in society with the message they wish to spread. Hierarchical diffusion of ideas and influences is the most effective way to bring about change and spur action.
I hope the new year will bring more awareness to not only poverty but other detrimental situations and encourage action.
Isabella Scalise, Wilsonville High School
How the 'fake news' phenomena has damaged America's trust
After the growing prevalence of "fake news" that surfaced during the 2016 election, the American populace has been left with one overwhelming feeling: that they can't trust anyone.
While "fake news" isn't by any means a brand new occurrence, our contemporary, consumer-driven, capitalist society has witnessed its effects on how we receive information, most notably due to President Trump's coining of the term to describe negative press during his election. It's because of fake news, and the bug that's been planted in America's ears that we're all being lied to, that news outlets are now labeled by the public as deceiving and untrustworthy.
In terms of the way it spreads, fake news is no different from other trends in the media. It's only alive in the first place because it's become a widespread orthodox, adopted by the majority of citizens. An echo chamber, as used in news media, is synonymous with fake news. We believe what we want to believe, which can mean buying into bias and false information if it's what's on the table, and this is what perpetuates the need to check the news literacy in every source we come across. There's no automatic, built-up trust between news outlets and readers anymore because fake news has made everyone cautious of what's flowing around in the media.
In a 2019 survey collected in June by Pew Research Center, many of the participants rated made-up news and information as more concerning than issues like climate change, sexism, terrorism, racism and illegal immigration.
The fear that journalists are manipulative, and have the power to manipulate the information they present to consumers, has caused havoc surrounding the willingness to accept information altogether. People are resistant to news publications, some more than others, over the fallacy that all journalists are fixated on tainting people's minds one way or another. The result then is the nationwide polarization between
those giving and receiving information.
As a student journalist in the era of misinformation and skepticism, I feel a personal obligation to defy that near-standard assumption owned by consumers that they can't trust their news outlets anymore. It's because of that inclination to build their trust again that I'm overly cautious about fact checking every piece of information presented in the articles I write. I double check with my sources so I don't misquote them, and our high school newsroom as a whole has adopted an editing process so that articles are reviewed multiple times before being published.
It's all in an attempt to help regain assurance that we report in an honest, unbiased manner, yet I still see hesitance in readers when we cover controversial topics. Fake news has become a social norm now, popularized by "hashtag activism" which spreads through social media and the Web, which means it's now larger than just the realm of political campaigns.
It's the fear of misinformation, of clouding over certain issues while exaggerating others, that has contributed to the nationwide reluctance to accept journalistic reporting. The fake news footprint has left a noticeable mark on journalists' reputation, however it's a new year, bringing with it a new decade to help determine the future of trust versus dishonesty in America.
Skylar Moore, West Linn High School
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.