Kevin Drum brings our attention to a post at Vox about teenagers, crime and lifestyle. Teenage pregnancy rates are way down. More teenagers use birth control. Fewer teenagers abuse drugs and alcohol. They’re even working out more often.
Drum adds to this by noting that:
“What’s happening today isn’t an aberration. Teenagers from the mid-60s through the mid-90s were the aberration. We managed to convince ourselves during that era that something had gone permanently wrong, but it wasn’t so. The ultra-violent gangs and reckless behavior that became so widespread simply wasn’t normal, any more than expecting teenagers to sit around in kumbaya circles would be normal.”
This is all great news, but our stereotypes of teenagers are unlikely to change simply because actual teenage behavior has. Studies show stereotypes are hard to change, and the conventions of much of our entertainment were developed and hardened during the 60s-90s period that Drum calls an “aberration.” No where is this clearer than in Marvel and DC comics, which regularly feature superheroes fighting to save New York City from crime even though New York is today a very safe place to live.
Studies show that black men and boys are already heavily associated in the American mind with criminality. When you add in stereotypes about teenagers, you get a truly toxic combination that echoes throughout every corner of American society.