Moral Panic!

A still from The Blackboard Jungle (dir. Richard Brooks, 1955), which we'll soon be discussing in class.

A still from The Blackboard Jungle (dir. Richard Brooks, 1955), which we'll soon be discussing in class.

In 313 we’ll soon be discussing the concept of moral panic, a term used by cultural critics to describe episodes of widespread public anxiety over putatively “deviant” or “dangerous” behaviors or groups that are said to pose a threat to society.

Often young people and youth culture are the targets of moral panic, as discussed in both John Springhall’s Youth, Popular Culture and Moral Panics and James Gilbert’s A Cycle of Outrage (both of which are excerpted in our Moodle readings). We’ll be exploring this theme in upcoming classes.

The Wikipedia page on “moral panic” is unusually thorough and well-documented. Worth a look, and worth bookmarking.

Also, here is an example of something fascinating that developed fairly recently and might or might not be categorized as an instance of moral panic: the widespread reaction to an online “game” or pastime called Miss Bimbo, in which players compete to create the ultimate stereotypic “bimbo,” or idealized female figure (the link here will take you to a story in the London Times online). Yow, it’s a mind-boggler.

Finally, here’s an excerpt from the lyrics to that classic by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, “I’m Not a Juvenile Delinquent” (released on Gee Records in 1957):

I’m not a juvenile delinquent

No-no-no-no-no-no-no-no

No-no-no-no-no-no-no-no

No-no-no, I’m not a juvenile delinquent

Do the things that’s right

And you’ll do nothing wrong

Life will be so nice, you’ll be in paradise

I know, because I’m not a juvenile delinquent

But listen boys and girls

You need not be blue

And life is what you make of it

It all depends on you

I know, because I’m not a juvenile delinquent

It’s easy to be good, it’s hard to be bad

Stay out of trouble, and you’ll be glad

Take this tip from me, and you will see

How happy you will be…

(Lymon, incidentally, died of a heroin overdose at age 25.)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: