For Teachers and Students (11): Discussion Questions for The Merchants of Cool

Discussion Questions for the Merchants of Cool

  • Give two reasons why corporate America has targeted teenagers.
  • Why does Robert McChesney call teenagers “Africa”?
  • What does Bob Bibb emphasize about teens and their parents?
  • How does Sharon Lee define “guilt money”?
  • To what extent is a typical American teenager exposed to advertisements? Give examples.
  • What does “cool hunting” mean? Why is it important for corporate America?
  • How do cool hunters work? What techniques do they use?
  • According to Douglas Rushkoff, “the paradox of “cool hunting” is that it kills what it finds.” Why?
  • Marketers know that kids do not like them. What strategy do they use to approach kids?
  • What is the reason for Sprite’s success with teenagers?
  • What does “under-the-radar” marketing mean?
  • Discuss the following statements: “Youth culture is not something that is just being sold to us. It is something that comes from us. It is an act of expression, not just an act of consumption.”
  • Who are defined as the true merchants of cool?
  • According to Robert McChesney, what weapons do the merchants of cool use?
  • What does Robert McChesney draw our attention to about MTV?
  • What conclusion did MTV draw when their ratings slipped?
  • What is special about MTV’s TRL show?
  • MTV market researchers are involved in an “ethnography study”. What is it? What is the use of it?
  • What does MTV research indicate about teenagers as a result of their ethnographic study?
  • Comment on the following quote by Douglas Rushkoff : “They [MTV market researchers] don’t call it “human” research or “people” research, they call it “market” research.”
  • According to Mark Crispin Miller, why is the MTV machine not interested in listening to the young?
  • Why do commercial culture providers like MTV not represent characters in depth for their audiences?
  • What does “professional wrestling” mean to today’s teenagers?
  • Why is Mark Crispin Miller quite concerned about gigantic transnational corporations and their TV shows?
  • What does “midriff” mean? Who is the midriff archetype? How might a midriff affect girls?
  • What does the image of Britney Spears signify?
  • What might a mook and a midriff have in common?
  • How is “family” represented in the TV series “7th Heaven”? What formula is used in this program?
  • How are TV series such as “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Dawson’s Creek” kept “cool”?
  • How do the makers of teen TV defend their programs?
  • Does the media really reflect the world of teens? How realistic is teen TV?
  • What is a “feedback loop”?
  • What could be the reason for the popularity of rage rock in the States? What do rage rock fans protest against?
  • How did a group like Limp Bizkitt become superstars? As a rage rock band, how authentic would you accept them?
  • Discuss the following: Who creates youth cultures: the youth themselves or corporate America?

© Ali Nihat Eken, İstanbul, November 2007


2 Thoughts

  1. Thanks for putting together these questions. I’m doing a Media Literacy unit for an American English clas and needed them. I’ve shown this video a couple of times before to great success. I’m wondering if it isn’t too old now.

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