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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Deconstructing the children's culture industry : a retrospective analysis from young people Hill, Jennifer Ann


The children’s “culture industry,” meaning the mass production of popular culture by corporations, has systematically targeted children to persuade them to desire commodities while promising an increase in happiness. Media in all forms has become the conduit through which corporations have access to children and the means by which they influence, mould and profoundly impact children's lives. Indeed, consumer culture plays a dominant role for individuals living in such cultures, arguably more than any other institution including government. In the 1990s, the most intense commercial campaign in the history of childhood had commenced. Despite the pervasiveness of consumerism, there has been a notable gap in the literature to ascertain from young people, in their own words, what are the experiences of and meanings attributed to consumerism throughout their childhoods. Using a paradigm of qualitative research, the present dissertation provides a detailed description of how young people, those aged 18 or 19, perceive the presence of consumer culture in their lives, both presently and with particular focus on the past, as children. Data presented here suggest that most of the young people interviewed feel considerable pressure to conform to the standards of consumerism, including the adoption of brand culture, fads and a ‘buy-and-consume’ modality. Furthermore, the very identities of young people are inextricably linked to the process of consumption including the desiring, acquiring and discarding of consumable objects. Nonetheless, the participants were adamant their individuality had not been altered by mass culture, and that they were free to make choices as citizens in democracies have come to expect. Overall, the participants’ responses demonstrated a distinct lack of insight about the motives of corporations, the power of advertising/media and their far-reaching influence on thoughts and behaviours. However, hopeful signs of understanding and resistance arose among some of the participants, including two in particular, who strongly expressed their desire to not conform.

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