Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 9-27-2012


In the Frontline documentary The Merchants of Cool, the relationship between major media conglomerates and their hedonistic teenage customers is examined through exploring the different tactics industries use to discover and market the next “cool” thing. Industries maintain what the documentary refers to as a “feedback loop” with their customers, which is a cyclic, supply-and-demand relationship that blurs the line between fiction and reality. It has become impossible to tell which side is imitating the other: who do the products and trends that define popular youth culture belong to? What's more, are the sexual and aggressive hormone-fueled behaviors on television and in music intrinsic in adolescents or are they artificial ideas? If these behaviors are indeed manufactured, then how and why they are learned and practiced almost religiously by the majority of today’s youth? I aimed to examine if Social Learning Theory has any connection with the youth’s desire to replicate what they see in the media.

The result of my findings is that, whether it’s a mainstream media sensation or the philosophy of an underground subculture, members of America’s youth undergo the processes within Social Learning Theory to learn the behaviors necessary to assimilate into (or totally reject) teenage culture. As long as industries continue studying and recycling ever-changing teenage trends, they will maintain a strong influence on teen’s actions and decide where they fall in society.