Chill The Drama

Factors contributing to the weakening of societies

Ashley Villagomez

Fat! Nerd! Ugly! Anorexic! Loser! In May 2011, Seventeen Magazine worked with Yahoo to conduct a survey in which 74% of teens and young women just like us admitted to feeling pressured to be perfect. Similar societies encounter the same types of problems that lead to their downfall. Today's societies are being torn apart by the flaws of human nature. Similar to Gatsby's society, high schools are areas where our reputation is crucial in order to succeed. We want to make the best impression on the first day of school by showing off in the only way we were taught; wearing the most form-fitting, expensive-looking, well-accessorized clothes that make us stand out in a swarm of people. There have been occasions where harsh words lead someone to commit suicide and gossip causes teenagers to become insecure, but that is only because people always have something negative to say and we take everything that is said to heart. Everywhere we go, everything we do is always criticized. Certain standards are set by the “popular” people and we are willing to go to the extremes to reach those standards. Gatsby’s society is one of the many societies that experienced this popularity contest. The East Eggers represent old money, the West Eggers are defined by new money, and the Valley of Ashes symbolizes poverty and lifelessness. We may pretend it doesn't bother us, but as we silently walk through the jam-packed hallways and hear giggly whispers, we can't help but think they are talking about us. Walking a little faster to avoid the mean girls, a million insecurities cross our mind and we begin to get self-conscious as inevitable tears start rolling down our cheeks. Not doing anything to change the way we respond to criticism and instantly making assumptions is almost as harmful to society as picking out everyone's flaws. Jealousy, greed, selfishness, neglecting responsibilities, a popularity status within societies, and lack of individualism is causing societies of all environments to collapse. There is no way to stop the damage that has already been done to society, but we can prevent the effects that these damages have on us. Everybody is unique and nobody is perfect so why should we spend our time pointing out people's mistakes instead of being grateful for what we have and enjoying our life as it is? Why should we focus on what other people do with their lives instead of minding our own business? Why should we increase our risk of becoming a part of the growing 25% of the U.S population that is forced to deal with bullying? Why should we become dependent on someone else's success to accomplish our goals? Why?

Like mother like daughter

Naturally, the corrupt environment in which we live in influences the image we try to create for ourselves. In Gatsby’s society, we see characters developing an identity based on where they live and where they come from. Jay Gatsby, Myrtle Wilson, and George Wilson all try to break free from the society they were born into. For the Wilsons, living in the Valley of Ashes is a devastating obstacle because it keeps them from moving forward and succeeding. Knowing where we come from and figuring out where we’re going in life is important, but sometimes what we have isn’t enough to satisfy what we think we deserve. This is one of the reasons why our society is progressively failing. The way we are raised gives us a perspective on who we want to become, but it’s not until we reach the high school age that we actually act upon changing who we are because of what we see while we go grocery shopping with our family or when we go out to the mall with our friends. In The Great Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan was never an exemplary mother figure for her daughter Pammy. “‘The bles-sed pre-cious! Did mother get powder on your old yellowy hair? Stand up now and say—How-de-do’” (Fitzgerald, 117). Daisy speaks to her daughter with immense pride and stubbornness as if she was the most beautiful little girl in the world. Parents are supposed to look out for their child’s best interest, but the only intention Daisy has by showing off her daughter to her “friends” was so that they would be impressed by the high values she was teaching her. There is no mistaking that Daisy is superficial and lacks morals, but unknowingly, she is ensuring her daughter to live in misery by setting a bad example.

Similarly, as teenagers, we live day-to-day taking in the lessons we learn from our parents, even though sometimes they may seem meaningless, and they help shape who we are. If our parents are supportive and demonstrate affection towards us, we will mimic their positive actions. Feeling like we’re not a priority to our parents and being taught that money can buy happiness, for example, will not have a positive effect on our future. This isn’t the case for all teenagers, but regardless of how much we might disagree with their parenting skills, our values and moral standards remain the same. The results of a survey taken in an advisory classroom on the first day of school, students ranked the importance of money at Barrington High School. One being very important, two being somewhat important, and three being not important at all, 23 out of 24 students ranked the importance of money in our modern society to be very important. Most likely, children who grow up having everything they want, whenever they want will keep the same mindset of needing to be spoiled throughout their life. This isn’t fair for society and only weakens our ability to succeed because we are used to having things done a certain way. When we don’t have everything under control, we feel out of place and expect others to make everything better. We can’t keep being afraid to do things for ourselves.

"Do this!" "Do that"

Not only is being able to respond to individual tasks important, but also it prevents negative effects that surrounding gossip has on us. It’s tough for parents to let go of their children because they want to protect us under their “shield”, but once we reach our teenage years and we start our freshman year in high school, we are exposed to behaviors that we are unsure of how to respond to. “Thousands of memories come to mind when I think back to freshman year,” says a Senior at Barrington High School, “I was not only lost in the sense that it was a new environment and I felt weak because I thought everybody was going to pick on me, but also I couldn’t figure out why other teenagers acted the way they did. Coming from middle school, everyone’s actions seemed very different. In high school, nobody really cares who you are unless you can benefit them in a way. If they can’t use you for something, they won’t care. In a place where image is so important, it’s difficult to stand out and that’s what I thought I had to do. I didn’t know what to expect from high school, but once time went by, I realized high school was not a drama free environment.” Learning from experience is the only way to know for sure how we would react to certain hardships in our life, but once we feel the pressure that our surroundings put on us, we start thinking twice about every move we make. Too many times I catch myself thinking, would this be socially acceptable to wear? Will I get those crazy glares from the clique of mean girls across the hall if I wear this? Truth is, we shouldn’t care what people think, but it’s almost as if everyone’s brain is wired to think like that before doing anything out of the norm. The norm refers to what we think everybody else thinks is acceptable in order to avoid being criticized.

Escaping the public eye, whether it’s at school for teenagers or out on the streets for celebrities, is almost impossible in our society. Paparazzi and peer pressure lead us to do things that we would've never thought about doing. Our society compares to Gatsby’s because their popularity is dependent on how effective gossip is on everyone else just like ours. In a society where people’s idea of the truth is based on rumors and gossip, it is difficult to deal with the insensitivity in a positive way. For Daisy Buchanan, gossip is a hobby and she proves it when she says, “‘I forgot to ask you something, and it’s important. We heard you were engaged to a girl out West. We heard it from three people, so it must be true’” (Fitzgerald, 19). Daisy takes pride in knowing everyone else’s business and questioning others until they feel pressured to respond to those rumors. The main reason why people gossip in our society and in Gatsby’s is because we intend to harm others for our own benefit. This causes a downfall in our society because we are willing to tear others down in order to get to the top. Daisy asks Nick about his personal life, not because she really cares, but because she wants details so she can spread rumors that are ten times better than the ones she heard.

Similar to Gatsby’s society, we gossip because it makes us feel like we have more power over others, including their reputation, and we can keep them from becoming popular. The mentality that we, as teenage girls, have, in order to get what we want, is that we can manipulate other people into thinking what we want them to think and change their view on other people. The negative effect that this has on our society is that if we say something like, “Look at her! She wears the same clothes almost every day because she can’t even afford a new shirt,” we quickly assume the worst of others and we don’t let other people have their own opinion. Rumors are not only harmful to the person being talked about, but also the people who spread it because they are letting other people influence the way they feel about someone. In the march 2009 issue of Seventeen Magazine, editor Ann Shoket focused on the negative effects of rumors by writing, “When tabloids gossip about the bodies of celebs who don’t have eating disorders like 90210’s Shenae Grimes, it detracts from the millions of girls who are suffering. They deserve the attention-and help.” Shenae Grimes was ridiculed, like thousands of other teenagers, for supposedly having an eating disorder and that changed how a lot of people viewed her as a person. Those gossip magazines we see by the check-out aisles at the grocery store catch our attention and make us want to buy the magazine, but that’s just what the tabloids are trying to do. Reporters don’t care about the celebs and their daily lives, they just care about how much money they’re going to make off of their new cover story. If we see a magazine with famous celebrities in rehab on the cover, we are instantly going to judge them and think they are horrible people because of what we see. We let gossip and rumors blind us from the truth. We should build our own opinions and not let what others say impact what we think.

"She doesn't even go here!"

What’s high school without drama? That’s a trick question because everywhere we go we always seem to encounter some kind of drama. It’s the way we handle these dramatic situations issues that is degrading our society. Everyone has responsibilities that they rather not have and neglecting these responsibilities is equally harmful as not dealing with them properly. The people around us are directly impacted by the consequences of our actions. The best way to not get caught up in the drama around us is by admitting that we all contribute to the flaws of human nature and changing the way we interact with others. Nick was able to see how the East and West Eggers were separated by very little differences, one of them being the Valley of Ashes. The Eggs were all based on money, whether it’s new money or old money, but money was the symbol of stature in Gatsby’s society. This is still true in our modern society. Depending on where you live, what you look like, and who you associate yourself with, that is how other people with perceive you. There is a lot of interaction between the Eggers and people from the Valley of Ashes because the inferior people from the Valley of Ashes, like Wilson and Myrtle, hope that by forcing themselves into a polar opposite lifestyle they would increase their chance of having a successful future. Wilson and Myrtle wanted to leave their life in the Valley of Ashes because they looked up to the East and West Eggers. They wanted what they realistically would never be able to have. Myrtle and Wilson were not content with their lifestyle because they were lured into thinking that in order to become somebody, they had to hang out with the right people and be wealthy. Cliques in high school are organized the same way. The movie Mean Girls is a perfect example of a stereotypical high school environment that includes all the drama we encounter daily, only at an exaggerated extent. As teenagers, we want to be popular and we think that the only way to get there is by being mean and following along with the cruelty of the other girls who we consider to be popular. Having strong values and positive morals will help us be more successful not only in high school, but also in life. Instead of taking note of everything people do in the hallways that you think is wrong, accept the fact that everyone is different and you live to reach your own expectations, not someone else’s.