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Student voices: Happiness isn't all about money

About this time last year, when I was a junior in high school, I decided I was really interested in doing PSEO. PSEO stands for post-secondary enrollment option. A couple of my friends chose PSEO and loved it so I got a little more information and eventually decided to enroll. PSEO is an option for juniors and seniors to take courses at a local college and get both college and high school credit. I applied at Inver Hills and made it in.

I feel like taking these classes is preparing me immensely for college.

Last week I had to write an essay about media representations of the wealthy. When I found out the topics, I was not very excited to start writing. I read up on it with an article my professor gave us. And from that moment on I thought of television in a whole new way.

The author not only wrote about how rich people are portrayed on TV but also the middle class, homeless people, working class families and more. She used examples like “The Simpsons” and how Homer, a working class character, is portrayed as stupid, a slob and a drunk. She also used the example of “Malcolm in the Middle,” a middle class family seen as dysfunctional and silly.

But why is it when you watch a show containing a wealthy character they are seen as the greatest being and living the happiest life ever? Look at London Tipton from the Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Money bought her happiness, but is that the case in real life? Not usually.

I know plenty of people who know they don’t need to be rich to live a happy and fulfilling life. So is the idea “money brings everyone happiness” and “rich people are the best kind of people living the best lives” portrayed in kids’ TV shows? She took a poll with elementary school kids and a great portion said when they grow up they want to be rich.

Television alters how people are perceived based on their social class. People shouldn’t be judged by how much money they have, and people shouldn’t try to make a certain class look more stupid than the next. Can a poor person be smart? Of course. Can a rich person be dumb? Definitely. Television puts these stereotypes on people based on how much money they have. It’s not right nor should kids be growing up thinking this way.

Next time you’re watching TV, be sure to check out how the writers portray the characters based on their salary. You would be very surprised by how easily overlooked it is. The typical “American” stereotype is that we are greedy. Networks alter people and show them as not as important as the other characters all because of their assets. It’s amazing how even our shows portray money as being so important.

Just because networks want a few more viewers doesn’t give them the right to show people with less assets as less important and happy people. In the end, happiness matters more at the grave than how much money you left behind. I’d rather live a happy life being poor than a miserable life being rich, and I hope all the rest of you Americans would agree.