Thursday, May 15, 2008

Moral Panic?

The Mexican/Latin American culture that is present in today’s society evolved for the zoot suit culture of the 1940s. The jazz music and the baggy clothing were the trade marks of the zoot suitors. The zoot suits culture was viewed as deviant. They attracted a lot of negative attention and discrimination because of their radical style.

While I was reading about the zoot suit riots I wondered if this event would fall under “moral panic.” It seemed to be similar to those events of moral panic that we studied in English 313. There was a “panic” over a deviant culture, because of the threat that people believed that it possessed. The zoot suit was a new trend that created concern among the population. This concern was extremely exaggerated by the people who didn’t understand the culture.

Yet there are many distinctions from this event and the events that we read about in class, which leads me to believe that maybe the zoot suit riots were not what Sprighall considered “moral panic.” The sailors, which were the rivals of the zoot suitors during the riots, said that they were attacking the dress and the “dangers” that it represented, yet the common thought was that the attacks were of racism. In the moral panics that I’ve read about the attack is on the representation, not on those who are “exposed” to it. Comic books movies and video games are censored to take the power away from the materials; the youth are not targeted as was the case with the zoot suit riots.

I believe that because the relationships in the zoot suit riots are different from the other events, it separate the zoot suit culture from other moral panics. In situations of moral panic that I have encountered the youth is being exposed to something that could be potentially dangerous to them and society, which causes the parents have an exaggerated reaction to the potential harm. In this case the sailors and a lot of the society saw the zoot suitors as the potential harm because of their deviant ways. The harm was not to their youth, but to society and that’s what initiated the panic. This event was definitely a panic over the loss in morals in society but I don’t believe that it falls under the category of “moral panic.”

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