I’m all for tools that will help parents determine what’s best for their kids. I’m not a parent, but I know it’s very difficult to raise kids of any age, and sometimes help is needed to make the right choices. But for me, Parental Advisory labels are dumb (what a shocking observation, I’m sure).
Here’s the thing; I was in the check out line and got carded for two films sets; a double featurette containing Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon, and another containing Goodfellas and Heat. All four are action thrillers starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, so it wouldn’t be a long shot in guessing that they are steeped with profanity and violence. Okay, I can understand why parents might object to little Timmy or Sally buying films with content as such, IF Timmy or Sally were ten. But hey, if you’re under Eighteen you have to abide by the rules of your parents (or guardians), so I get why they card (you need parents approval). But interestingly they don’t card for music. Why? For two reasons, Parental Advisory stickers (which I think some places still card you for ANYWAY) OR some stores choose to carry only the edited (radio friendly) version of albums. I brought this up to the cashier and she got all huffy, “well if you want to listen to music filled with a bunch of profanity, you can go elsewhere.” That wasn’t the point. The point was the differences in censorship. There are no “Television friendly” versions of films on the shelf, so why stock censored music?
And what is considered “censored?” All “censored” music is just taking the curse words out. Content that is extremely violent, mysoginistic, or homophobic in nature is perfectly okay, just don’t use the dreaded “F-word”. I’m sorry, that’s just so dumb. I’m not a big fan of censoring artists to begin with, but I understand that sometimes certain types of censorship is needed when children are present. Plus some people just don’t want to see a ton of graphic nudity on television or hear F-bombs every other word. And that’s fine, I’m glad there are alternatives when it comes to public media forms. But the way censorship is done, (expecially in music) is so pointless. First off, with artists like Eminem or Lil Wayne, you should know what you are getting into. Eminem in particular has built a brand around having a very violent, psychotic persona, and likewise Wayne has marketed himself around weed. In any event, a BIG FAT PARENTAL ADVISORY sticker should be a clue to the content. But what about the “radio friendly” hits like “Blurred Lines, ” that is arguably about the “joys” of date-rape? Is that censored?
See, here is the problem, politicians and parents pick on cursing because it’s an easy problem to fix for censorship purposes. You can point it out quickly and erase it, leaving a false sense of accomplishment behind. Unfortunately you can still be left with a lot of inappropriate messages, that are repeated over and over and still declared as “cool” by pop culture (for instance, how many times have you heard the song “Blurred Lines” on the radio?). So the problem never really went away. Instead you have done nothing but waste time and money.
And I brought up Eminem earlier, because he and Marilyn Manson are everyone’s favorite scapegoat (Em mainly for his “Slim Shady” alter-ego, Manson for his “blasphemous” imagery). For the record, I do respect both individuals as an artist, but Em in particular makes a really good example here. He has had several huge hits on the radio, and some are quite controversial, yet they are STILL PLAYED. The only difference? The “bad words” are edited out. I’m also going to pick a little bit on rap/hip hop music in general, because they seem to be the most guilty (and yes, I am aware that there are some rap songs with very positive messages) of full on mysogyny and violence in general. How many such songs do you hear regularly on the radio (mainstream, not Sirius)? These songs become hits, kids sing them all the time. And do you really think they don’t know what words are edited out?
What about pop “friendly” personalities like Kesha singing about getting wasted all the time with slurred lyrics? Or good wholesome Britney singing about threesomes? What about Nicki Minaj? How about KidzBop featuring a song by Uncle Kracker about infidelity? What a good, wholesome message to send to the kiddies. Heck, how many fricken pop songs are about getting wasted in the clubs and having lots and lots of sex (sometimes *gasp* CASUAL sex)? Bet they don’t praise that in Church/Synagogue/Scouts/Any other “kid friendly” organization you can think of!
Which is more harmful? Saying all women are sluts and should be used, abused, and thrown away like trash? Or the saying the B-word? Talking about killing your rival, burning his house down, and raping his wife? Or using crass slang for a woman’s vagina? Which do you think would affect kids the most? The message, or a word? And that’s my point. Censoring a word or two does nothing. We don’t do that with our films, instead we leave their content intact and leave it up to the parents to make a personal choice. And guess what, on the back of all films it gives a brief description of what content is within (Rape, violence, strong sexuality, etc). So why censor the music? Why not stick a sticker on it that says what’s contained and then card the purchaser? Why go through all the trouble of hacking up a song? It serves no purpose! It doesn’t solve any problem.
I would think the problem would exist more in the message of a song, it’s overall lyrical content rather than just a few words. Sure, there are plenty of nasty slurs that can be considered harmful, but it is the INTENT behind them that makes them so vile. I just think if you are going to censor, then go all the way. Get rid of ALL that could be harmful to a growing child or teen’s well being and sense of self. Otherwise stop pretending it’s for the kids.
But hey, maybe I’m wrong.
(Also on a petty note, I’ve also noticed that some stores, like FYE or Target, won’t label their music as “edited” or “censored,” so adults wind up buying a hacked version of the album anyway. Really?)