He Didn’t Just Say What I Think He Did. Did He?
“I’m like a head trip to listen to cuz I’m only giving you things you joke about with your friends inside your living room. The only difference is I got the BALLS to say it in front of yawl, and I don’t got to be false or sugarcoated at all. I just get on the mic and spit it. Whether you like to admit it, I just *censored* it better than 90% of you rappers out here. Then you wonder how can kids eat these albums, like volumes. It’s funny cuz at that rate I’m going when I’m 30 I’ll be the only person in the nursing home flirting. Pinching nurses assess when jacking off with jergins and I’m jerkin but this whole bag of viagra isn’t working. In every single person is a Slim Shady lurkin. He could be workin at Burger King, spitten on your onion rings or in the parking lot circling screaming I don’t give a *censored* with his windows down and system up. So will the Real Shady, please stand up. And put one of those fingers on each hand up and be proud to be out of your mind and out of control…” That was a quote from “The Real Slim Shady” a song off of Eminem’s new Album “The Marshall Mathers LP.” Now can you honestly say that that song isn’t giving bad ideas to kids? Censorship in music is a topic that has brought about much controversy in the past two decades. There have been many different arguments on the topic, however the question still remains as if it should be censored or not.
For as long as there has been music there has been censorship. In fact, in western culture, it is only in the past hundred years that artists have had much independence at all. Eric Nuzum discusses the history of censorship, which dates all the way back to the 19th century, on his web page, A Brief History of Banned Music.
“Most classical and popular music through the 1800’s was created under a patronage system-where a rich benefactor of royalty would pay a composer to create musical works. Music was deliberately created to the tastes and interests of the patrons-if the patron did not enjoy a theme or style the composer simply would not be able to create and perform the music as easily” (www.ericnuzum.com)
Now of course the music industry is a lot different, but the censorship still remains. Of course artists don’t write their music to be liked by everyone, just their target audience. This is where censorship comes into day-to-day life. If I like rap and you don’t, you don’t want to listen to it, thus you are censoring the music you listen to. And that is how I think it should be, for adults that is, children should not be aloud to listen to whatever they want, it is for their parents to decide. It is your own personal choice to listen to the music you like, not the government or other organizations.
The most prominent of these organizations is the PMRC, the Parents Music Resource Center. This Organization was formed in Washington D.C. in the mid-1980’s by Tipper Gore, the wife on the Vice President, and Susan Baker. The PMRC’s primary focus was getting record companies to monitor and rate their artist’s releases with a system similar to that of the MPAA system for monitoring movies. Due in a large part to pressure created from groups like the PMRC, the Recording Industry Association of America developed a stickering system to indicate the product contained explicit lyrics regarding drugs, sex, violence, or other potentially objectionable material. (www.ericnuzum.com) But the down side to the stickering system is that they are just a warning, they don’t stop kids from buying the X-rated material. Julia Dunn discusses this in her Insight on the News article, “Warning Labels Don’t Keep Kids from Shock CDs”
“The parental-advisory labels on compact discs and tapes are effective only if the parents monitor their children’s purchases.”
“The label consists of four words: “Parental Advisory/Explicit Content” But parents and music-industry officials often are clueless about the nature of the music carrying such labels” (www.ericnuzum.com)
In my opinion this is to true. A lot of parents don’t bother to take note of the music that their children listen to. The labels are useless without cooperation from the parents of these children.
Eric Boehlert, is a notable censorship author for Rolling Stone Magazine. He identifies another party that contributes to the censorship movement, in his article, “Rock & Roll: Manson Mania.” This group is called Empower America. This is a conservative organization run by former Secretary of Education, Bill Bennett. This organization has been linked to circulating false affidavits. These affidavits resulted in the cancellation of a portion of the band Marilyn Manson’s world tour. (Buehlert, Rock 27)
Two other groups in the fight for censorship include the Christian Family Network and the Southern Baptist’s. The CFN was also involved in the protest against Marilyn Manson, and the Southern Baptist’s were responsible for the rap group, Insane Clown Posses’ album being pulled from store shelves. (Buehlert, Rock 28) It is apparent that there are many groups in the fight for censorship.
One that may surprise you is Wal-Mart. Recently, Wal-Mart has been refusing to carry certain artist’s albums because they are found by the chain to be offensive. Wal-Mart will refrain from carrying a certain record because it has obscene language, or the cover art is distasteful. Last year Wal-Mart would not carry Sheryl Crow because it included a line about children buying guns at Wal-mart. The chain denies that it sells guns to minors. Crow refused to change the lyrics and her label, A, stood by her. (Buehlert, New Boss 30) One of the problems with Wal-Mart’s censoring is that they don’t have any clear guidelines for censorship. The Wal-Mart executives call it “common sense” standards. Only Wal-Mart decides what us seen as offensive or exploitive material. Albums are judges on a case-to-case basis.
“In our society today, some musicians and their music drain and plague the moral well-being of the people; therefore censorship offers a necessary action that we must take to be able to keep the world from becoming a land of decadence.” This is a comment made by my father, William Wood, in an interview that I did with him on the issue of music censorship. He believes that there has been a constant drop in the morality of music. He comments, “I remember when you could turn on the radio and hear a good song without it reference to sex or violence.”
Some people, like my father, believe that music should be censored. They believe that some of the language musical artists use is vulgar, obscene and crude. The fact that music is played on medias such as radio and television, which are free to listened to by all audiences, upsets many parents that don’t wish for their children to heal foul language. When children are young they are very impressionable by the things around them. Often kids are influenced by what the see and hear. If kids are listening to music with a lot of violence they too will tend to act out this violence. Parents today have a lot of responsibility to make sure that their children are being supervised on what they are listening to. But keep in mind, when your parents told you not to do something, what did you automatically want to do ten times more? Exactly what they told you not to do, right? The same is true with censoring. BK Simmons, another expert on censorship, featured in Popular Music and Society, says,
“Censoring objectionable popular music will only make the targeted audience want that music even more” (Simmons 61-66)
Therefore I believe that the censorship set on by the government only antagonizes the issue, and cannot be beneficial to its intended purpose.
There are also long lasting effects on children exposed to violence. Here is a study done by Paik and Comstock to see if there were any long lasting effects of violence on children. They took a third grade class in a small upstate New York town. They studied what the children watched, their family background, and asked teachers who were more or less aggressive. They came to the conclusion that there was a direct relationship between children’s level of aggressive behavior and their television viewing. They then followed up on this study ten years later when the children were eighteen. He concluded that there were some long-term effects of early television viewing on later aggressive behavior. They then went one step further and followed up on the children at age thirty. They now found that there was a relationship between early television viewing and arrest and conviction for violent crimes; spouse abuse, child abuse, murder, and aggravated assault. This became a very controversial study, but there is a lot of evidence that violence has long-term effects. (Ledingham)
To determine the view of students here on the need for censorship of the recording industry, I conducted a survey that posed the following questions:
1.Do you listen to Rap music? Seventy percent of the respondents indicated that they listened to rap music on a regular basis.
2.Do you own any Rap CDs or tapes that contain explicit lyrics? Seventy-five percent of those surveyed indicated that they did.
3.Do you think that Rap lyrics are a bad influence on society? Sixty-five percent believed that the lyrics had a negative influence on society.
4.Do you think that the government should censor Rap recordings? Only fifteen percent of the respondents believed it was the government’s responsibility to censor Rap.
One thing is clear and that is that there are strong opinions on both sides of the issue.
The Future of censorship doesn’t look to be changing a whole lot. The pro-censorship groups such as PMRC, and the various religious groups will no doubt continue to protest “Anti-Christ Superstars” such as Marilyn Manson. I don’t think that anyone besides me, myself, and I have the right to decide what I listen to. If there has to be censorship let it be within your own household. Parents decide for children until they are mature enough to make those choices on their own. Remember that the children are our future. As for the future of censorship… well only time will tell.
Boehlert, Eric. “Meet the New Boss (Wal-Mart).” Rolling Stone Magazine. 10 July 1997: 30-31
—. “Rock and Roll: Manson Mania.” Rolling Stone Magazine. 12 June 1997: 27-29
Ledingham, Dr. Jane. “The Effects of Media Violence on Children.” The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence (1999)
Nuzum, Eric. “What is Music Censorship?” A Brief History of Banned Music. 6.5 (1999) July 10, 2000
Simmons, BK. “The Affect of Censorship on Attitudes Toward Popular Music.” Popular Music and Society. 16.4 (1992): 61-66
UNI/Interscope “The Real Slim Shady.” The Marshall Mathers LP. 23 May 2000.
Wood, William. Personal Interview. 6 July 2000.