Sunday, February 1, 2015

Shelter Me

Tipper led the war against the record industry
She said she saw the devil on her MTV
To look into the cabinet it takes more than a key
Just like Jimmy's skeleton's and his ministry
~Cinderella Shelter Me
Most people born after 1980 don't remember when these stickers or explicit warning stickers did not exist on the cover. To many who were of the teenage years in the 1990's, these stickers merely became a beacon - it was a trophy win to score a PMRC labeled CD.

Looking back, the stickers and the bands they targeted taught me a huge lesson in speaking up about censorship. In the 1980's a gaggle of Washington Wives set out to label music they deemed inappropriate based on their interpretation, specifically if it included sex, drugs, violence, the occult, curse words, mention of scantily clad women, or anything else they could think of that they felt was not suitable for young listeners. Oh the irony, right? 

While places like Walmart would not sell albums with the stickers, some artists would make a censored and non-censored version. But why they hell do that why you can fight it! Those same artists targeted, and some very surprising proponents of anti-censorship came out in support of allowing (shock) good parenting to teach children what they should and should not listen to.

There happens to be one area where I am in complete agreement with the PMRC, as well as the National PTA and probably most of the parents on this committee. That is, it is my job as a parent to monitor what my children see, hear, and read during their preteen years. The full responsibility for this falls on the shoulders of my wife and I, because there is no one else capable of making these judgments for us.

Parents can thank the PMRC for reminding them that there is no substitute for parental guidance. But that is where the PMRC's job ends.

The beauty of literature, poetry, and music is that they leave room for the audience to put its own imagination, experiences, and dreams into the words. The examples I cited earlier showed clear evidence of Twisted Sister's music being completely misinterpreted and unfairly judged by supposedly well-informed adults.
~Dee Snider

Besides Dee Snider from Twisted Sister, Frank Zappa, John Denver presented a very moving testimony on not censoring our art. Yes, John Denver was banned at one time on a few radio stations because they perceived his song Rocky Mountain High as a song about drugs.

Censorship ... hmmm, how could that have any negative impact on society?

The above picture is a memorial to burned booked in Bebelplatz, a public square in Berlin. On May 10, 1933 thousands of books deemed inappropriate by the Nazi party were burned at this location. In the 1800's, the infamous Comstock law forbade objectionable material to be sold, mailed, or distributed. By the beginning of the 1900's over 15 tons of books had been burned.

But why censor words - whether in book form or in music? While some words do offend, other words are so powerful because they grant empowerment. Words teach truths and grant knowledge. They also allows us to express ourselves or identify that someone else has the same feelings. Words scare people. You can annihilate another culture or their religion by just burning their books (well, you could before the Internet and Globalization). When you start to censor, where does it end?

Back to Tipper and the PMRC. All the parental advisory sticker did was boost sales and create many arguments between parents and children. FYI, flea markets were an excellent place to get stickered albums:) That is how I got my explicit copy of Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Looking back, should I be thinking, wow, I shouldn't have been exposed to those words, the suggestion of such impure behavior? Absolutely Not! In the end it all comes down to what is in your mind and how you are raised. I listened to it all - Motley Crue, Prince, Madonna, Sheena Easton, and you know what I also read Why the Caged Bird Sings, Of Mice and Men, I read Anne Rice and John Updike...last time I checked I hadn't sold my soul, prostituted myself, hurt anyone, or cast a spell on anyone. It's all about circumstance.

I use music as therapy. When I'm angry, I throw on some Anthrax and Pantera. Need some motivation, I can see myself listening to Warrior my Matisyahu. Censorship is based on self belief and interpretation. Tipper Gore and her merry wives felt Cyndi Lauper talking about masturbation was the most horrific thing a kid going through puberty should be listening to. I guess she never went to any after hours Cabinet sessions. Hindsight, it was Tipper and those running our country who needed think about their own behaviors before throwing rocks at us.

And now censorship has entered our world again. The attacks on the Paris office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo have started a conversation about free speech and propagating the idea that knowingly inciting anger should be tolerated. Is there a line? Is it censorship or respect? It's 2015 and people should not be getting killed over magazine covers, I agree. Something like this makes the PMRC and stickering seems so very trivial now.

In the aftermath of the Parental Advisory group, many artists took their liberties of pushing the limits and outright calling out Tipper and the Group.

Mother/Tell your children not to walk my way/Tell your children not to hear my words/What they mean, what they say, mother


While now, no one is going to the record store to get the long box version of a CD, you still see the bold E on iTunes telling you *I'm special, buy me and don't tell your parents that there is explicit content in the song. I believe we have come a long way in the aspect of music censorship, but the question will always be there. In the end, we should all be very thankful that we CAN have this conversation and that censorship is a limited under our Bill of Rights and the First Amendment.


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