I was 18 and working at WUOG when the Parents Music Resource Center [PMRC] came into being. Legally an adult, but barely. And while I don’t remember when I first learned of the Tipper Gore led group, I am fairly certain that I joined in when my fellow music aficionados made fun of them. I don’t think my friends and I actually discussed what the PMRC wanted to accomplish, or even why they wanted to accomplish it. That is probably because we were too busy laughing at the PRMC’s belief that we would somehow be harmed because Prince was singing about what Darling Nikki was doing with a magazine.
Twenty-five years later, I have no problem with the fact that the PMRC was successful in forcing the recording industry to come up with a rating and labeling system for lyrical content. I don’t remember buying (or not buying) a record or CD based on this system, but if it helps other parents make informed decisions I am all for it.
It is clear to me, however, that labeling content as explicit or offensive doesn’t stop it from existing. It is great to shine a spotlight on misogynistic, violent and sexually explicit lyrics, but unless you do something to eliminate the root cause of misogyny, violence and oversexualization–nothing will change.
The recent call for a boycott by the Parents Television Council [PTC] against advertisers of MTV’s new and highly controversial series, Skins, reminds me a bit of Tipper and company. In case you aren’t aware, MTV’s programming has raised the ire of not only the PTC, but also of many parents. You can read about it in detail: here. I understand why the content of Skins has parents outraged and concerned. I am just not convinced that getting the show canceled or that boycotting the network (or those who advertise on the network) is the answer.
Censorship doesn’t stop disagreeable behavior. Parents have to parent and society has to change if we want things to be different.
If you want to block MTV, then block MTV. If you don’t want to support advertisers who buy time on the network–then don’t. But, if I want to watch a show with my 17-year-old child and then discuss it, I should be able to do that.
There are people who don’t want The Catcher in the Rye to be read. Do I think Skins is in the same league with The Catcher in the Rye? Heck no. But I do believe that once you support censorship–you support censorship. Hard to put that genie back in the bottle.
Interestingly, many of the participants on both sides of the PMRC argument have now softened or revised their original stand. You can read what they have to say in this article from New York Magazine.
What do you think?