COLUMN: Censorship Coming In Like A Wrecking Ball
Published: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 21:10
You know it’s been a weird year for music news when Miley Cyrus officially offends Sinead O’Connor’s delicate sensibilities. I’ll reiterate that: former Disney tween-star Miley Cyrus has officially pushed the envelope too far for Sinead “Rippin’-up-pics-of-the-Pope” O’Connor. The Artist Formerly Known as Hannah Montana didn’t respond well to the countercultural Irish songstress’s unsolicited Twitter wisdom, which advised her not to be “prostituted” by the music industry. In response, Cyrus compared O’Connor to Amanda Bynes (who’s currently being treated for bipolar disorder) and then posted one of O’Connor’s tweets from two years ago wherein she expressed having suicidal thoughts.
In other news, Miley Cyrus’s PR agent was confirmed to be “just an ostrich wearing a Bluetooth.”
But I don’t really care what goes on between Miley Cyrus and O’Connor, because as far as I’m concerned, they are not real people. Real people do not personally approach strangers to accuse them of self-prostitution and then act surprised by the backlash. Alternately, real people do not respond to condescension on the Internet by mocking someone’s history of mental illness as if that were an okay thing to do. Seriously, this entire conversation was reprehensible. The degree of entitlement demonstrated by both participants would hypothetically have made me lose a great deal of respect for them if I’d had any to begin with.
What I’m concerned with, however, is Annie Lennox’s take on the entire issue. Lennox, another middle-aged musician whose peak point of fame happened in the ’90s, recently stated that there should be a rating system for music videos to protect “impressionable young girls” from “pornographic” viewing material. Though she never specifically stated which artists she was targeting, her message read loud and clear: said Lennox, “You don’t want to see your 7-year-old girls twerking all over the place ... I’m disturbed and dismayed by the recent spate of overtly sexualized performances and videos. You know the ones I’m talking about.”
So, following in the vein of O’Connor’s somewhat-less-tactful criticisms, Lennox suggests subjecting music videos to a rating system that lets parents better understand and control what their children watch. In light of Miley’s scandalous “Wrecking Ball” video, it’s safe to say that not all pop music videos are appropriate for all ages.
However, I have some qualms. First of all, there is already a music rating system. If you buy songs on iTunes or any legitimate online music library, you’ll see the “Explicit Content” warning on explicit songs. There’s not much more confusion surrounding the age-appropriateness of music than there is for TV: the system could be better, sure, but for most music stores it’s already there.
The problem, of course, is that kids are seeing these explicit music videos out on the open waters of the Internet, where censorship is a tricky issue. Censoring a video on Youtube is a bit like putting an age limit on Facebook: if all you have to do is click “ENTER if 18 or Older,” you aren’t going to keep those crafty pre-teens away. It seems to me, then, that the obvious solution if you don’t want your kids to see naughty things is to monitor their Internet use. Seven-year-old girls shouldn’t EVER be surfing the Internet with free rein, much less listening to the same pop music as high school and college students. No rating system can save our nation’s oh-so-impressionable daughters if their parents can’t be bothered to set up a freaking passcode.
At the end of the day, though, a music video rating system wouldn’t really hurt. It’s a bit redundant, and it won’t be effective at all unless parents decide to get involved with what their kids are exposed to ... but it wouldn’t really limit anybody. The reason that my knee-jerk reaction to “Protect the children!” campaigns is dismissal is because so very many of them are just “I don’t like this, get rid of it!” campaigns thinly veiled in inflammatory rhetoric. The reality of our situation is that no one is splicing #TwerkNation videos into re-runs of The Wiggles, here. It’s easy enough to decipher what pop music is targeting what demographic from the lyrics. You wouldn’t let your kids watch HBO on their own, so why would you let them search websites where explicit content is readily available?
Sometimes, the only solution is to just turn the gosh-darn radio/TV/computer off and listen to Abbey Road.