Profane Language in Music and MTVs Essay
Profane Language in Music and MTVs
We often hear from parents how difficult it is to raise children with good values. Although family plays a crucial role, environment still plays the dominant role in affecting a child’s attitude and perception. Included in this environment, and perhaps the most influential, is media. Specifically, as television becomes part of every home, people have become accustomed to watching television programs, and letting children watch on their own, without parental guidance. In this case, it is possible for children to learn from TV and imitate what they see and hear from it, thus making it more difficult for parents to identify sources and explanation for their children’s attitude. While it is the responsibility of parents to monitor their children’s behavior, media should likewise assume its role in censoring television shows that incorporate the use of profane or foul language.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the government agency under the Congress in the United States responsible for regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. As such, it is also responsible to ensure that laws regarding television program requirements are being applied.
For instance, in 1990, Congress enacted the Children’s Television Act (CTA) in order to increase the amount of educational and informational programming available on television. This act requires each broadcast television station to serve the educational and informational needs of children through its programming activities. Moreover, it also limits the amount of time devoted to commercial matter during children’s programs.
Given that such rules on children’s programming exist, we may cite instances when the FCC may have been too lax in its campaign to serve the educational and informational needs of children, or to censor television programs in general. For instance, we may cite the phenomenal hit that music videos have among teenagers and even children under the age of thirteen.
Two elements of profanity are embedded in music videos: first, the music itself, and second, the video used to interpret the music. In music, we see a direct misuse of the language while in videos, there is the indirect misuse of the language through gestures that convey violence, sex, and other taboo themes. Suffice to mention, we may include the video as part of non-verbal language.
The history of American music accounts for a number of songs being banned from radio stations or states due to their obscene, profane, or racist lyrics. Among the songs included Jethro Tull’s “Locomotive Breath” which was pulled off by record executives for its lyric that said, “and the all time winner has got him by the balls.” Another one is John Lennon’s song, “Woman is the Nigger of the World” which was banned by radio stations for its racist context. Then, there was also John Denver’s hit song “Rocky Mountain High,” which suggested drug abuse.
Sometime in 1985, there were also moves to ban the MTV station from the local cable in Emporia, Virginia, and also in Hartford Connecticut for fear that it induced a “temporary state of insanity” (Bridgberg 1985) over patients in the Institute of Living Hospital. Hospital spokesperson Robert Fagan added that MTV is “too inciting” (Fagan 1985) and “can potentially cause hallucinations” (Mark 2003). Moreover, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence forbid playing of “Danny Boy” and other secular songs during funeral masses.
Although this history of banning songs and the MTV station aroused protests from music fans in general—those who believe that music should not be censored for it mirrors the souls of the artists—a lot of banning should still be done specially these days since many artists today are producing music with either direct or subliminal contexts.
With the phenomenal hit of music videos and rap and hip hop music come music artists like Akon, T-Pain, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, etc. who impart subliminal messages resulting in profanity in their music. For instance, Akon’s song, I Wanna Love You which has another version that alters the word “love” with the f-word, simply presents obscenity that should be censored for young listeners and viewers of the video. Another example is T-Pain’s I’m in Love with a Stripper, which talks about one man’s feelings for a stripper. Sexual undertones such as “Teddy bend her ass down is bout to see this sexy girl in my bed…” are included in the song.
In addition, there is also Snoop Dogg’s Drop it Like it’s Hot, which suggests violence and killing with a “hot” gun. Unlike other songs, however, which do not contain a good message, the song is in narrative form, ending with a message to gangsters regarding being caught and paying the price of killing, as suggested in the line, “You’re family’s crying, now you on the news.” Also another artist that uses profane language is Eminem. In most of his music, Eminem utters the word “fuck” a lot of times, and introduces violence, although just like Snoop Dogg in Drop it Like it’s Hot, Eminem generally imparts message regarding the consequences of violence and doing bad things.
It follows that when these songs appear as music videos, they feature sexy women in lingeries or bikinis, either dancing or lying in bed. As children listen to the songs on TV, they consciously and subconsciously absorb these languages and the images incorporated in the songs. This could be the reason why a lot of Americans are fond of using the f-word nowadays because we hear it almost everywhere, specially from media sources such as the television.
Even though the modern generation has learned to accept this kind of music and the present market promotes it, there should still be a limitation as to the amount of profane language contained in a song. Basically, it is the duty of the government to ban these songs to protect the innocence of children. However, every artist should also remember to bear the responsibility of incorporating good message into their songs instead of the negative themes mentioned such as sex and violence. The rampant use of these two themes should be limited to a certain degree if we want to pursue peace and maintain society’s decency.
Also, most often, the victims of artists who abuse their power to self-expression are women. In a lot of MTVs, women are portrayed as sex objects or sex interests of the artist. From this, we can judge that the purpose is truly devastating. Therefore, the Church, schools, feminists, and parents should work hand-in-hand and protest against the proliferation of this kind of music and MTVs before it corrupts the minds of our children.
Music Sponsorship in the U.S.A. John Mark Ministries. Last updated 13 December 2007. 17 December 2007 <http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/14759.htm>.
Children’s Television Rules. Federal Communications Commission. 22 May 2003. 17 December 2007 <http://www.fcc.gov/parents/childrenstv.html>.
FCC Chairman Reed Hundt Encourages Parents and Activists to Watch, Critique, and Report on New Kids’ TV Shows. In FC News. Washington: Federal Communications Commission. 4 September 1997. 17 December 2007 <http://www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Miscellaneous/News_Releases/1997/nrmc7068.html>.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 19 February 2017
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