Monday, April 6, 2009

Modern Iconoclasm?

It is hard for me to think of a modern example of iconoclasm, especially compared to the destruction of religious artworks for fear of idolatry. The destruction of the Buddhas in Afghanistan is a pretty good example, but I don't want to touch that one, so I will discuss something that I can relate to more easily.

In the mid 1980's Tipper Gore went out and bought the soundtrack to Prince's movie Purple Rain. Upon arriving home she and her daughter began listening to their recent purchase, only to be shocked by the lyrical content within the track “Darling Nikki”. To which I say, “Did you not see the movie? If not, who buys a soundtrack to a movie they have never seen? And if you have seen it you should have known better”. Everyone knows Prince was a little dirty man back then. Needless to say this is what sparked the formation of the P.M.R.C. (Parents Music Resource Center), a group of moral police that blamed music lyrics and performers, heavy metal music in particular, for the increase in deaths, rapes, and all around mayhem.

According to Tipper Gore, "this change in popular culture co-existed with the breakdown of the nuclear family. When the nuclear family started to decay, there was also a breakdown in the immunization system to evil. Since children today lack the stable family structure of past generations, they are more vulnerable to role models and authority figures outside established patriarchal institutions. I see the family as a haven of moral stability, while popular music - e.g. rock music - is a poisonous source infecting the youth of the world with messages they cannot handle."

The PMRC wanted lyrics to be printed on album covers and they wanted explicit covers to be kept under the counter. They wanted to establish a ratings system, similar to that of the film industry, for records and concerts. They wanted the record labels to reassess the contracts of performers who engaged in violence and lewd behavior onstage. They sought to establish a media watch that would pressure broadcasters not to air "questionable-talent." The good Reverend Swaggert pressured retailers to stop carrying rock music.

The outcome of all of this?
The downside to this is that major corporations such as Wal-Mart will not carry anything with this sticker. I don't want to buy my heavy metal from Wal-Mart anyway! The upside is that it actually increased sales for artists whose albums carried the sticker. It's almost as if kids just have to know what is so bad that it warrants a warning for their parents.

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