Sex and drugs have always gone hand in proverbial hand with rock music since the 1980s, when big hair and ripped jeans were considered fashionably chic. Since then, heavy metal has been replaced in the music spotlight by boy bands and rock/rap fusion. But the sex and drugs remain. However, there is one more element that seems to have slowly come onto the scene – violence.
And it is everywhere.
This week, MTV banned the video for “What It Feels Like For a Girl,” Madonna’s third single off her new album, Music. The music channel cited the video contained excessive and gratuitous violence. Recently, MTV received a congressional scolding after a teenage suffered extensive burns while trying to reenact a stunt she saw on the show “Jackass.”
In the video, which was directed by Madonna’s action flick director husband Guy Ritchie, the singer steals a car, shoots a water gun at police officers, robs a man using a stun gun and commits suicide in the end.
MTV agreed to show the video once on the night of March 20 at 11 p.m. because the artist has had such a long history with the channel. Basically, they showed it because she is Madonna.
No stranger to controversy, the Material Girl has a strong precedence with providing the cable music network with illicit and sometimes indecent material. Her videos for “Justify My Love” and “Erotica” never saw MTV airwaves. Prodigy, a band signed to Madonna’s Maverick label, also had their video for “Smack My Bitch Up” deemed inappropriate for airing.
This time, MTV left it for their viewers to decide if they video indeed has any merit, artistic or otherwise, which is what should be done with anything or disputable worth. Government or media control of artistic material compromises the First Amendment.
To say, “The following material is unsuitable for sensitive viewers, readers or listeners,” is one thing. But to say “No one may see this because one old man in Arkansas may be slightly offended” is another. It is absurd.
According to a report in this week’s Entertainment Weekly, Madonna wanted to depict acts that girls are socially allowed to do. She also said she wanted the video to be as strong as the song’s lyrics. (“Tight blue jeans/ Skin that shows in patches/Strong inside but you don’t know it/ Good little girls they never show it/ When you open up your mouth to speak
Could you be a little weak?”)
In this post-Columbine age, the government (along with everyone else) has joined in on a rousing game of finger pointing – the pointing being done mostly at the media and Hollywood. For years, educators, politicians and other such leaders have been banning books, paintings and other artistic works in the name of saving children.
But is it really the role of the media to play baby-sitter and primary teacher to the children of the nation? Should it not, perhaps, be the duty of the parents to decide what is and is not suitable for their children to watch?