I Can’t Believe You Get Paid To Shake Your Ass On Stage, Either07.27.09
Walking through Warped Tour and seeing what teenage girls are wearing and have displayed on their bodies would make most parents shriek in horror. Stamps and band autographs on their cleavage. Booty shorts with “Bang Bang” written on their bottoms. Girls strutting around in just bras (not even bikini tops, although that happens, too). Many of the girls running around like this are still wearing braces.
I’m not at all for censorship, from the state nor from parents, for the most part. My own parents banned me and my brother from watching MTV and “The Simpsons” back when we were in middle school heading into high school but that didn’t stop us from watching both every chance that we got either when mom and dad weren’t around or when we were at friends’ houses. The reality is that teenagers are going to explore and they’re going to gravitate toward the salacious and the sexual, especially those specific things from which their parents tell them to specifically stay away. I know many, many parents and other adults will disagree with me on this one but they’re just lying to themselves in thinking that their own perfect offspring will be better behaved (whatever that really means) than they were at that same age.
I had a recent conversation with a 14-year-old and her mother regarding the free distribution of condoms. They thought that it was awful that there was a Trojan tent at Warped Tour handing out complimentary prophalactics because they believed that it was condoning and encouraging promiscuity. I fervently disagreed and while that debate will have to continue in a different blog, I would argue that the widespread availability of free sexual education and protection is not just beneficial but absolutely necessary in an environment where many other 14-year-old girls are running around wearing booty shorts with “Fuck Me” written on them.
I really can’t get behind any musical act that panders to its audience of teenage girls by having them buy bracelets that simply say “CUNT” or have them sing along to songs with the main hook of “Let’s get fucked up!” I actually find it repulsive. And not because I find it offensive. I really could care less if someone walks around with that bracelet; it is free speech and expression and I am fine with that. My problem is that while these artists (I use that term very loosely, probably even way too kindly, especially in the case of the act “Millionaires.”) have no one to answer to in terms of economic capitalism, there is a still a matter of social capital in which they are, in my view, completely bankrupt.
I understand the need and worth of shockvalue-only material. It has its place in our culture, most definitely. When used properly and intelligently, it forces people to think, to reevalute their preconceived notions, and breaks through social barriers that may or may not need to still be in effect. But in order for those cases to have actual worth and impact, they need to actually be a form of social commentary. After a quick Google search, I still can’t figure out if those “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” booty shorts are for a band at all. They clearly have nothing to do with the underrated 2005 Robert Downey, Jr.-Val Kilmer film. And I haven’t seen the name on the Big Red Board that shows the schedule for the entire day’s worth of shows, so it really does seem that it’s merely a clothing company pandering to the audience. Well played.
One of the downsides to capitalism and the lack of censorship is that we are all forced to wade through massive quantities of worthless, vapid garbage to find that which truly has something to say. I’ll take ths reality any day of the week and twice on Sunday but that doesn’t mean that I won’t rally against the vapid garbage just as often. Just because you can make a dime by selling records with songs like “I Just Got Paid So Let’s Get Laid” (sung by a trio of teenage girls, two of which are not even 18, no less) doesn’t mean you should. I know that I could easily be attacking various other forms of music, namely rap, that has even worse content in terms of misogyny and vapidity, and that music is also hugely popular amongst the teenage crowd, there seems to be something inherently different when this material comes from the same demographic to which its pandering: 16 year old girls singing about getting hammered to other 16 year old girls.
Regardless, there should never be a rule or law against this music. A parental advisory sticker on the CD (not like these girls even buy CDs anymore anyway) should be the most (if at all) type of government intervention. But that doesn’t mean that as a society who values its cultural standing, we can’t rally against this type of soulless crap. So long as there are people who eat up this type of waste, there will be be those who are willing to sacrifice any sense of dignity to make it.