If You Seek Parents: Parental Advisory Remains Out-Of-Touch

Parents SHOULD be aware of what their children see or hear. I won’t argue with that. There’s something to be said about the power of hitting a button on a remote control, or turning the dial on the car stereo. There’s something to be said about the power of personal responsibility and the right to exercise that responsibility as you see fit, especially in the interest of a developing and impressionable child. Because, as is always the argument, it’s the children we need to protect from harmful content, right? Isn’t that why PARENTAL ADVISORY is adhered to anything questionable in terms of music, giving parents pause for purchase and giving music consumers the mark of quality?

Britney Spears pulled a fast one, apparently, and angered a couple parents. It’s the same story: Unaware mother buys album for young child, young child unknowingly espouses album’s questionable and inappropriate wisdom in front of parent, parent gets outraged, tells world, pseudo-controversial performer goes platinum thanks to publicity thusly exposing questionable and inappropriate wisdom to more ears and defeating the original purpose.

Britney’s latest album, Circus, features a song called, “If U Seek Amy.” Say it out loud and you have, “F-U-C-K me.”

”Love me hate me
Say what you want about me
But all of the boys and all of the girls are beggin' to If U Seek Amy
Love me hate me
But can't you see what I see
All of the boys and all of the girls are beggin' to If U Seek Amy “


Isn’t that so If You In In Why?

In the interest of harming more impressionable minds, you can access the song here.


A feature in Australian music site Undercover.com speaks of parent Leonie Barsenbach, who bought Circus for her 5 and 7 year old children and later figured out the innuendo when she heard her kids singing the song’s chorus. Because the word “fuck” isn’t actually used in the song, Britney was able to get around the ADVISORY sticker, so the obviousness of the song’s hidden meaning wasn’t caught before Barsenbach bought the album.

Because I’m not what you’d call a Britney enthusiast, I’m probably the last guy to defend her music. Most of the time I feel it’s an abomination to the aural passages. But, personal feelings aside, I almost applaud her actions.

Britney’s circumvention of the ratings process allows her reputation to speak for the album and its content, thereby putting parents in the position of having to know about Spears in order to make a decision about how appropriate she is for their children.

Think about Madonna for a sec. During her prime, (Like, you know, when her videos were getting banned and when she had an erotic picture book published called SEX?), was there any doubt about where her songs were going to go? Any informed parent didn’t need a PARENTAL ADVISORY sticker to figure out that Madonna’s albums might be a little risqué, and with Spears’ recent recovery from tabloid entangled exploitation and self-destruction, is it really any shock her songs may feature material less than suitable for a first grader? She’s been a well-known performer for over ten years now, her humble beginnings as Catholic-clad virgin jailbait eventually giving way to the sexually active mom with a propensity for call-it-off marriages, destructive Hara Krishna-ism and keeping her unmentionables mentionable (and visible) to every slack-jaw with a digital camera and a celebrity blog. As much as you wanted to avoid her publicized highjinx, even reputable news sources saw Spears as coverage-worthy.

An album cover that basically says, "Child friendly."

Barsenbach claims, “I feel I have been deceived into believing that this was acceptable content for children but instead it is objectionable.” When exactly was she led to believe that Spears was acceptable for children? In light of all Spears has done over the last couple years, in light of baring a smoldering camel toe from beneath red PVC when the phrase, “Oops…I Did It Again,” sunk its fangs into pop culture permanence, how can Barsenbach validate her claim?

It’s ignorance, a lack of accountability and the need for something and someone to blame for her putting her own children in harm’s way. It’s the same type of ill- or non-informed bullshit that leads to the potential forfeiture of First Amendment rights for the sake of “protecting children” when, in actuality, it’s parents unwilling to monitor THEIR offspring while taking part in the upbringing of everyone else’s. It’s what led Tipper Gore and the PMRC (Parent Music Resource Center) on their crusade to criminalize musicians and push their bored, idealistic and moralistic parameters onto other people’s children and the ears of individuals fully capable of figuring out what they wanted to hear. Once our music, art, literature or movies are left vulnerable to the interpretive and personal opinions of people in power, we risk losing our expression, our voices and our choices, which is something we should take seriously, even if it is currently under the guise of a silly line in a pop song.

In a way, Spears has forced parents to take notice of an album’s content and not be so over-reliant on the PARENTAL ADVISORY sticker, which is evidently leading parents to be careless and lazy about acknowledging the world their children inhabit.

Speaking as a parent with a fairly significant collection of CDs that feature material inappropriate for children, I don’t want parents like Barsenbach making my decisions for me. That responsibility belongs to me and, if my daughter does happen upon material she shouldn’t be exposed to, then I’ll take the necessary actions. But, I won’t be targeting the source. As I have the right to listen, I also have the right to change the channel and take an active interest in my child’s world.

Don’t declare war; just pay attention.

Sincerely,
Letters From A Tapehead

P.S.- To any parents that wish for objectionable material to remain relatively unacknowledged, it would behoove you to stop making it attractive by giving it more attention and creating the controversy. Your best bet is to ignore it, otherwise you only aid in the material’s exposure to more “delicate” and “impressionable” minds. Just logic and history. Once again, pay attention.
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