Raising PG kids in an X-rated society. – book reviews

Patircia Hersch

Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society


By now, most everybody has heard of Tipper Gore. One of the founders of the Parents’ Music Resource Center and wife of Senator and presidential candidate Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee, she and her colleagues can be credited with drawing public attention to “Rock Porn”–the questionable content, declining standards and presumably frightening negative influences of various forms of rock music. Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society (Abingdon Press, paper, $8.95) presents her arguments and suggestions for change as she has now presented them countless times in lectures, on television shows and in Congressional testimony.

The book candidly describes her awakening to the problem. She bought her then 11-year-old daughter the Prince album Purple Rain and listened to the lyrics of Darling Nikki, which describe a girl in a hotel lobby masturbating with a magazine. “At first I was stunned,” the author writes, “–then I got mad!” She then watched some MTV (a rock-video station) and could not believe her eyes: “These images frightened my children; they frightened me! The graphic sex and violence were too much for us to handle.” Thus began her crusade to prevent the “indecent liberties” some entertainers are taking with our children in the hope that “full disclosure will stir parents to try to stop the wholesale exploitation of American youth.”

I have been fascinated with Gore’s lobbying for higher standards in the recording industry for several years because she both speaks to my common sense as a parent and offends my understanding of the complexities of raising children with her sensationalistic, simplistic reasoning. This book (labeled “Explicit Material–Parental Advisory”) lays out the paradox of Tipper Gore–unfortunately, in poorly edited prose.

She is right to rouse parents from their somnambulant state regarding today’s rock and its increasing availability to younger and younger children. Many homes now have several television sets as well as cable, VCR’s and personal stereos, and these changes expand choices immeasurably and weaken parents’ knowledge of what their children are consuming. Parents do have the right to more information–perhaps lyrics on the back of albums or available in the record store to read–and the power to get more involved. There is good reason to encourage more studies of the impact of music; Gore is correct that “Music is the most unexpected medium, and rock music has shown perhaps the least willingness to show self-restraint.”

Gore is also reasonable in encouraging moderate parents to get involved in the debate over pornography and violence in the media. Otherwise it will continue to degenerate into a spitting match between extremes.

In the end, however, she ends up sounding rather fanatical herself. She drags out again and again the same statistics on violent crimes committed by youngsters listening to heavy-metal music, and suicides and concert violence caused by lowlife rockers. She quotes all the right numbers about increased stress felt by teens today, but is too quick to point the finger at music as the leading culprit. We adults shaped this world–not the top-20 metal groups. Perhaps the problem is more one of tastelessness than imminent danger. What I do know is that her approach is too elementary and her arguments easily misread as a call for censorship.

On a positive note, she is correct that communication with one’s kids is essential to staying in touch. But parents should already know this. And her other suggestions for parenting are weak. She suggests that parents should simply establish a moral imperative for their children and reject what is destructive. So be creative, especially you working parents, because “With organization, creativity and planning, you can establish a structure and rules that will keep your family running smoothly.” One wishes it were so easy.

COPYRIGHT 1987 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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