The prevailing opinion in the media is that listening to violent lyrics tends to lead to violence. This idea permeates nearly all media, news and entertainment. According to the conservative organization Empower America, the issue at heart is such music leading us on a slide toward decivilization (Bennet and Tucker, 1995). The idea being that by glorifying subjects like rape, murder, suicide and homophobia the fear of homosexuals and their lifestyle, these lyrics erode the judgement and thought capabilities of adolescents.
In recent history, the popular solution to the problems of our society has been censorship the mandated editing or suppression of the music thought to be at fault. The Parents Music Resource Center PMRC, headed by Pamela Howar and including such big Washington names as Tipper Gore wife of Democratic Presidential Nominee Al Gore pushed for Motion Picture Association of America MPAA style ratings of music (Deflem, 1993). The PMRCs efforts resulted in the widely noticed Parental Advisory warnings. While the adults seem to agree, the youth, adolescents and artists alike, seem to take a different direction.
The dominant point of view among younger audiences is that no one is responsible for teen violence but those who act out. But there is a second view. We are all equally guilty for the violent acts of youths (Manson, 1999). Such violent acts, while increasingly spoken about by news and entertainment media, the Centers for Disease Control report that violence in adolescents is down (Youth 2000).
Given the perceived impact of violent lyrics, and the immense popularity and friction of this issue, it is surprising that little or no actual study has been done to back up any of these claims (Hogan et al, 1996). The ultimate goal of my research is to determine whether there is a real, causal connection between violent lyrical content in music and violent feelings in teens. However, given the monetary and temporal constraints, this ultimate goal will be broken into several steps. The first step, which is relevant to this class, will ask, Do teenagers habits affect their belief on this subject? The second will ask Do teenagers feel that lyrically violent music causes societal violence? This topic deals with two central things: Real world violence, and violence in music lyrics. Music lyrics, as a part of the vast media, are beholden to many of the same situations.
However, if research on media violence such as violent video games, movies, and music lyrics is to be held credible, it must be done properly. There is, however some question as to whether the research is being done in a scientifically correct manner. David Gauntlett says that the effects model does research the wrong way round. Media effects research has quite consistently taken the wrong approach to the mass media, its audiences, and society in general (Gauntlett 1999). Video games players, for example, are often discussed as undiscriminating, brainless suckers by people who do not seem to have attempted to understand the meanings and the appeal of these games, and whose views are supported (if at all) by inadequate, contrived and predetermined research.
Like the critics of TV and movie violence, they are guilty of looking at this perceived ‘problem’ backwards — by starting with the games and then trying to make links to actual crimes, rather than by starting with real criminals and seeing if they seem to have been centrally motivated or affected by video games (Gauntlett 1999). The ‘backwards’ approach involves the mistake of looking at individuals, rather than society, in relation to the mass media. The narrowly individualistic approach of some psychologists leads them to argue that, because of their belief that particular individuals at certain times in specific circumstances may be negatively affected by one bit of media, the removal of such media from society would be a positive step. This approach is rather like arguing that the solution to the number of road traffic accidents in Britain would be to lock away one famously poor driver from Cornwall; that is, a blinkered approach which tackles a real problem from the wrong end, involves cosmetic rather than relevant changes, and fails to look in any way at the ‘bigger picture’ (Gauntlett) 1999). So, Gauntlett says, .