I am not a loyal listener to any particular music radio station. Most of the time I am on NPR, but when I do take a break from being informed about the world I dart around among six or so stations, hoping to avoid commercials and maybe hit a spot on the playlist with music that I like. Here’s the interesting thing I’ve noticed in the last few years: every station has it’s own standard for what they censor, what words they use, and what topics the personalities are allowed to discuss. Of course some of this is just basic marketing, give your customers what they want and all that. But I have found it ever so interesting where some stations will censor a word from a song, and some will leave it but censor something else and once again I am dumbfounded by the results of this informal survey I have been conducting for the last few years. Sex and genitals as a part of anatomy are a big taboo. Excessive drug use, drinking, and porn are pretty much always okay. Violence, really in any form is always fine to talk about.
When our children were little and my husband and I still had some control over the media they consumed we made a conscious decision to limit the violent images they were exposed to in movies and TV. That seems like basically a no brainer but we were surprised by the number of acquaintances who were dashing off with their eight year olds to see Lord of the Rings when it first came out. “You can see it after you have read the book,” we said. For us that seemed to ensure some degree of maturity and preparedness for the interpretation created by Hollywood. What we were less concerned about was sexual content or nudity. Now certainly if the gang on Sesame Street had been busy in Big Bird’s nest we would not have allowed that. But adults kissing on a show, or cuddling in bed, innuendo in a rather harmless way, that kind of thing seemed fine. It was a part of, theoretically, being a healthy adult and managing adult relationships. Blowing someone’s head off feels like it should be out of the norm and certainly is not a part of any norm I want for my children. Being able to comfortably express your sexuality in a healthy, mutually beneficial way with your partner, that seems like a good thing.
Here a few examples that I just don’t understand: the movie Wolverine (I think that’s the one), in the opening scene it looks like the main character is going to brutally kill everyone in a small village because they are not giving him the answer he wants about who the hell knows. Rated PG. We didn’t get farther than the suggestion of murder when I stood up and turned it off. We had a long conversation about this as a family, my son was maybe ten at the time, and though there was much eye rolling the movie was not played in our home. Milk, a beautiful movie about human rights that had some “bad” words and two adult men kissing, no nudity and historically accurate violence was rated R. When my husband and I got to the end of the movie we looked at each other and said, “huh? The kids should have seen that, what was the R all about?” One of the radio stations that my kids liked to listen to in the morning was all about drinking and porn. How much did everyone drink at the whatever event they had to go to and what good porn had the seen lately, who were the best “actors,” who got the most wasted, you know the kind of thing you talked about when you were 19 and in college, not in your mid-forties. But this is all totally okay for the radio, at least on this station. What was not okay were the words penis, vagina and breast. Instead they talk about man-areas and lady-parts and someone’s rack. Penis is offensive but “rack” is not? The kids would not listen to that stupid station in the car with either my husband or me anymore!
I can’t imagine the world that the radio censors would live in. We would have to use euphemisms for our genitals and be ashamed of being in a loving sexual relationship with a partner, but we would get to spend all day everyday blacked-out drunk with porn on in the background, or maybe a war movie, or maybe a war movie with porn. That sounds just fabulous doesn’t it? Perhaps this is a bigger issue and it has something to do with what we value, or how we want to pretend that deviance or substance abuse is actually cool if you can manage it somehow. I mean ask yourself: which one makes you the most uncomfortable, which one makes you feel like you need to explain something to your kid and maybe that’s a conversation you don’t want to have, ask yourself why. Sex or drugs or violence? I’ll take sex every time thank you!