Advertising as a form of abuse
“Advertisers and others who promote mass culture have a moral responsibility to their markets. Much advertising is a form of abuse as it pushes the unworldly, vulnerable and unsophisticated into behaviour or activities that may endanger, confuse or frighten them. ” Discuss. Advertisers and others who promote mass culture have a legal responsibility to their audience to prevent miss-use and to stop the vulnerable getting influences and or confused. Do the legalities affect their moral responsibility?
Rap artists discuss gun culture in their lyrics and although they are not breaking any laws there are acting irresponsible in the influence of their market. Rap artists will argue that it is not their responsibility; it is up to the individual or parent to distinguish music from reality. The ITC have laws and guidelines in place but it’s not enough to stop children copying anything they see or hear which they think is cool. Gun Crime has increased by 35% in the last year1, which matches the increase in the popularity of rap artists and gun culture.
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Most are quick to blame the lyrics and actions of rap musicians such as So Solid Crew and Eminem. Last year three members of the controversial band, So Solid Crew where arrested on gun charges and Eminem is awaiting trial for pistol-whipping someone. With teenagers and young adults admiring them it is easy to lay blame on there idols for their own actions. Today’s generation of children are nicknamed the “copycat kids”2, as suggested in a report by the ITC that children as young as four years of age up to young adults will copy almost anything they see or hear from their idols.
It is said that bands like So Solid Crew don’t take responsibility for their actions and don’t understand the influence they have on children. Culture minister Kim Howells recently said “Idiots like So Solid Crew are glorifying gun culture and violence… it has created a culture where killing is almost a fashion accessory. “3 The government are so aware of the copycat kids they are now planning to introduce new legislation to prevent anyone from carrying a replica gun without good reason.
It is very easy to see why officials are blaming the attitudes of some rappers with lyric’s such as, “I’m from where the guns love to introduce theyself, reduce your health… “4 The song goes on to explain how he’s not playing and explains all the ways in which he is prepared to kill someone but at no point does this artist give a reason for such violence. Children are protected from this music to a certain degree in that the album or single carries a “parent advisory” sticker and are not supposed to be sold to the under 18’s.
The ITC will not allow the video to be played on television until after 10pm. This does not prevent children finding the music on the internet of from an older friend. The influential artist is taking chances in releasing the music in the first place. Most artists who make similar music glamorise the possibility of crime. They make people, especially children want to belong to a gang, posses a gun, and in the extreme cases witnessed in January 2003, go out and commit murder. The police have no doubt that the two girls5 killed on New Year’s Day where caught in the cross fire of two rival gangs.
New evidence is also showing that children as young as twelve are joining gangs and carrying weapons6. “Eminem is as controversial as he is successful”7. Critics argue that his lyrics go too far; condoning violence against women, homophobia and gang mentality, and therefore Eminem should be banned or forced to change his lyrics. Eminem’s albums are sold with an 18 certificate but the songs he releases are played on the radio, although with the bad language beeped over. Even so children are not naive, they know bad language is being used and can usually figure out the exact words.
What is more shocking though is that the content is still aired. Feminist groups have protested as have gay rights organisations, and parents are concerned over the lyrics to Role Model, “Follow me and do exactly what the song says: smoke weed, take pills, drop outta school, kill people and drink. ” When children idolise Eminem it is only natural for them to copy him. The music industry has defended artist like So Solid Crew by saying that authorities are only interested in finding a scapegoat.
Radio 1 DJ, Trevor Nelson made a comparison between Stephen King and serial killers, in that people who read his horror novels don’t go out and kill people8. So Solid Crew supported this statement and added “films and computer games glorify guns far more than music and have a wider impact than music. ” Iyare, a member of So Solid Crew states he only carries a gun with him as a form of protection and not to glorify them. Others from the band claim they carry guns as a metaphor for life in general.
Most members of the band say they feel threatened and therefore need to protect themselves. Most in the industry believe it is a social problem which they are not responsible for and can not do anything to change. With exception of Ms Dynamite, she believes “the media have blown it all out of proportion” but thinks she and others can help. She has agreed to join the police and front an anti gun campaign. She knows that she has a lot of teenage fans who idolize her and feel by making a stand she can make a difference.
Eminem views himself as the voice of the young American underprivileged “trailer trash” community. He has made several statements telling his fans not to take his lyrics seriously. He defends “Role model” by explaining the lyrics are meant to be ironic and comic. In 2001 he released “Stan” which is a song about a deluded fan who takes his idols lyrics too seriously, and ends up killing his pregnant girlfriend along with himself. This song suggests that Eminem has a social awareness and wants to make his fans aware that his lyrics should not be taken seriously.
In 2002 he released his third album with most of the songs tackling issues raised by those concerned with his controversial lyrics. The first single to be released, “Without me”, was Eminem’s attempt at a comeback song. He discusses the problems he’s had with regard to censorship, “So the FCC won’t let me be or let me be me so let me see, they tried to shut me down on MTV… ” The FCC is the Federal Communications Commission, which is responsible for regulating media for the United States.
The have prevented almost all of Eminem’s video’s from being played on television before 9pm, and in some cases have forced Eminem to produce a new, more suitable video. The songs that get played on the radio are edited which Eminem also make reference to. He also makes a very intelligent comparison between himself and Elvis; he states that he “is not the first king of controversy”. Which is true as in the 1950’s authorities where appalled at the way in which Elvis Presley danced; “television appearances where filmed from the waste up so that his pelvic thrusts could not be seen”9.
They saw Elvis’s actions as moral offensive, yet the young and impressionable could not get enough of him and even today, 50 years later there are still fans in there thousands. Eminem does not think he’s going to go down in history like Elvis, but he does believes that he makes more of a contribution to young adults lives than he does cause any harm, and gives the young what they want in a role model. Eminem’s latest song to be released, “Sing for the moment”, is his way of fighting back at the constant abuse he faces and rationalizing his actions.
The lyrics explain that they are there to help anyone who has ever been through hard times and contemplated suicide. He gives hope and help to those with a dream by pointing out he was once nobody and practically over night his dream to be a rap star came true. He discusses the police and media and how they criticise him, he tells them not to take his music literally. He recognises that being caught with a gun affects his record sales and calls his fans who copy his actions ignorant.
This song proves he has a social conscience and a commitment towards his fans and an understanding of the way children respond to idols. Anyone who has any influence over society, especially the unworldly, Vulnerable and unsophisticated, have a responsibility to their audience. The ITC have rules and regulations in place to protect society but the artists themselves should be more careful. Although bands such as Eminem and Ms Dynamite can be seen as a good influence to children they need to remember that everything they do is watched intently by young and impressionable eyes.
Parents also have a role to protect their children and become more involved in what there children watch and hear. The ITC can not ban controversial bands altogether because once they cross the line of censoring bands like Eminem, what is to stop them banning anything else they disapprove of in the future? And possibly breeching society’s right to free speech. In the recent past there has always been a personality getting blamed for some kind of bad influence, it was only a few years ago rock musician, Marilyn Manson was blamed in America for influencing children to kill each other and themselves.
Children need to be taught right from wrong so that they can distinguish what is sung about or shown on television or on a computer game is not reality and that it is up to them to be responsible for there own actions. Parents need to take responsibility for the way in which their children are taught and not blame the media and others for influencing their children. Media “is a powerful influence, especially on the feebleminded, and just as the Beatles all but sharpened Charles Manson’s knife, So Solid Crew must accept”10 responsibility for their actions and the influence this inevitably has on society.