According to Amnesty International, misogyny in the lyrics of popular music is one powerful factor contributing to violence against women in society today. However, contrary to the stereotypical belief that misogyny is restricted to blatant and degrading language in the genres of rap, hip-hop, and rock, subtle forms of the issue also occur in less criticized genres. The lyrics of the 1992 hit “Papa Loved Mama,” for instance, prove that dangerous messages about women and relationships can also be seen in country music.
This song, which demonizes a female character, creates a hero out of a murderer, and attempts to mask the violent theme with distance and humor, is just one example of softened misogyny in popular music (Amnesty, 2010, p 1). Despite the conclusion of “Papa Loved Mama” revealing that the female in the song was essentially a victim of murder, the first verse and the chorus both contribute to painting her into the role of an antagonist. The lyrics “it drove Mama crazy being a trucker’s wife,” “she couldn’t handle . . being alone,” and “she needed more to hold,” all hint at her ungratefulness and selfishness regarding her husband’s career as a truck driver. Furthermore, in the first line of the chorus, “Mama was a looker,” the female’s beauty is essentially aligned with her unfaithfulness and therefore made evil.
Also, by following the line “Papa loved Mama” with “Mama loved men,” the lyrics of this song suggest Mama was unfit for her husband and deserving of what he eventually did to her (Cowboy Lyrics, 2010, p. ). In contrast to the character of Mama, the central male in the song is clearly made out to be the hero. The first verse introduces Papa as a hardworking, selfless, considerate husband. Not only had he “drove a truck nearly all his life” to provide for his family, but he also “called each and every night” to check on his wife and children. The second verse reinforces this image of the husband by describing him as he tries to surprise Mama with “a dozen roses and a bottle of wine. In addition, the title and chorus emphasize that “Papa Loved Mama,” despite her being ungrateful and unfaithful. In the end, by subtly aligning these positive attributes with the husband, the lyrics build a heroic persona around him and seemingly justify his violent acts against his wife (Cowboy Lyrics, 2010, p. 1). A final factor contributing to the softened misogyny in “Papa Loved Mama” is how the final verse attempts to lessen the impact of violence through distance and humor.
For example, the details of the actual murder are given through a newspaper picture and a desk clerk. Whereas the picture reveals that a semi truck literally drove into a local motel, the desk clerk testifies that it was an intentional murder since the driver sped up instead of hitting his brakes. Since these accounts are not firsthand, however, they actually portray the horrible occurrence as just another incident in the news that people do not relate to.
Furthermore, the idea of a husband seeking revenge on his wife by driving his truck into the motel she is at with her lover appeals to many as humorous because it is so unconventional. This humor, unfortunately, also takes away from the impact of the murder. Essentially, by softening the violent punch line in “Papa Loves Mama,” a distorted and understated view of violence is portrayed (Cowboy Lyrics, 2010, p. 1)
In the music industry today, rap, hip-hop, and rock are all commonly criticized for their degrading and violent messages about women. As is proved in “Papa Loved Mama,” however, similar messages can also be seen in country music, even though they may be less obvious to general listeners. The analysis of this song demonstrates how a murdered wife can be subtly portrayed as a deserving victim, a jealous and irrational husband as a hero, and the act of violence against women as a distant and humorous topic. Although the lyrics of “Papa Loved Mama” are not well-known for being misogynistic, their softened message still contributes to a dangerous perspective that society has adopted concerning women.
Amnesty International (2010). Stop Violence Against Women, 1. Retrieved from http://www. amnesty. org. au/svaw/ Cowboy Lyrics (2010). Garth Brooks, Papa Loved Mama, 1. Retrieved from http://www. cowboylyrics. com/lyrics/brooks-garth/papa-loved-mama-5008. html