To what extent are teenagers influenced by music Essay

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By living in a media saturated society we are constantly being bombarded with the messages about the music and a statement, that it is one of the most effective means of influencing the minds of young people. Rap is being blamed for all the crimes and murders in cities all over America and heavy metal is being blamed for giving teens only dark images and thoughts in their minds. In order to question such correlation we need to put forward a simple question: Whether the actions of teenagers are a result of the type of music they listen to?

In order to distinguish between such accusations I will be looking at the way music such as rap and rock influence our teenagers in the contemporary society.. My study will concentrate on two particular artists such as the Eminem and Marilyn Manson. Music as a cultural form can be examined in terms of the meanings encoded and decoded by different producers and audiences. Specifically, producers of music operate within the context of certain political, social and economic conditions and with the particular intentions.

These could be to perpetuate an ideology through the exercise of ideological hegemony or to express resistance. On the other hand, music is used by people in structurally subordinate positions to comment on social problems, express their dissatisfaction with the state of society and resistance to hegemony and the ruling order. We can argue that music has always been a channel for expressing ideas that oppose and inflame hegemonic powers. We shouldn’t censor music just because of violent, vulgar and abusive messages it promotes to the world.

Like movies and TV, music is also seen as influencing the behaviour of its audience, particularly the teenagers. This is clearly true, given that music audiences divide themselves into “Tribes” (creating different subcultures), where their hair is grown longer, clothes becomes more unconventional and drug use becomes central activity. Therefore a Self-fulfilling prophecy is created. In previous decades the music market tended to be dominated by relatively few musical forms, the early 1970s was characterised by “teeny bop” singles and progressive rock albums.

However in the recent years there has been a growing fragmentation. Apart from the traditional top 40, there are charts for dance, Indy, reggae, metal, rap, hip hop and other forms of music. Popular music has always been subject to internal censorship, rather like the “Gatekeepers” who inside the big record companies decided what could and could not be heard by the outside world. There is an ongoing debate about those who believe in the need for censorship (parents, government, politicians) and those who believe in absolute freedom of speech (artists, media corporations, teenage audience).

Liberals argue that”No human expression should be suppressed unless it can be proved, that it will result in harming someone” (Carter ; Weaver, 2003). Conservative view is more sympathetic to censorship, it argues that in certain cases material should be banned if it offends good taste, for example, swearing and explicit sex, using violence for no good reason or just for fun of it. Many Theories were trying to explain the influence music has upon the teenagers, such as The Frankfurt School (1923) who was concerned about possible effects of mass media on its audience.

The audience is seen as homogenous (similar) mass that interpret the media in the same uncritical way and are powerless to resist its influence. The Frankfurt School envisioned the media as a hypodermic syringe, arguing that the contents of the media were injected into the thoughts of the audience, who accepted the attitudes, opinions and beliefs expressed by the medium without question. However we still have an on going debate, not everyone was influenced by these attitudes and beliefs, not everyone committed violent acts by listening to Eminem’s or Marilyn Manson’s lyrics.

There were other factors in society such as religion, education, peers that were more likely to influence an individual. The Effects model is considered to be inadequate representation of the communication between media and the public, as it does not take into account the audience as individuals with their own beliefs and opinions. The impossibility to measure media effects is a result of not being able to isolate the media such as music, from all other potential influences in society.

Therefore, this leads to the Effects model generally being disregarded when considering the audiences response to the media. Alternative approach focused on audiences as a heterogeneous group (diverse) and active group, with different social characteristics and different ways of using and interpreting the media. They draw on “Uses of Gratification”, “Cultural Effects” and other “Active audience” theories. Theory such as the Uses and Gratification was not asking how the media affects the audience, but how were the audiences using the media, in other words how were they interpreting the messages.

They suggested that audiences had specific needs and actively turned to the media to consume various texts to a satisfaction of these needs. Blumler and Katz (1974) listed four broad needs in order to explain why audiences turned to media: * Diversion – a form of escape or emotional release from everyday pressure * Personal relationships- companionships via television personalities and characters * Personal identity- the ability to compare one’s life with the characters and situations * Surveillance- a supply of information of what’s going on in the world

The audiences in Uses of Gratification were seen as active, as opposed to passive audience in the Effects model. This model acknowledged that the audience had a choice of texts from which to choose from and satisfy their needs. However, Uses and Gratifications still imply that massages are packages of information that all audiences will read as the same. It does not consider how the messages are interpreted or any other factors affecting the audience’s interpretations.

For example, artist like Eminem used the lyrics such as: Teenagers suicidal come on suicidal, go hang your dad and do it”, Which is a line from the song “Bad Influence” on Eminem’s latest single. The artist is referring to the individuals who have suicidal thoughts and is encouraging them to commit the suicide. If a particular teenager, who is suffering from depression, has feelings of loneliness and feels like an outsider is listening to those lyrics at least 5 hours a day, every day, he/she would be more likely to identify with those lyrics and eventually commit a suicide.

However the above lyrics will not have as much effect on individuals who are listening to the lyrics for the entertainment purposes only. We can argue that the reason why there are differences between interpreting messages on different ways is because of individuals own social sub-cultural values (Cultural Effect Theory). In the 1980s and 1990s a lot of work was done on the way individuals received and interpreted a text. This work was based on the Stuarts Hall encoding/decoding model of the relationship between text and audience.

The text is encoded by the producer into the media text and the audiences decode the meaning from the text. The audience’s interpretation is depended on a number of frameworks outside the text. These include socio/ economical frameworks such as a class, gender, age, education and ethnicity. It has been questioned to whether Eminem’s lyrics, which are filled with violence and discrimination towards many, are appropriate for the millions of teenagers who listen to him?

He has offended every type of minority out there, or people who he believes are inferior to him, and some believe that he is sending the message that people who are different are wrong, that they do not deserve equality. The debate centres on the ability of the audience as a whole to accept or reject media messages. We can argue that Eminem’s music teaches our children undesirable norms and values of society, but we know that people make rational choices; therefore they can decide whether or not to listen to this type of music and whether or not to commit a crime.

As Eminem points out in his song “Sing for the Moment: ” “They say music can alter moods and talk to you, Well can it load a gun up for you, and cock it, too? From the above lyrics we can connote that the artist is trying to defend his lyrics by saying “I can talk to you, make you more miserable, more depressed, teach you how to be like me but at the end of the day if you want to kill someone you’ll do it without me writing lyrics about it.

We can argue that the predisposition to commit the crime is related to process of socialisation and the life experiences children are exposed to, as they grove up, rather then making statements that the music is the reason for all the crimes committed. Looking at the lyrics from the album Slim Shady: “OK, I’m going to attempt to drown myself/ you can try this at home/ you can be just like me! /. . Follow me and do exactly what the song says: / smoke weed, take pills, drop out of school, kill people and drink/. Now follow me and do exactly what you see/ don’t you want to grow up to be just like me! / I slap women and eat ‘shrooms then OD. . . ” Looking at the above lyrics we can cannot that Eminem is trying to persuade its audience to be just like him.

His fans see him as an icon a “Celebrity” someone who they desire, and will do anything to become like him, therefore insulting a women ,using inappropriate language or as he states in his song: ” smoke weed, take pills, drop out if school… will not be harmful, because, Eminem has already made it socially acceptable. In other words: “If Eminem can do it, so can I. ” According to the Modelling/ Imitation theory, it is argued that viewers tend to adopt the aggressive behaviour of character only if they identify with them and if the character behaviour is seen to be justified. James Halloran (1970) stated that we must get away from the habit of thinking in terms of what the media does to people, and substitute for it the idea of what people do with the media.

The target audience of popular rap music is predominantly composed of young teens from the ages of 12 to 30. Main codes and conventions of rap music represent artist’s personal experiences from their troubled childhoods, it is not meant to glorify drugs, violence, and feminine incompetence, but rather to make the listener aware of the reality of poor, black, inner- city life, and in so speak to an audience otherwise disfranchised by much mainstream popular culture. I never see black faces on the cover of books” a 13 year old black girl recreantly told me. “You don’t see many black men saving the world in movies,” a 14 year old boy pointed out. Rap music is where they find expression of their identity in all its diversity and complexity. Their music thus holds a deeper meaning, one that glorifies the escape from such a restricted lifestyle to a rich and leisurely one, and they are living proof of the result of ambition and determination.

In addition, this sort of music has been accused by politicians and parents of encouraging teenagers to use violent language and commit violent crimes. Where do these opinions and views steam from – media portrayal? There are long list of stereotypes you could fit to just about any character ( drugs, alcohol, jewellery, money, cars, baggy clothes, are some examples of hip hop stereotypes), these are generally untrue and exaggerated but often thought to be the fact by many.

The problem starts when these representations are used so much, they start becoming a norm. Black music like hip hop does glorify violence and sex but its all fantasy or a narrative similar to film, fans generally know this. However, we can argue that it’s the fact that rappers talk about drugs, violence in their songs, but it does not necessarily connote that if the artist’s talks about drugs, they are selling them too or using them. They could be talking about how they had to sell drugs for a while to put food on their table (News Week 1998).

These rap artists are making thousands of dollars just by making records, why would they go out and sell drugs? A British Minister led to a personal attack in Parliament on a garage band called “So Solid Crew” saying:” Idiots like the So Solid Crew are glorifying gun culture and violence”, “Rappers who carry guns in the videos are particularly sick”. Such comment from the Minister, someone in a position of power connotes how powerful race representations are especially those that are common and seen as hegemonic.

Conor McNicholas, editor of the music magazine NME, described the minister’s outburst as “Deeply racist”. These statements are racist and reinforce prejudice; we have to recognise that these are young kids who are growing up in very difficult environments who happen to make music as a way of expressing themselves and their frustration. Just because these guys are making music about the situations they were in, does not mean they are perpetuating the culture. The gun culture is a function of urban deprivation and not because of the music.

There are frequent calls for censorship, both of song lyrics and of the appearance/behaviour of the performers. Lawmakers argue that this type of music should put its own house in order, and ease off on the depictions of violence, crime, racism and misogyny, or face severe censorship. The hip hop music has responded with accusations of institutional racism, oppression and police persecution. Many artists and teenagers deny that violent music is seen to influence teenagers.

Commentators on the current furor over rap music should bare in mind that we have already been there done that, back in 1950s, when the likes of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis were horrifying politicians and parents because of the lyrics that contained violent, drug and sexual references. It can be argued that the marketing strategy of music companies changes the way music spreads. In order to generate more sales and profit, music agencies launch a lot of large-scale promotion. Posters, videos and advertisement of singers can be seen everywhere in order to persuade its audience to buy the products.

Certain steps have been taken to make parents aware of the type of music their children listen to. One would be The Parental Advisory Sticker that has been enforced upon records that have foul language and mature content. Originally, this sticker was intended to indicate that anyone under the age of eighteen could not purchase the labelled album. However, this law has been ignored repeatedly, and has lost its affect upon consumers. Even though this has made parents conscious of such lyrics in music, it has not at all made the record sales go down.

If anything, the infamous sticker has increased sales, most likely as a statement of rebellion. It has not only been argued that the rap and hip hop music influences teenagers, but the metal music has also faced sever censorship, especially because of its allusions to sex, drugs, and booze, not to mention its indecipherable lyrics. Rock and roll has largely been seen as a form of rebellious music for just about as long as it has existed. Because of the implications and hidden meanings associated with rock, some old-fashioned beliefs continue to cause a discrepancy amongst the population of the time.

Many musicians have jumped in on the fight against censorship. They believe censorship violates the first amendment which talks about “Freedom of Speech”. A rock artist such as Marilyn Manson who is one of the most controversial artists in the world today, one who chooses to express himself in a way that provokes in the most extreme methods possible. It has been argued that Marilyn Manson is protected by the First Amendment who guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of association (assembly).

It also protects the rights of citizens to worship as they please and the right not to be forced to support someone else’s religion. Manson uses this freedom fully, getting his message across by any means possible, mainly to the younger generation. Manson’s lyrics have been judged to be inspirations for violent, suicidal, and criminal acts. Manson sings about the emptiness of a world, where perhaps a person has had bad luck. A certain amount of teenagers can relate to Manson’s childhood where faith failed him, love went sour and money was not fulfilling.

In this case, Manson resolves to promote himself to his own god, an elitist view, but one that appeals to adults and teens alike. The harm in Manson’s expression comes indirectly to most. For example, Mr. Raymond Kuntz referred to his son’s incident. ”When his wife went to wake their son for school, they found him dead of a gunshot wound, still wearing his headphones with Marilyn Manson’s:”Anti-Christ Superstar CD” still in the player. The boy’s favourite song was ”The Reflecting God. ‘ However, the artists and producers defend the musical lyrics, and claim that these acts come purely from self-inspiration, not extrinsic influence such as their music.

Similar case happened in Italy in 2001, where Marilyn Manson’s lyrics have inspired and encouraged two girls to murder a nun, but we need to question really what has influenced these two girls to commit such vicious attack on a religious figure? Well there is certainly nothing in Marilyn Manson’s repertoire that instructs people to kill a nun, but his dislike of religion and his hatred of God is a theme that runs through his work. This isn’t God, this isn’t God, and this is just a statistic”… Comes from Marilyn Manson’s song Post human. “Death is the priest … Death is an angel and death is our God killing us all” … is a part of the lyric to In Shadow of the Valley of Death. Marilyn Manson is a severely disturbed man who suffers from disassociation. Many teenagers who struggle to find their own identity experience feeling of disassociation. As fans of Marilyn Manson girls felt able to externalise what they were already thinking.

Parents have found ways to show their kids the importance of morals and ethics by using Manson as an example. In fact, it is quite ironic that parents would be criticizing Manson’s morals and ethics. After all, Manson is the way he is because of his poor childhood and bad parenting. His lack of morals can be blamed on the fact that his parents did not give him the attention he needed as a teenager. He was never put through the moral and ethical background that many of us take for granted. He was left to figure out his own morals for himself.

In addition, over 1,000 studies later, we have not really made much progress and many questions remain. Are some people less able to distinguish between artificial and real lyrics? Is some censorship justified in order to protect out teenagers? The more we seek to find the answers to questions about the effects of media violence, the more questions seem to be generated. As Mr Blanket said:” We need to talk to the record producers, to the distributors, to those actually engaging in the music business about what is and isn’t acceptable. “

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