Hearken, youngsters, to another tale of those ancient days, the Eighties, when nobody wore bicycle helmets and there were precious few outbreaks of easily preventable infectious diseases owing largely to the fact that your mom didn’t get her health-care advice from the same place your dad got his porn. Dangerous days, they were, full of scraped knees and hurt feelings.
The name “Tipper Gore” was never spoken casually; it was spat in contempt if it had to be uttered at all. The now-former Mrs. Al Gore was the leader of an organization called the Parents’ Music Resource Center, a coven of useless and thick-skulled citizens whose only claim to public attention was their being married to powerful men in Washington. The PMRC was aghast and atwitter (though there was no Twitter) about the shocking content of popular music, terrified of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and scandalized by Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop.” The Twisted Sister song, they said, promoted violence; I defy you to locate a trace of violence in the lyrics, the main effect of which was teaching a million eleven-year-olds the meaning of “condescending” and “gall.” (Not quite as good for the vocabulary as Bad Religion, but this was the Eighties.) “She Bop” apparently encouraged masturbation, and this was before we had Ivy League college curricula to do that. Madonna, AC/DC – all the Eighties favorites came in for scrutiny. Even Judas Priest, as though this guy might have some kind of non-standard sexual agenda that would set Mrs. Gore’s radar beeping:
The upshot of the PMRC’s efforts was a campaign to encourage, or possibly require, the use of warning labels on potentially offensive or otherwise problematic musical recordings. This was seen, naturally enough, as the soft prelude to open censorship, and was denounced angrily in a thousand punk songs and self-righteous teen-age monologues. True, there was still an Iron Curtain back in those days, and we might have had more important things to worry about, but we did not think that just because we were legal minors that we needed Tipper Gore and her sorority of bored housewives to tell us what we should and should not listen to.
So, Millennials, I have to ask: What the hell happened to you people? We didn’t want warning labels when we were kids, and you’re demanding them as adults?
You’re out campaigning to have warning labels put not on Slayer albums but on Finnegan’s Wake and A Prayer for Owen Meany, because you’re afraid that after a lifetime of wearing pedestrian helmets your soft little butts are going to get kicked by a poem? I know, you grew up with drinking water full of estrogen and trips to self-esteem camp, but, for Pete’s sake. I can’t imagine what it is like to be one of you people, but I assume that spending New Year’s Eve on Times Square would capture exactly one-half of the experience.
As the sage said, “If that’s your best, your best won’t do.”