During the 1970s and ’80s, popular culture was about defining yourself, exploring new ideas and being different. Ever since the mid ’90s, and especially after the year 2000, mainstream music in America has morphed into fitting a certain image. This makes more sense when you think about who was popular in music 20-30 years ago. Imagine David Bowie, Boy George, or Prince with their androgynous and unique styles being mainstream today. America is selling out more and more artists, and turning their music into manufactured junk.
In my opinion, the only outrageous artist to become popular in the last 10 years while incorporating his persona with his music is Marylin Manson. Though he scares many parents, he is different and unique. If you ever listen to him during an interview, he sounds like an every day guy, in fact he sounds a lot smarter than most people. He acknowledges that his image is part of his music, which is a form of art. If you’re of an older generation and don’t believe me, then take a look at Alice Cooper. He was popular way before my time. Now he’s in his 60s, has a family and loves to play golf. It’s a stark contrast from how people viewed him when he was performing on stage. Bottom line is, it’s just an act. Parents seem to forget that, but kids get it, and that’s why they love it.
Teenagers are going thru a period of self exploration. They are trying to define who they are, and often feel the urge to rebel because it’s natural. Music offers an outlet. If an artist seems unique from mainstream society, they’re usually embraced by teens because that’s what they’re drawn to. You think Marylin Manson in ’90s, Twisted Sister in the ’80s, or Alice Cooper in the ’70s was dangerous for your kids? At the very least they sent a message that individuality, questioning authority and doing what you want is important.
Why are 13 year-olds becoming anorexic? Why are boys taking steroids at school? Why are more teens being prescribed drugs for depression? Society has turned away from making it cool to be different and making life all about image. For young people who feel they don’t fit in, there isn’t much left for them to identify with.
Professional sports has put out the message that chemical enhancements is the only way to win. The publicity of steroid use from recent sports figures tells aspiring athletes this is the secret. Mark McGwire wouldn’t answer before a congressional committee if he ever took steroids. Floyd Landis tested positive for elevated testosterone but continues to deny using steroids. Many other athletes have come under suspicion as well. They are so concerned with winning that they forget about all the young athletes that look up to them.
The lack of individuality in our society has created such a toxic environment for kids. Even elementary school children aren’t immune to it. Games like tag and dodgball are being banned. Some schools will not individually recognize anyone because others may feel left out. We’re so bent on “protecting” our kids feelings, but one day they will be adults with no one to hold their hand. Honestly, if a kid never experiences being picked last for the team, how is he/she goning to handle the real world?
School isn’t just about reading, writing and arithmitic. It’s also about learning to cope with social situations. That is why home school isn’t a good idea because your children will not have the tools to deal with complex social interaction. However, the environments at many public schools are leaving parents with little choice. I do think we need stop coddling youngsters so much. They can handle more than people think. Teens are supposed to rebel, they’re supposed to experiment. I’m just glad my generation squeaked by the time of overprotective schools and a mainstream culture obsessed with fitting into a tiny box.