What The BBFC Don't Want Kids To See



In an age where the media seeps into every aspect of our lives, people question how healthy this saturation can be. What is it doing to us? But also what is it doing to our children? (Not literally our children, I’m only 23 but you know what I mean.) Being as every child over the age of 6 now seems to have a tablet, a phone and God knows what else, they are only a click away from the Internet, and through that only a click away from certain questionable content. Yep we’re talking music videos. So, seeing as most people don’t want their kids watching Smack my Bitch Up what do we do? The BBFC thinks we should put ratings on music videos, but is this the answer? What if artists took the responsibility to create an age appropriate world?
Music video is the perfect medium for things to be hyper-realistic and so is often the epicenter at which certain taste issues bubble to the surface. The main ones that really tend to get peoples goat are sex, drugs and violence. So lets take a look at exactly what it is kids shouldn’t be seeing.
Drugs is as good a place as any to start right. Should artists refer to drugs in their music or is this all part of setting a poor example? This seems like a pretty obvious one, people are always going to take drugs. The end. Telling Rihanna not to be so open about her spliff smoking, or Miley to stop talking about ‘Molly’ wouldn't mean that anyone is going to stop taking the stuff. Humans have been finding ways to get high since the dawn of time and realistically, that’s never going to change.
The problem with telling artists not to sing about drugs is beyond love, drugs are probably their next best inspiration. Take drugs away and you take away a lot of great music – there would be no Beatles, Stones, Eminem or Amy Winehouse. So if artists aren’t going to stop singing about them, inevitably videos are going to reflect them, and their effects. But that’s OK. As a kid these references go over your head. I am sure many kids love Ed Sheeran’s A Team, unaware it’s really about a woman’s battle with drug addiction. Drugs are drugs, fun and vicious in equal measure, but also a great resource for creativity. Without them we wouldn’t have the rich musical history we have today.
So here’s Danny Brown singing about taking MDMA and having a great time and guess what I don’t give a shit, and neither should you.

And so to sex - a contentious subject in modern dialogue. Sex is inevitably tied up with nakedness, and opinions that diverge from it being an objectification of women symbolic of the capitalist patriarchy, to each individuals right to do what they want with their own bodies. In terms of music video content it can seem that there isn’t much deviation.  Videos contain skinny naked women writhing around shaking their butt’s for the camera, which potentially promotes an unhealthy obsession with looks and body image among young girls. But the problem is do we really have any right to tell artists (/marketers) they shouldn’t? Maybe there is something in the argument that women can use sex to their advantage, after all Emily Ratajkowski is now starring in movies.
For me there is a lack of variety in women’s roles within music video. Women shouldn’t have to look like a carbon copy of Beyonce or be willing to get their kit off and dance about in order to make it in the music business. Where are the women doing their own thing, and not giving a damn if it pleases men or not? Where are the Missy Elliots, Mary J Bliges and Lauryn Hills of this generation? They'd know how to approach nudity in this modern age. In this instance I think the industry needs to be held accountable. Nicki doesn’t need to dust off her nun outfit anytime soon, but women who don’t conform to the ‘writhing around naked’ norm should not be dismissed. And sadly in the industry today it seems they often are. Women can be, and should be, if they want to be, sexy. Sex itself is not the problem. But the key is that, if they want to be. Artists can be sexy, and being sexy in your own way is something we should be celebrating.
Here’s a great example of a sexy lady getting naked and doing things exactly the way she wants, its Erykah Badu in window seat.

And now perhaps the most difficult issue, violence. When gun crime is such an issue as it is in America, music videos that glamourize the use of guns and violence could be seen as a walking advert for people to go out and buy them. This may sound far fetched but when buying a gun is something that is as easy as walking into a shop and buying a Fanta Lemon, it’s not so hard to imagine someone watching a music video and doing exactly that. In America alone around 280 people are shot a day. Fact. Artists feed into popular culture and because of this the image they portray matters.
Artists can sing about violence, guns and crime that are real to many people’s lives but these things shouldn’t be aspirational.
Of course not all violence is aspirational in which case it can be incredibly powerful. M.I.A’s video Born Free is a controversial example of this. The violence in M.I.A’s video isn’t aspirational, it’s grotesque and shocking, but it definitely hammers her point home.

Even with this video I suppose there’s the issue of age. I’m not sure many people want their 6 year old who’s stumbling around on their ipad coming across a video of mass murder, albeit one with good intentions behind it. I, might be able to separate the fact from fiction in M.I.A’s music video but can children who watch it?
Most people would argue that censorship destroys creativity, if we force artists to self-censor the art will suffer. So what options do we have? As music videos become more like films, and as more of us of all ages search the Internet for visual stimulation, perhaps the answer is age ratings. You wouldn’t take a child to see the exorcist so maybe they shouldn’t be watching BBHMM.

The problem I see with rating is that being controversial sells. So getting a high age rating could be looked upon as an achievement rather than punishment. We all like a little rebellion, so maybe ratings will only make nudity, drugs and violence more gratuitous and extreme. On the flip side, maybe I will feel differently when I have a child, maybe these ratings are useful as information for parents, a virtual warning sign.
I can’t help but feel the sensible thing would be for the industry to be a bit more clever and creative. We are so used to seeing guns, money, drugs, women in bikinis – if anything we are all get a bit bored of it. Maybe the responsibility should be on them to make the change. The dawn of the Internet has brought its fair share of problems like this and to be honest who knows the answer. Lets just hope the creativity and purpose of music videos isn’t hindered by these new rulings. After all who would want to live in a world where Christina never made Dirty….

Emily Harrison

Amateur filmmaker and photographer. Anthropology graduate and firm believer that where words fail music speaks. -
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