Thursday, May 21, 2009

The C-Word

No, no, not that C-word. Although, for the record, I don't know what that C-word is, I just know that it's supposed to be offensive. And I prefer to remain blissfully ignorant, so please do not enlighten me.

I'm talking about the other dirty C-word: Censor.

Why is "censor" a dirty word, you ask? Well, it's one of those words that allows people to be outraged about something without truly knowing why they are outraged. They don't have to be educated about the issue at hand; they just have to throw this one little word around and they can rile up the masses and start hyperventilating their way to the ACLU. After all, this is America and we have a right to free speech here, so censorship equals bad and evil, right?

I bring this up because the band behind the most popular CD in the country at this moment, Green Day, is upset at Wal-Mart for wanting to censor their latest release.

"Wal-Mart's become the biggest retail outlet in the country, but they won't carry our record because they wanted us to censor it," whines Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. His cohort in dirty talk, guitarist Mike Dirnt adds: "As the biggest record store in the America, they should probably have an obligation to sell people the correct art."

Oh, should they now? Does Mr. Dirnt really believe that businesses should be forced to sell material they find objectionable? Because that doesn't sound very free-speech to me.

So let's check out Wal-Mart's policy on the matter of objectionable content in music. Wal-Mart spokeswoman Melissa O'Brien stated: "As with all music, it is up to the artist or label to decide if they want to market different variations of an album to sell, including a version that would remove a [Parental Advisory] rating. The label and artist in this case have decided not to do so, so we unfortunately can not offer the CD."

It's nothing against Green Day in particular; Wal-Mart just doesn't want to sell CDs that are full of so-called "adult" material, but it will sell them if the record label agrees to remove the offending lines from the songs. This seems to me to be a reasonable policy for a company that wants to maintain a family-friendly image.

Artists, actors, songwriters and singers all get upset over someone messing with the "artistic integrity" of their products, a complaint that seems rather ridiculous. Surely a movie or a song is not the least bit enhanced by gratuitous use of the F-word. So why do they care so much if those F-words are removed?

For an industry that is all about money, you'd think they would be falling all over themselves to adhere to Wal-Mart's standards so they could increase their sales and expand their fan base. Instead they shoot themselves in the foot (and the wallet) by ignoring this easy-money opportunity.

Green Day can complain all they want, but no one is censoring them against their will. The fact is that Wal-Mart is a for-profit business and should be able to set its own rules about what it will and will not sell. If Green Day doesn't want to conform to those standards, that's fine, but they have to live with the consequences.

And that means selling their CDs somewhere else.


fiona said...

SO dumb. Just as they have the right to be as immature or dirty or offensive, or whatever, in their lyrics, a store has the right to decide what sort of goods it will sell. I don't think it's censoring to have certain standards and not accept anything lower. Get over it, Green Day.

Stephanie Black said...

Well said, Bonnie.

Sara said...

I had this same conversation with my intern yesterday - with the same conclusion. You are free to say what you want, I am free to not like it.

Same goes for Green Day - they are free to write the songs/lyrics they want, WalMart is free to say "no thank you."

Too bad common sense isn't actually common.