Case Study: Walmart Music Censorship – Inconsistent? Effective?


Parental Advisory

So to begin things off patriotically, I believe highly in the first amendment rights supported by the U.S. Constitution. I have the freedom of speech to write or say whatever I want and whatever the repercussions of that may be, I must face and own up to.  Walmart, who is the ‘case study’ of this particular post, has the right to do whatever they want to do.  They have their prescribed store policies, procedures, and freedom to carry/not carry inventory they want to carry.  This article discusses censorship discrepancies I have noticed and studied for a while through music purchasing and listening experience in general AND specifically within Wal-mart given their policies on music bearing the infamous parental advisory label.  This posting is meant to be informative, but also raise an argument of the inconsistencies that still lurk within censorship.

This post may ultimately be labeled subjective (as opinions are),  but I believe the evidence for my point of view is objective and informed.  I won’t deny, that I tend to lean liberal in many views (hey, maybe I took the Snoop Dogg, Wiz & Bruno Mars song “Young, Wild & Free” too literally), but in a world and society with many different people with differing ideology, centrism or moderatism  may be the most compromising  approach.  There are two valid arguments to censorship, and both have their pros and cons.  I tend to against censorship in the artistic sense, however, a sense where I would be pro-censorship would be respective of age (younger, older) and of public forum (throwing f-bombs loosely and being disrespectful of venue, culture, etc.)  Another angle that one might take is why do artist feel that the ‘shock value’ of profanity is necessary?

Walmart is a great utilitarian store in which you can purchase anything. In the small town which I reside, they possess the monopoly because they are the only chain of their kind with no competition save for a few grocery store. Anyways, I take no issue against the chain nor do I have a personal vendetta, particularly given the fact that they contribute greatly to music sales.  That said, my thesis and argument is that Walmart’s stance on censorship is inconsistent with the other media that they sell.

Yesterday as I perused the entertainment section, I noticed the Unrated edition of Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator displayed openly, with no hints of even censoring the visibility.  Anyone who has viewed any of Cohen’s films knows he is one of the most unapologetic, uncensored actors/comedians out there.  A store that seems quite conservative in the area of censorship you would think would not display or would consider not selling such.  As I headed towards the book section, I noticed more than enough companies of the arguably ‘pornographic’ and confirmed controversial series Fifty Shades of Grey readily available.  More than just a steamy affair, it is shocking that such an erotic fictional novel would grace the shelves of such a conservative, family-oriented location.

American Pie - The Naked Mile
The American Pie Series of films certainly do no favors for a conservative image, constantly featuring explicit language, explicit sexual references, and explicit stupidity

When it comes to music, here is the gap worth articulating.  When the scandal about the parental advisory/censorship came about way-back-when (80s – 90s), Walmart stated that they would not carry the parental advisory labeled CDs and would opt for edited forms.  They have held true to that policy, however, the sub-argument is that how is a CD with sexual content, violence, or explicit language any more ‘contemptible’ than say a movie that gives visual alongside the audio?

Academy Award nominated film The Reader was easily available upon its DVD release, and the rated R film feature liberal amounts of sex and nudity – and I mean maybe too much. The American Pie Series of films certainly do no favors for a conservative image, constantly featuring explicit language, explicit sexual references, and explicit stupidity (well maybe the last one is not valid to the argument, lol).

I’m not advocating for or against conservatism or liberalism, but my issue here is consistency.  Why is an explicit CD worse than an graphic book or an unrated film?  Has Walmart simply just adapted with the times with book and films and just let the CDs fall by the wayside?

Here’s my other argument.  Okay, Walmart doesn’t support parental advisory labels – fair. However, what about all the assortment of CD’s that have opted for a ‘mainstreamed’ release sans the label? I have purchased many CDs that don’t possess the label from Walmart, but they also feature references that if you go by a system, should be regulated.  And I’m not talking about ‘baby cursing’ or references, but more explicit means on unmarked releases. It just makes you wonder, is the whole notion of Walmart and music censorship ultimately accomplishing anything? If the music released already possesses sexualized references and language without a parental advisory label, then what is the point?

Ultimately, the materials that the new generation are exposed to are ‘overt.’ While it may be true they are ‘more overt’ than what their parents and grandparents were exposed to, it is not different in the regard that each prior generation thought what kids listened to and how they acted was crazy, wild, and liberal.  Yes, music is more explicit now than it has ever been and perhaps the question of musicians being a ‘role model’ should be a question artists should consider when they are unleashing ‘filth’ as some would call it, but ultimately, does censorship truly shield anybody is a question to ask?

What are your thoughts? Does it seem inconsistent that Walmart is liberal with movies and books and conservative with music that is most likely already liberal? Again, I have no stake in this, but I do believe it is something to think about and certainly an interesting debate.

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