Music videos peddling sexually explicit content is nothing new, it’s an idea that’s been around far longer than the short-form pop clip format itself.
But should risque music videos be given the same censorship monitoring as what’s already been applied to movies and videogames?
The push to have the proverbial MA15+ slapped to the start of music clips is an idea that’s reached mainstream media in recent months, thanks to the dust kicked up over several high profile pop stars and their sexed-up body images. Most notably, a certain twerking tween’s media-strangling appearance at the VMA Awards with her ‘Blurred Lines’ co-star, Robin Thicke.
But it’s not just Miley Cyrus and Thicke, the likes of Rihanna and Justin Timberlake have also come under fire for their risque, NSFW music videos from lobbyists concerned that they’re selling a negative image of women in content aimed at teenage girls.
The issue has gone all the way to England’s House of Commons, where a campaign to introduce a cinema-style ratings system to music videos has gained traction from a number of lobbyist groups, as The Guardian reports.
Entitled Rewind & Reframe, the new campaign is seeking to tackle sexism and racism by “challenging the content and impact” of contemporary pop music videos. The project is a joint collaboration between feminism groupsl ike End Violence Against Women Coalition, Imkaan, and Object, and the website runs a series of content discussing the portrayal of women in music clips, as well as a petition to the UK government for their ratings system call. “I’m all for freedom of expression, but this is clearly one step beyond, and it’s clearly into the realm of porn.” – Annie Lennox
A debate to be held in the House Of Commons today is being chaired by Labour MP Kerry McCarthy, with Prime Minister David Cameron’s adviser on childhood, MP Claire Perry, in attendance to discuss the push for solutions, including an age classification system for music videos and even the clear labelling of celebrity images that have been airbrushed or visually manipulated.
The criticisms have a real footing than just media furore, with the parents of daughters who idolise the Mileys and Rihannas of the pop landscape concerned about the images their children are being fed online. The results of an online survey from Netmums showed strong disapproval over the content of many music videos, as The Guardian reports, while Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts tells the publication that classification is a good step in helping monitor sexually charged content.
“There’s no doubt there’s a huge amount of racism and sexism in music videos and it’s great that this campaign raises awareness about it,” says Roberts of the Rewind&Reframe push. “I can’t see any reason why these videos wouldn’t be classified in the way that other forms of media are but the truth is that it won’t be a silver bullet.”
Roberts adds: “Technology these days makes it pretty nigh on impossible to stop under-18s viewing and sharing this kind of material so as parents it’s important to talk to them about what’s wrong with it. As a society we need to consider how we’ve got to a situation where misogyny and racism is so commonplace.”
The older pop vanguard are also concerned; aside from Sinead O’Connor’s high-profile open letter to Miley Cyrus gaining much media traction, Annie Lennox has also voiced concerns about the younger generation’s pop idols.
While Lennox’s former Eurythmics partner is creating a bank tailored to music-makers, the former Eurythmics frontwoman told BBC in a recent interview on the topic: “I’m all for freedom of expression, but this is clearly one step beyond, and it’s clearly into the realm of porn,” as Kill Your Stereo points out.
Lennox then took to Facebook to further her on-air comments; “If a performing artist has an audience of impressionable young fans and they want to present a soft porn video or highly sexualised live performance, then it needs to qualify as such and be X rated for adults only. I’m talking from the perspective of the parents of those young fans. The whole thing is about their children’s protection. Is it appropriate for seven year olds to be thrusting their pelvises like pole dancers? I really don’t think so.”
The idea of an age classification for music videos seems to be a stronger idea than simply banning explicit material, only making it more appealing for teenagers, as actress, writer, and females rights activist Victoria Wright acknowledges; telling The Guardian: “It’s always women in skimpy clothes shaking their arses around men standing about in suits. But I’d hate to see a ban – who would judge it? One person’s sexually explicit is another person’s artistic expression.”