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July 29, 2013 | by  | in Arts Music |
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Pros and Cons for the Musical Conscience

Even as a fully straight female, I’m not afraid to say that the video for Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ is rather arousing. Kudos to the girls for being suitably coy while also intriguingly adventurous. But despite the aesthetic value of the video, there are of course some other issues that must be addressed. To those businessmen and women who use the music industry to promote a certain type of femininity, masculinity, race, creed, sexual orientation, or wealth; my middle finger salutes you.

It is tempting to leave my thoughts here, fare ye readers well, and revel in the glory of having denounced the white capitalist patriarchy in one swift blow. But this would be unfair to the consumer. After all, they—we—are the ones consummating the marriage of art with misogyny and all its evil siblings.

The ‘problem’ at hand is passive consumerism. Of course, freedom of speech and artistic license are inherent in the preservation of creative thought. An individual has the lawful right to describe how, despite their having 99 problems, a bitch is most certainly not one of them, and then sell these lyrics in song form. By extension, individuals also have the right to choose to consume such content. But this is where the blurred lines of the conscience need to be delineated.

While the ‘morality’ relating to the consumption of such content is completely arbitrary, passive consumerism is something that we choose to either engage in or not. For people who do feel morally challenged by music videos such as that of ‘Blurred Lines’ or lyrics such as those heard in ‘Bitches Ain’t Shit’ by Dr Dre, there are two options. They can either choose to never intentionally hear the song again, or they can continue to intentionally expose themselves to the song. I am ashamed to admit that I am guilty of pursuing the second option more often than not, even if I still get indignantly enraged by many a rapper/singer/producer that dare grace my iPod. This makes me a passive consumer; a person unwilling to actively oppose the inherent sexism of much popular music.

It seems, therefore, that the conscience is easily distracted by entertainment. Layer blatant sexism, racism, or homophobia over a catchy beat and all of a sudden, one’s standards are irrelevant in comparison with the urge to dance till the sweat drips down your balls.

The obvious next step in investigating this topic is to argue that it is in fact enough to be cognisant of the bias present in music; that one should aim to at least be an educated listener. Indeed, this is the approach that I have always taken when grappling with my own musically inspired guilt. But in an attempt to not merely settle for this approach out of apathy, why not rephrase the term ‘passive consumerism’ to offer a different mode of musical consumerism?

Let’s take the average Snoop Dogg/Lion fan and present him/her with two options: passive pro-sumerism and passive con-sumerism (bear with me now). If the Snoop fan chooses to be a passive pro-sumer, they not only listen to his music but also internalise its messages, effectively proving to be pro-misogyny, or whatever each particular song imparts. Conversely, a passive con-sumer of Snoop would still avidly listen to his music, but would also actively acknowledge the ‘cons’ of being a chronic woman-hater, etc etc.

While there are certainly more grey areas than the pro–con model allows for, adopting this approach validates blasé consumerism, and allows anyone who cares about the issue to take control of the accusatory tone that is implied in the term ‘passive consumerism’.

Or maybe it just makes me sound like a whack job.

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