Pop culture says a lot about what a society values, what interests us. Music, movies, video games, etc. all reflect on how we choose to spend our time and money. It is no mystery that the United States has an issue with gun violence. What is even more shocking is how often we see in the news stories of fire arms in schools. Given this horrible aspect of our society, how do we so easily accept the topic in our pop culture?
There are countless examples of violence in movies and on T.V.– far to many to list here. Instead, I want to focus on the explicit use of gun violence in music. The song Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People debuted in 2010 and skyrocketed the group to the top of the charts in 2011. The song describes a young boy bringing a gun to school with intent of killing his classmates– “better run, better run faster than my bullet.” This song was EVERYWHERE. You could not turn on the radio or be stopped at a red light without hearing it. Granted it is a catchy tune, but I think its popularity speaks volumes of how numbed our society has become to such horrible acts as school shootings.
Rewind to 1992 and you’ll find that Pearl Jam was the original school shooting band of the day. The song Jeremy told the story of a depressed young man named Jeremy Delle who committed suicide in front of an entire classroom of his peers. When front man Eddie Vedder saw the single paragraph news paper article detailing the boy’s suicide, he decided to write a song about it in order to bring more attention to the topic.
It is clear that the public is generally saddened by shootings, especially when done in schools. So recently, we all experienced the same feelings when the Colorado movie theater was shot up just a few months ago. And yet, how often do we really think about these types of tragedy. I can speak from my own experience that I am all to quick to forget. However, I wonder if songs like Pumped Up Kicks and Jeremy aim to extend the awareness of these events, or to exploit them for profit. Either way, I question if it is safe for them to be heard by America’s increasingly impressionable youth.
Is it ethical to sensor these types of pop culture inputs? Whose responsibility is it to edit this media- bands, parents/teachers, radio stations? Where do we draw the line on what is artistic expression and what is exploitation?