For some reason, people still think that heavy metal/rock acts are to blame when it comes to violence amongst youths. And with yesterday’s story about a 29-year-old girl in Texas setting her parents’ house on fire because she was ‘told to’ by the music of Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, it looks like this battle won’t be disappearing any time soon.
According to reports, Cileo Vista believed her parents were planning to “sodomize her and chop her up with the help of a neighbour." Why? Because she claims to have received that message through their music.
Now, I’m an avid listener of both Manson and Nine Inch Nails, and nowhere in their music have I ever come across such a message. Does Marilyn Manson have a song called ‘Cake And Sodomy’? Yes. Does he tell people they will be sodomized and chopped up by their parents in it? No.
But back in 1999, acts like Marilyn Manson, along with things like South Park, violent films, video games and Satan were all elements blamed for the shooting at Columbine High School – not by the actual shooters themselves, but by politicians and media who were looking for a place to shift the blame to. Were they actually part of the problem? Maybe, but probably not.
Marilyn Manson said it best during his interview with Michael Moore in the 2002 documentary Bowling For Columbine: "I wouldn’t say a single word to [the shooters]. I would listen to what they have to say, and that’s what no one did." And he’s got a point. People are so quick to blame things like metal music because it's an easy, comfortable target to hit - but more often than not, not an accurate one.
And it’s not just a problem in the metal world any more. After rapper Tyler, The Creator stirred up some controversy with his music (like ticking off Tegan And Sara with his, in their words, "misogyny and sexism and homophobia"-filled songs), he admitted that if another event such as Columbine were to ever take place, he’d likely be held partially accountable. Not necessarily because of the content of his music, but because it's become another easy target to pick on.
Now I’m not saying that artists should necessarily have free reign to fill their music with hateful lyrics and get away with it – and that’s why we have age restrictions on music (and soon, possibly on music videos). But can we really go on blaming musicians for the actions of their fans, ruling out all other possible influences? And can musicians really be held accountable for what their listeners interpret from their music?
Sure, you can lump all the metal/rap fans together and say, "Well, all the violence stems from them. You’d never hear of a Rihanna fan doing something like that." But in my year and a half of working at Electric Ballroom, I’ve seen plenty of metal fans come and go, and never once seen a fight break out on a metal night. But I have seen a guy bite someone’s ear off on a night of Rihanna and Justin Bieber. Care to blame Bieber for that?