By Cristine Frazier
January 12 2000
"There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all. "
-Oscar Wilde, Introduction to The Picture of Dorian Gray.
In Conyers Georgia, this May, student Timothy Solomon took out a gun and began shooting students. After being cornered into a classroom the student surrendered into the Vice-Principal’s arms, crying, "I am so scared." Fellow classmates say they were stunned. He seemed like a regular kid. In response to this occurrence, some 200 people protested the Hard Rock RockFest, a music festival sponsored by Oldsmobile and local radio station 99x. The concert was under fire from many local religious leaders who said the lyrics of the songs would generate negative, even violent energy due to the recent school shooting. Once again, in what seems like a popular trend, the arts are blamed for a crime they did not commit.
This is only one example of the recent trend of putting the blame of vicious crimes on pop culture. Books, films, video games, and music have been blamed for recent teenage suicides and killings. In March of 1999, the Supreme Court allowed a case blaming the makers of the film Natural Born Killers for a 1995 shooting. In Gwinett County, the book The Basketball Diaries has been banned from public libraries after it is blamed for the death of 5 students in a high school shooting in Paducah, Kentucky. ("I think it’s porno." said one board member.) And in Colorado, two students take the lives of 14 students, and their own. Their murders are blamed on the music of shock-rocker Marilyn Manson and video games such as Quake II.
Are these accusations correct? Or are these examples of the arts becoming a scapegoat for a generation unable to take responsibility for their actions? I prefer the latter. In this "new age" of "clear thinking" and "emotional IQ", it is easy to shift the blame to someone-or something- else.
It was Oscar Wilde who said that Art should not be judged by its moral value, and that adage still holds true today. It is not the duty of the media to supress itself, to coddle parents, or to raise their children for them. And it is certainly not the job of the government to censor the arts, or to legally blame it for society's mistakes. Despite the current trend of blaming the mistakes of a generation on "Advertising", or "Peer Pressure", no sound-minded person is put into a blind rage over a video game. These problems are only triggered by the music, or by the book- they have existed for far longer. It is the responsibility of the parent to raise a healthy, balanced child, and to detect mental problems early on.
A rock concert shouldn’t be cancelled because of the irresponsibility of parents and children. Musicians shouldn’t be blamed for the tragic death of a teen whose parents didn’t see early on that their son needed help. Students should never be denied to knowledge of literature as one person took the content too far. Lastly, the media should never be chastised for the actions of a handful of mentally unstable, irresponsible teens.