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Opinion & Essays - Aug, 2000 Issue #72 

Music and Mahem:
A Father’s Perspective
By Paul Hotchkin

[Paul Hotchkin is a secretary to an organization called the National Viewers and Listeners Association of Australia, which is a lobby and advocacy group for children and the media. The NVLAA members consist of individuals, family and school groups throughout Australia. Also, on the web site, read the music violence section for the 1985 senate hearing transcript, as well as what the Beastie Boys have to say about the negative aspects of music.]

My Name is Paul Hotchkin and I am a family man with a wife and three children. About four years ago when my son was 13 and had just entered high school, we noticed that there was a change in his character. We put it down to change of life but we were concerned nevertheless. 

I am always interested in what my kids do. One day my son came home from school and told me that he had bought some music magazines. He knows that I like all types of music and when I asked to have a look, he said no problem. When I saw what they were, my heart almost stopped. Now, I am broadminded, and I thought even perhaps, unshockable. But what I saw made my stomach turn. The magazines were devoted to heavy/death metal music that glorified drug abuse, death, suicide, anarchy, witchcraft and everything else that goes against family values. My immediate reaction was to throw them in the bin, which I did. 

But then something made me stop and reach in and pick them up again. I then decided I would do everything I could to stop these people exploiting young impressionable teenagers. One of the things I have found when doing research on these rock bands is that they are gutless and hide behind terms like freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Well, I tell you right now, I will use the very medium that they hide behind, to say that these rock bands do more harm to teenagers than anything else in this world. The rock bands do nothing to promote positive messages nor do they do anything to encourage family unity. My advice is to stay away from them and enjoy music that is uplifting. 

What I have found is that teenagers have a natural rebellion and that at any time, one in five teenagers is going through a period of depression. So it is natural for them to steer towards music with which they can identify. I believe that some heavy-metal rock bands exploit these feelings and are just as commercial as the people they despise. They usually don’t care about the consequences and will come up with any excuse to justify what they do. Tell me this for instance why is it that there are about five or more deaths that are linked to the name Marilyn Manson? Of course there are others who have just as bad of a dark history but nothing that is as popular as MM. 

I went into my son’s room to talk to him about the magazines and when I had a look at the walls, my mouth dropped. The walls were covered with the posters of the bands in the magazines, and being a photographer, I took special notice of their eyes. They say that the eyes are the windows to your soul and all I saw was pure evil; no smiling faces of love, just hatred, and it was unhealthy. His room was a shrine to evil and with the dark music, it was a place of misery. 

I knew I had to do something, but I wanted to do it well, without hurting his feelings or showing any sort of disrespect for him. I approached him, saying straight out I was not happy with the magazines, that they had stuff in them that was not suitable for teenagers, that they were not in line with our values. Then I asked him if I could buy them from him? He bought them with his pocket money and I had a feeling that he would part with them a bit easier if I replaced them with money. It was easier for me to lose $40.00 rather than him. He jumped at it. 

I waited for a couple of weeks, then approached him again, saying that I wasn’t happy with the heavy metal music he had and that I had made a mistake in allowing him to buy them in the first place. Even though I liked most types of music, I had been naďve, and began to realize that in the last twenty years this type of music has gotten worse, that is, more evil. 

I then told him, just to prove how much it meant to me, that I would give him double of what he paid for the CD’s. His eyes just lit up! I went on to say that he had to go through his own collection and pull all the CD’s that he would think that I wouldn’t like, which he did. He came back to me with a pile of CD’s and then said, “Dad you owe me $600.00.” I didn’t bat an eyelid and I said to him “Thank you so much for doing what you did; it meant a lot to me.” I also said that I didn’t have the money right then and there, but if he wouldn’t mind waiting I would save up for it and pay him when I could afford it which would be in about twelve months time. 

Twelve months came and I made good with the deal, just like he had. But the proviso was that he buys no other heavy metal, or whatever it was. Then I took him to the bank, opened up an account for him and then placed the money into it in his name, telling him that he could start saving to purchase a car. I had given him something to work towards. I am not a wealthy man, yet I would have given him triple or even quadruple the money to restore the peace in our house. You see, when he listened to that music, he would come out of his room with a scowl and would hit, or yell at his mother with the same disrespect and hate that emanated from the music. His attitude was “F….you, F…the world ! I am sure that if I hadn’t of acted when I did, something worse would have happened. 

Only a year ago a mother near Sydney, Australia had her eyes gouged out and was bashed up by her son after she asked him to turn his music down. He was into heavy metal music and magazines. I met a father at a youth suicide forum on the other side of Australia in Canberra, who told me about his son who was into drugs and listened to a group called Suicidal Tendencies. Part of the music’s lyrics, which implies suicide by hanging, includes the words: “Father, please forgive me….” The father then showed me his son’s suicide note with his son’s words: “Father please don’t blame me….” His son had hung himself. 

Through my research I have collected many other stories like this. Families worldwide need to be warned. Children look to these musicians as role-models; that is the scariest thing of all. Parents are not perfect; we all try to do our best. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line we muck it up for one reason or another. We work hard to provide for our families and sometimes even get on the Merry-Go-Round-of life and don’t know when to step off. One thing for sure is that we don’t need irresponsible rock musicians who think they have all the answers, who instead do most of the damage. A couple of weeks after my son gave me the CD’s, I asked him if he could pull the posters down so I could paint his room (a bright color). Needless to say, I took a very, very, very long time to go through the motions. He never replaced the posters. 

Since these episodes, I have taken him to a heavy rock concert, though one a bit softer than heavy metal. It was a group called Deep Purple, which we both enjoyed together. I expressed that this group had better music than those he had listened to in the past. He agreed. I have tried to teach all my children about the media, telling them to never take it at face value. Money is usually its driving force and there are not many who care about the consequences of what they do. News broadcasters resort to hyping-up nondescript situations, even tagging them as “exclusive” when they’re not, just to get the viewers. 

Ironically in 1985, Tipper Gore, who also was a photographer, went through the same experience with her daughter, from which originated the senate inquiry into music, and the birth of Parental Advisory Stickers. 

My son now respects me, just as I respect him and he will always be my hero because he gave something up just for me. He now enjoys a huge range of music and a lot of it is uplifting. Now we both know that not only can music soothe the soul….it can also destroy it! 

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