Dan Frazell has more reasons than most to follow the Senate hearings examining the smorgasbord of sex and violence being dished out to children by the nation’s entertainment industry.
As a parent, he worries about the effects all that hostility and sleaze aimed at youngsters by the TV, music and movie industries might have on his children.
As a Bangor police officer, he is concerned about the role increasingly raunchy entertainment might play in fostering an atmosphere of violence that erodes society and puts us all in peril.
As a past president of the National D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Officers Association, he fears, too, that the anti-drug lessons he’s been bringing to schools for years are being undermined by an entertainment industry that wantonly forsakes principles for profit.
But as a self-styled critic of the music industry, a man whose mission is to sound the alarm about the perverse and damaging lyrics of so many of today’s video-driven songs, Frazell also has been gathering ammunition from a Federal Trade Commission report detailing the manner in which the entertainment industry has intentionally and aggressively marketed sex and violence to young children.
It’s the very message he has been shocking his audiences with for seven years now around the country – parents, teachers, school administrators, children, even fellow police officers.
Open your ears, he urges them, to the vile lyrics that are saturating the brains of your children through their omnipresent headphone cocoons. Open your eyes to the music videos and other sex-drenched TV offerings they watch alone in their rooms while you’re drowsing in front of the Red Sox game downstairs.
And if the name Eminem merely conjures up images of the candy you loved as a kid, rather than a wildly popular performer singing tales of rape and murder and hate, he tells them, then you definitely have not been paying enough attention.
“It’s like trying to put out a forest fire with a garden hose,” Frazell said recently, sounding slightly hoarse after conducting a four-hour “awareness” class for about 15 Bangor police officers. “So much of today’s music promotes sex and violence at an alarming rate that it seems to be out of control. It’s a nightmare for parents these days. Every time you turn around it’s something else, something worse.”
Frazell will listen patiently at first to those parents who tend to dismiss his presentation titled, “How the Media is Killing our Children,” as a bit overblown. They remind him that Elvis once had adults bemoaning the end of civilization, too, and how their own parents used to preach to them about the evils of bands like Led Zeppelin. Yet they managed to get through the hysteria with their ethics intact, they say.
“Then I show them what their kids have access to now, the lyrics and the MTV videos the parents don’t know about, and they’re shocked to find out how far it’s gone beyond the music they used to know,” Frazell said. “Many parents still think South Park is a harmless little kids’ cartoon, and that MTV just innocently plays dance videos. They can’t believe it when they find out that so much of their kids’ music is an endless display of sex and the glorification of alcohol abuse. I point out that a lot of rap stars are legitimate gang members who promote the worst kind of violence and hatred.”
To prove just how profitable gratuitous vulgarity has become in the music business, Frazell refers to the testimony of one of its most successful practitioners. Flipping through a recent copy of “Guitar” magazine, he quotes Wes Borland, guitarist of the band Limp Bizkit, as saying, “It’s so strange that we got popular saying f– every other word. What I can’t believe is that parents actually let their kids listen to it.”
“It’s gone so far that even the performers can’t believe it!” Frazell said. “And they all refer to the First Amendment. They say if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Well, I’m not trying to be a censor. I listened to hard rock every day as a kid, and if I had MTV back then I would have been addicted to it, too. What young teen-ager wouldn’t be attracted by all the sexuality and attitude? Which is why parents have to be aware. They have to listen to CDs the way their kids do, which is to play them three times in a row and loud. They have to watch an entire night of MTV as their kids do in their rooms. Then maybe they’ll understand why music is such a powerful influence on their kids.”
Judging by his busy schedule, Frazell’s zealous crusade is winning converts. He’s given 275 presentations around the country during the last seven years, and gets three to four new requests a week from various groups willing to pay his expenses in lieu of a speaker’s fee. Last month he was in Nashville; next week he’ll be in Kansas, then Connecticut and Alabama. And while he admits that all that traveling sometimes takes its toll, he doesn’t believe he has much choice in the matter.
“Parenting is the toughest job in America,” he said. “And as I’ve told thousands of parents across the country, I wish there were a real Gilligan’s Island somewhere so I could pack up my family and move there. But you can’t run away from the real world, so I just do what I can.”
Tom Weber’s column appears Wednesday and Saturday.