Are we corrupting our children? The debate about raunchy lyrics (yes there is one)

When I was ten, my favourite tape (yes, I am that old. I was buying tapes well into late teens. I still regret the unfortunate advent of CDs- stupid technology) was the soundtrack of Grease. In fact, I remember going directly from the soundtrack of the movie Annie, full of funny and moving songs about the depression-era red-headed orphan and her Daddy Warbucks, to the raunchy musical based on the 50s high school schism between jocks and greasers. Many a sleepover I spent with my friend, re-enacting  Grease Lightning. 

For those of you who have forgotten the lyrics to this charming classic, here they are:

Well this car is automatic, it’s systematic, it’s hydromatic
Why it’s greased lightnin’!

We’ll get some overhead lifters, and four barrel quads, oh yeah
Keep talkin’, whoah keep talkin’
Fuel injection cut off, and chrome plated rods, oh yeah
I’ll get the money, I’ll see you get the money
With a four-speed on the floor, they’ll be waitin’ at the door
You know that ain’t shit when we’ll be gettin’ lots of tit in greased lightnin’
Go, greased lightnin’, you’re burnin’ up the quarter mile
Greased lightnin’, go greased lightnin’
Go, greased lightnin’, you’re coastin’ through the heat lap trials
Greased lightnin’, go greased lightnin’
You are supreme, the chicks’ll cream for greased lightnin’

We’ll get some purple French tail lights and thirty-inch fins, oh yeah
A palomino dashboard and duel muffler twins, oh yeah
With new pistons, plugs, and shocks, I can get off my rocks
You know that I ain’t braggin’, she’s a real pussy wagon – greased lightnin’

chorus repeats 2x

And here is the scene from the movie:

Now, did my ten year old self know what they meant by “gettin’ lots of tit” or “the chicks’ll cream for greased lightnin'” or “She’s a real pussy wagon”?

Nope. In fact, it wasn’t until I had the bright idea to watch the movie with my children, who at the time were in their single digits, did I realise just how raunchy it was.

Pause for a moment of parental shame and sheep-facedness.

It was too late, of course. They were entranced just as much as I was at their age with the Pink ladies, the floofy skirts and  of course, that snappy hand jive. To make a fuss over the lyrics they repeated without knowing what they meant would mean, ahem, telling them what they meant. Better just let them have their fun. Enjoy the music for its own sake without making too much of a fuss and hope no ultra-conservative parental watchdog heard them repeat lines about pussy wagons. This dilemma also came up when my sister gave a CD of Lady Gaga to one of them for their birthday. “Wann take a ride on my disco stick?” Let’s just take that one at face value, kay? Yes dear, it is like a pogo stick but with shiny mirrors like a disco ball.

Now, I guess my question is, was this wrong? Should I have been more alert? Screened this childhood classic of mine for inappropriate material before exposing the innocent, delicate minds of my children to it? Or, once exposed, should I have paused the song and explained exactly why a pussy wagon is not very feminist?

The reason I’m thinking about this is because a friend sent me a link to this article discussing the latest (or probably passé by now) youtube sensation, the two five-year olds who sing Nicki Minaj’s hit “Super bass”. The article gives you Minaj’s video of Super Bass as well as the Youtube one of the little girls, thankfully releasing me from the burden of having to show it myself. 

You might call this hypocritical as I am showing Greased Lightning, but it is really a matter of taste. I don’t particularly like the Minaj song but have had it in my head since I watched it days ago (curse you friend who sent it to me. Curse you). I leave it up to my gentle readers whether they want to watch them or not.

Suffice it to say, the Nicki Minaj lyrics are inappropriate for five-year olds. (In fact, I understood only a third of them myself, but I think that is a polar opposite generational problem). Nicki herself knows it and in her defense, did not intend the song to be listened to by the toddler set. But the girls must have heard somewhere and got seduced by that, yes, I’ll admit it, seductive super bass. And, as little girls do, decided to dressup in their pink leotards and tutus, tiaras and all and perform the song for their parents. Their parents, being of the proud, video recording sort, video taped  it and immediately uploaded it to youtube.

The article is an opinion piece about the conflicted reaction of the writer to this. On the one hand, it is cute to watch the little five year old rap and sing competently (as well as her friend, who stands there making awesome faces and gyrating a little). On the one hand, it makes me deeply uncomfortable to see anyone, let alone a small child, make the appropriate hand gesture to “And yes you’ll get slapped if you’re lookin’ ho”. 

My general feeling about this is that kids will understand about as much as they are ready to understand about the lyrics, so long as we don’t go out of our way to make more of a deal of it than necessary. Because at age five, a line like “Then the panties comin’ off” will probably be thought of as a going potty reference, if thought about at all.

Now what worries more is the lack of musical taste in the parents. Perhaps we could form a committee or something- Parents against Stupid Music. PASM. We need another S…How about Sententious Parents Against Stupid Music: SPASM?

Oh and, in my opinion, the poor judgment in putting their five year olds for the world to see on youtube is a tad alarming, though a very popular practice. But then again, the girls received major swag, including a trip to the states and a spot on Ellen as well as a surprise visit from Nicki herself, so who am I to say anything?
What do you think? Are we corrupting our children? I mean more than parents do anyway?

4 thoughts on “Are we corrupting our children? The debate about raunchy lyrics (yes there is one)

  1. I think I've whined to you before about adults who pay no attention to song lyrics for their weddings. I edit too many of them and my eyes are tired of young couples doing things without thinking.

    There is the christian couple that entered their reception to Cotton Eyed Joe – originally an american civil war era song about either a wandering rogue of a man or, more likely if you listen closely enough, a travelling abortionist. Either interpretation, or just listening to the lyrics, should have determined that this was highly inappropriate.

    And then it vexes me further how the lectures from the religious officiant at weddings can be ignored by what seem like otherwise modern independent women… willing to agree to (and this is a quote, cause I've heard it a few times) “submit to my husband as we submit to the church.”

    That would be more than enough for me to get up and walk out. In fact, every time I'm behind the camera, my head pokes out from the side eager to see with my own eyes if the man or woman will stop and say “what did you just say I have to do now?”

    I know this seems off topic, but many of these couples are only 10 years older than yours and they aren't considering what is being said, what is being sung, what they are agreeing to in front of friends and family, all said with a smile on their faces.

    I never know when it is appropriate to learn the true meaning of lyrics. I suppose kids should just be left to innocence and discover how dirty lyrics are later in life…. as I did and do so often.

    See…. I wrote a lot and offered no solution at all. But I put off going to work for a further 15 minutes.

  2. okay …

    1) My grandfather and my mother both had the philosophy that childen should read whatever they wanted to — that their primal intellect (or whatever) had an innate understanding of what they were ready for. I think I believe this too — despite some traumatic moments with novels that showed my glimpses of a world I had never suspected existed, and that filled me with disgust and horror.

    2) I look forward to your posts like I look forward to a new novel by a favourite novelist. You are so articulate and aware — so willing to be open about your own human frailty — and you manage to be so freaking funny about it all (too may so's, I know). Anyway, just thought I would let you know that you are becoming one of my favourite authors.


  3. Bronwen, just so you know, I have been coasting on that compliment all day- thank you so much for the kind words.

    Oh and a little aside it was especially wonderful since I just read a quote from you endorsing Angie Abdou's The Bone Cage. At least I think it was you…

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