Art & Government: Bad Romance

Lady Gaga

Photo by Naomi Lir — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Are artists worth listening to? Only after dark.

At least that’s one conclusion to draw from the British Home Office, which commissioned Dr. Linda Papadopoulos to examine the sexualization of young people in media, entertainment, and the arts.

As posted this week in KadmusArts’ Culture News, the Guardian’s coverage of Dr. Papadopoulos’ one hundred page report focused on one key recommendation: require broadcasters to ensure that music videos featuring sexual posing or sexually suggestive lyrics only be available after 9:00 PM.

Go ahead and quickly run through the songs and performers this kind of government approach would cover. Doesn’t most of our popular music for over the last century contain “sexually suggestive lyrics”? Don’t even think about reading the ancient Greeks.

Dr. Papadopoulos, from the London Metropolitan University, is a psychologist commonly known as “Dr. Linda.” Her website — “Hi! I’m Dr. Linda and welcome to my Website. I’m really excited about my new website. We spent a lot time designing this and I’m having a great time using it and I hope you’ll find it enjoyable and informative too!” — encourages you to check out her current media schedule. After all, “Dr. Linda is not only Cosmopolitan magazine’s resident psychologist and a contributing editor, but she also writes a hugely-popular monthly column and interviews celebrities for the magazine’s celebrity-feature articles.”

Oh, wow! Except for that whole not liking or understanding arts thing, she’s really cool!

Like Dr. Linda, I, too, am a parent who pays a lot of attention to my fourteen year old daughter’s engagement with contemporary culture. Like Dr. Linda I, too, am supportive of any initiative that helps address the horrific crimes of violence against women and girls. The difference is that after reading Dr. Linda’s report, I believe my daughter has a better understanding of artistic expression and its impact.

Dr. Linda and her team “reviewed hundreds of articles from the fields of psychology, sociology, education, politics and media… interviewed people working on the front-line with abused children and abusers… spoken to young people, parents, teachers, clinicians, academics, policy-makers and lobbyists.”

Did you notice a representative group that’s missing? How about speaking to the artists who create the work the academics find inappropriate and appalling?

Wouldn’t art producers, from museum directors (with all those naked and idealized bodies!) to novelists (Philip Roth, what have you done to us for all these years!) to song writers (Lady Gaga, how could you want his psycho, his vertical stick?), have something significant to contribute to this kind of “independent review”?

Yet, again, a group of academics believes that artists do not really understand their own work or its ramifications. Moreover, most of the artists they object to are much closer to the age and experience of young people than the academics doing the scolding. Isn’t it possible, as in so many other ages, artists are merely reflecting the times in which we live?

Besides, in our age of online access, quarantining certain material to a time period after 9:00 pm is not a great solution to any problem of creation and distribution.

Even if one chooses to ignore the history of art, one ignores political history at great peril. Any time a government proposes that controlling artistic expression is the solution to a society ill, we should be concerned. Any time a government believes artists to be a cause of society’s ills and not just voices reflecting their own experience, we should be vigilant.

The history of governments restraining artists is a lot worse than the history of artists restraining government.

Another of the report’s key recommendations is to continue to fund all of their research, along with the requisite new academic periodical. Here’s hoping Dr. Linda and her team do get the funding. Maybe the team will be able to learn a little bit more about the history of art, and even have the chance to ask artists what they know about what they do.

Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah, Roma, Roma-ma, GaGa, ooh la la, Want your bad romance, indeed.

- Bill Reichblum

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3 Responses to “Art & Government: Bad Romance”

  1. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Dr. Linda v Art, continued
    March 1st, 2010 23:13

    [...] Guardian Art & Government: Bad Romance [...]

  2. My membership Empire Bonus
    April 5th, 2010 13:47

    do you care if i use your reference in my blog.

  3. Bill
    April 6th, 2010 19:54

    of course, references welcome — and other points of view!

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