Written: 25 July, 2000

Yesterday at work, I got a phone call from someone who wanted to know if we had the "clean" version of the Sisquo CD. Sisquo is a very popular rapper whose biggest song is called "Thong Song," which concerns thong bikini wear. I looked through the Sisquo CDs and saw that most of them carried a Parental Advisory sticker, but that two of them didn't and had a small label saying "EDITED" next to the price (which was a dollar more than the regular version, incidentally). So, I told the caller that we had the edited version.

Later I get a call from another store employee saying that a customer needs help finding a Sisquo CD that I'd said we had. It was apparently the husband of the lady who called. He had come to the store to get the CD, but couldn't find it. I found the edited CD for him, and he said thanks, mentioning that he needed the clean version because it was for his 10 year old.

So, I walked away, but after about 30 seconds of thinking about the matter, I went back to the man and told him that he might want to listen to the CD himself before simply giving it to his 10 year old. I tried to explain that just because it was the edited version -- the version that didn't "require" (labeling is voluntary) a Parental Advisory sticker -- didn't necessarily mean that it was totally "clean," or that it was automatically appropriate for a 10 year old. I explained that the Parental Advisory seems (I say "seems" because I don't know for sure) to mean that the CD has multiple usage of profanity and so on, because I know of some CDs that have one or two usages of profanity and which don't get the Parental Advisory sticker.

But the customer didn't seem too concerned about it, and seemed to think he was being a "responsible" parent since he was getting his kid the "clean" version. Maybe he's right, I dunno.

I went to the RIAA's website trying to find out more about the Parental Advisory sticker, but didn't find too much. I found the following article on their website to be curious, because it raised a couple questions in my mind about the Parental Advisory label.

The writer of the article says that he was embarrassed when he was a teenager by the Woodstock album because he was playing it with his parents present and someone on the album spelled out the F-word. As a result, "we were never to buy or listen to it again."

The article writer then moves ahead to the present day, and his 10 year old son "wanted a CD by some artist named Eminem." But the Eminem CD had a Parental Advisory sticker and so both the dad and the store clerk felt it wasn't suitable for the 10 year old kid. "I explained that he could choose from thousands of CDs, but not the dozen or so that had the parental advisory label. He had to compromise. It took some time, but finally he chose an acceptable CD."

But this raises the question of whether the edited version of the Eminem CD would have been acceptable for the 10 year old. Why didn't the writer mention that scenario? And if even the edited version of Eminem is something you wouldn't want your 10 year old to listen to, then how is one to know whether any of the non-labeled CDs is acceptable or not? After all, any of those CDs which didn't carry the Parental sticker could have still contained inappropriate content. Why should the writer of the article be so confident that the non-sticker CDs were appropriate for his kid?

I noticed at the CDNow entry for the edited version of Sisquo's CD includes a song titled "So Sexual." Wonder what that song is about? I wonder what would have happened if I'd pointed out the title of that song to the customer who wanted it for his 10 year old yesterday. Would he have stopped and wondered if he should buy the CD for his child, or would he have just shrugged it off as being no big deal since, after all, the CD must be okay because it's the "clean" version, that determination having been made simply because it didn't have a Parental Advisory sticker?

I don't buy many CDs, but I recall in 1999 buying XTC's recent Apple Venus Vol. One, which didn't have a Parental Advisory sticker. But one of the songs spells out the F-word, just like that Woodstock album the writer of the article had mentioned (and he was a teenager at the time, not 10 years old). So, would Apple Venus Vol. One be appropriate for his 10 year old child, since it has no Parental Advisory sticker? That's the impression he gives in his article, that the kid was allowed to get only those CDs that didn't have the sticker.

My personal opinion is that people mistakenly think that the absence of a Parental Advisory sticker means that it is suitable for all ages. I disagree with that notion. And since people think this way, they are letting their kids listen to material that may be inapporpriate for them. I think that parents should want to protect their kids from bad influences, but today's parents are giving their seal of approval (or at least doing nothing to discourage) to material that may be inappropriate for their children. And that bothers me.