24 May 2009

Green Day – American Idiots

I was not surprised at all to learn that the band Green Day was upset with retailer WalMart for not selling the band’s latest album. I suppose the boys in the band feel that they are now big enough that they should be exempt from the chain’s policy to not sell albums which carry parental advisory labels. The AP story even claims that this and their previous offering dealt with “weighty topics”. Weighty indeed; I’m sure it’s a cerebral, musical tome concerning themes such as, as the AP puts it, “the loss of innocence and confusion in today's society”. Apparently there is enough of both to land a parental advisory label on the compact disc. Who would think that obscenities – which I’m guessing is why the disc has the PA label – would properly punctuate commentary on “the loss of innocence”?

It seems to me that Green Day has a bit of confusion about the marketplace. What Mr. Armstrong and his band mates don’t seem to understand is that no store, no matter how big it is, is legally or morally bound to sell their album or any album regardless of the reason. If WalMart doesn’t want to sell music by bands whose names begin with the letter “g”, they are free to do that, with the understanding that they cannot complain about the potential loss of revenue.

Mr. Dirnt, Mr. Armstrong’s band mate, claims that WalMart “should probably have an obligation to sell people the correct art.” Another idiotic statement. Neither WalMart nor any other retailer is or should be required to sell anything – certainly not the “correct” version thereof. Mr. Dirnt and Mr. Armstrong are free to open their own stores in which they can choose to sell the “correct” versions of all of the “art” they choose to stock. I’m sure they won’t choose to censor anyone who, say, differs significantly with the Green Day’s political views. On the other hand, the band mates might just see fit to deem those views as “incorrect” or “not artful”.

But the big laugh occurs at the end of the AP piece. Mr. Armstrong questions “I mean, what does [WalMart’s censorship rule] say to a young kid who's trying to speak his mind making a record for the first time?” It says that perhaps upholding some modicum of decency is important, at least in some public situations. And while I may think that WalMart’s willingness to carry “clean” versions of compact discs is a bit cheesy – I mean, filling in the blanks on a “cleaned” version is a very easy exercise – it is at least a step toward non-governmental enforcement of basic decency. What it might suggest, however quietly, to the kid recording his first music is to think before he “speak[s] his mind”. A novel idea, that; nothing idiotic about it.

No comments: