Does Heavy Metal Corrupt Youth


Does Heavy Metal Corrupt Youth? Essay, Research Paper

Musical preferences are as diverse as the people who listen to

it. Different types of music have different reputations. Heavy metal

music is often labeled as “negative.” Yet others find it a harmless

form of music. The argument presented in this paper will show that

heavy metal music poses no threat to the well-being of its listeners.

Like other types of music, such as jazz, blues, and even rap. The

distinct style of heavy metal music can be grouped into three main

sections (Ratliff 1). One popular style of heavy metal is death metal.

Death metal has a more dark sound and eerie style than other forms of

heavy metal. The music itself is fast, heavy, and loud. The images

that death metal portrays are death, doom, destruction, suicide, sex,

and drugs. Some see these images as harmful or having a negative

effect on the listener (Halbersberg 1). Another form of heavy metal

music is speed metal. Speed metal has a more upbeat sound than death

metal and is not as depressing as death metal. It is fast paced and

has a hard impact The lead guitar follows a frenetic pace. This is in

contrast to death metal which emphasizes rhythm guitar (Graff 3). The

last type of heavy metal music is thrash metal. The name refers to

both the thrashing sound of the music and the flailing movement of its

listeners. The sound is very loud and has the same tone and style of

speed metal (Graff 3). These styles however, attract certain people.

The majority of people who listen to heavy metal music are

suburban white males. These males range in ages between 14-24. They

have a certain style of dress and way of life. They wear dark

clothing with morbid images of death and destruction. This clothing

can be seen to be a costume that advertises the teens’ musical

preference. It is a way of getting attention. Surprisingly, even

though the crowds tend to be young, adults are also seen at these

concerts. One example of an adult and a parent is Dave Mullins. He

likes to take his sons to see death metal shows.(Graff 1) Mullins says

about death metal, “I did see one band that had a clear bag with a

fetus inside it. It looked gross, but it was just a gag. When I’m

watching the kids, they’re just letting off steam. When I was a kid,

we used to beat people up after school. This seems better to me.”

(Graff 1) Of course, not all parents agree with Mullins.

Parents want the best for their children, but sometimes their

efforts are not beneficial. When parents nag their children about what

they should and should not listen to, kids can become angry and

depressed. This possibly can lead to drinking and drug use, and

suicide. Parents can blame this behavior on the music that their kids

are listening to. A group of parents formed the Parent Music Resource

Center in the 80’s (Gonzales 1). Even the Vice-presidents wife, Tipper

Gore, got involved. She led the center in the fight against heavy

metal music. The center’s main goals were to destroy heavy metal music

and all other music that had a negative message. They were effective

in banning some groups from record stores and canceling some concerts.

However, Tipper Gore’s mission failed to kill off heavy metal music.

The Parent Music Resource Center still exists, but it is not as

powerful as it once was (Gonzales 3). This group never examined

whether heavy metal music could be a healthy outlet for aggrssion.

A well known psychologist from Durham, Stephanie Pinder-Amaker,

said that music can influence a person’s state of mind. In her studies

she found that “if people listen to music that is faster than their

heart rate, such as heavy metal, it increases the heart rate. If

you’re trying to increase your energy level, it might be a good way to

generate excitement.” (Freelon 1) Heavy metal music by increasing the

heart rate of its listeners can be seen as a form of exercise or a

physical release.

Studies have been done on the effect of heavy metal music. Roe

and King, child psychiatrists at the University of Iowa examined the

effects of heavy metal music on teenagers social behavior. These

studies show that many teens who thought seriously about suicide and

abused drugs listened to heavy metal, but they also showed no direct

connection between the music and these actions.(Freelon 2) Another

recent survey done by the University of Iowa reported that teenage

female hard rock fans thought about suicide more often than people

that listened to other types of music. However most of the females who

thought about suicide were too scared of dying to try it.(Freelon 2)

One positive effect of this music was that even if the teenager was

feeling bad and low, listening to his or her favorite music helped him

or her feel better again.(Freelon 2)

In another test, teens and their parents were surveyed to

investigate the association between heavy metal music and teens’

social function. The people taking the survey were asked about current

and past psychological functioning, as well as their music

preferences. The results indicated that teens who preferred heavy

metal music had a higher incidence of below-average school grades,

school behavior problems, sexual activity, drug and alcohol use, and

arrests. Despite this, it was evident that the teens’ home lives were

stable with two parents, good living conditions and sound financial

status.(Took 1) Although it seems that heavy metal music was

corrupting teens’ lives, there was no direct correlation between poor

behavior and heavy metal music. Some listeners do not always

understand what they are listening to.

One study group, Prinsky and Rosenbaum, found that many teens who

listen to heavy metal music misinterpreted the lyrics.

This misinterpretation was said to be due to the teens’ limited life

experience and immature development. Unlike adults, who find

references to sex, violence, drugs and Satan, teens tended to

interpret the lyrics of their favorite songs as being about love,

politics, growing up, friendship, and other appropriate subjects.

Many people do not take this music seriously. Brian Slagel, CEO

of Metal Blade Records, says:

I think the genre as a whole is serious in wanting to shock

people, but it also has its tongue planted in its cheek.

These bands don’t do cannibalistic things, they do not

worship Satan. They don’t do all the things people think

they do. If you take it seriously, you’re further off the

deep end than most people, I think.”

In other words, the content can be discounted because it is not meant

to be taken literally. On stage, groups of death metal sing about

Satan, societal ills, cannibalism and sex with rotting corpses. But to

fans its entertainment. “It’s good violent fun,” says Ron Holt, 26, a

death metal fan. “Its like seeing Jason slash someone’s head off; it

helps me release my aggressions, but it doesn’t mean i’m going to go

out and do it.” David Horn, from Metal Blade Records, says:

The difference between this type of music and something

like gangsta rap, is that heavy metal is pretty much

firmly based in fantasy…I don’t think a song about some

mystical war or slaying a barbarian poses as much of a

threat as far as influencing people.

In conclusion, heavy metal music, while much maligned, has not

been found to seriously damage listeners’ lives. Yes, it is violent

and depicts images of doom and destruction, but it should not be

interpreted as a negative influence on its listeners. Teens will

continue to listen to music their parents do not care for. Heavy metal

music can be healthy for the mind psychologically as well as

physically. When people look at heavy metal music, they should not see

it as a negative influence, but as a therapeutic release for teenage

energy or angst.


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