Gary James' Interview With
Tipper Gore


The name Tipper Gore is no doubt familiar to fans of both hard rock and heavy metal. Mrs. Gore is the 2nd Vice-President of the Parents Music Resource Center or P.M.R.C. for short. It is the contention of Mrs. Gore and the other women who founded the P.M.R.C. some 3 years ago, that certain rock lyrics are promoting explicit sex and violence. To bring public attention to the matter, the P.M.R.C. was formed. The outcry was immediate, especially from some musicians who thought the organization's motives were political. Still others thought the whole idea smacked of censorship. Why was the P.M.R.C. formed? Is the organization's goal to stop rock 'n' roll? We went straight to the source - Mrs. Tipper Gore herself for the answers.

Q - Many people believe that the P.M.R.C. was formed, because you and the other members who make it up, were bored housewives who had nothing better to do. Why did you start the P.M.R.C?

A - The Parents Music Resource Center was formed because we were mothers of younger children. We noticed that at 6 and 8 they were starting to ask questions about music videos they saw or lyrics they heard. That's fine. The concern is not that I don't want to communicate with my child about anything. I happen to be very open and feel that parents should communicate for more, about sex and all kinds of controversial or disturbing themes, when the child is ready to deal with it. But, I get a little angry with rock stars or someone in the public domain setting the agenda and my kid coming up and asking me why somebody is being chased with a whip and without many clothes on, sadism, or that kind of menacing image they pick up from a music video. So this is what happened two years ago. My children (I have four); I was letting them watch MTV anytime they wanted, because it was music. There wasn't any problem with that in my mind. At that time, there was Van Halen's 'Hot, For Teacher', Motley Crue's 'Looks That Kill', The Scorpions 'Rock You Like A Hurricane - I mean there were some very violent images. Through the eyes of a 6 or 8 year old, when they see these scantily clad women kind of rounded up by the band members and put in cages, and there's whips, and there's a sort of menace and there's sort of a sexuality, they pick up on that. They pick up on the weirdness. They ask you. Great, I'm explaining short-of sadism to my 6 or 8 year old. And I'm going, I'm not letting her watch Miami Vice and yet look what she just saw on MTV. Granted, that many of the videos were positive, and innoviative and terrific and just plain fun; I have no problem wtih that, but, mixed in were some I was noticing were very degrading; the woman as a sex object. I mean that was pretty standard fare. And, in the Van Halen video, 'Hot For Teacher', my kids said, "Mom, why is the teacher taking off her clothes? How come there are only boys in the classroom?" A 16 year old might laugh at that, but they have a real different view of it. They really were a little disturbed by the over sexism. And again, the 16 year old might laugh and think it's campy entertainment and so what's the big deal, why is anybody upset. But to that I would say, as we continue to just make women into sex objects, particulary for the next generation with kids, how healthy is this? It's not that you're going to have this perfect, pristine society where everybody's equal, but we need to work towards that. That's why people are concerned about it, because it's become of comic book proportions now. You turn on MTV, and you get a big dose of sexism. I think you also get it in television. It's not just the music. Most people my age, and I'm 38, grew up with rock and roll. There were always some songs on the cutting edge. We knew that. But, you didn't have this proliferation of songs that were becoming more explicit and dealing with violence, brutality against women, rape, like the Moley Crue song. They have several songs about forcing sex with women, or rape. It sounds like it's rape. It's not that we're anti-rock music at all, 'cause I still like it. I don't have any of those bings that I think existed perhaps a generation ago. So, a lot of times people say, isn't this just a generational agrument, and aren't you jut a fuddy-dudddy parent. I'm really not, and neither are a lot of folks that are concerned. They actually like the music.

Q - What's your reaction to the idea that the P.M.R.C. can actually encourage people to buy a certain record when you speak out against it?

A - Well, we felt that was going to be a minor consequence of drawing attention to this and that it was far more important to alert parents to the graphic changes in the content that most people were not aware and that was going to be one of the prices we were going to pay. We didn't feel it would attract all that much attention to these groups.

Q - But it has.

A - I think it's fortunate. One of the issues we discussed with the recording industry was that the warning label if they chose to use that as opposed to the lyrics, would not be some large come on, on the front like, 'Buy me, dirty lyrics,' kind of thing. That's why we asked them very specifically to make it a boxed inscription on back of the albums, that consumers would be educated to look for. As much as we have been accused of wanting to censor or supporess, we do not. We think this should have the right to exist, but we would like people to be forwarned about it in the marketplace. So really, the only way we can approach this in our free society is by drawing attention to it and talking about it and hoping to stimulate debate and discussion and a really educated public and getting the kids to to talk about it.

Q - With all that's been said and done by the P.M.R.C. these last few years, it would appear that it's still business as usual, as far as the record companies are concerned. Do you see a change, and if so, what is that change?

A - I do. There's a new awareness, a new sensitivity about the possible impact. Yes, there is also business as usual, and you've got a continued case of cultural strip mining, companies willing to sell the bottom line of explicit violence and sex to kids and ignorning the impact of the scar, just taking the money and heading for the hills. But, there definitely is a new awareness and I think it's a direct result of our work. One of the big problems, all along is that parents have been apathetic and have allowed this to develop. If more people had offered feedback earlier on, it wouldn't have gotten quite this bad. I have this philosophy about politics, about everything, that we are all responsible for the society we're-creating. We all have a part in it. People should not be apathetic. They should be involved.

Q - Have you ever attended a metal concert?

A - No, I have not.

Q - Is there a particular reason for that? Wouldn't you like to see the stage show of some of these groups?

A - Yes I would. In fact, that's something we've been planning to do. Slayer played here at the Warner Theatre (in Washington, D.C.) and I wanted to go and see that. I had heard reports from some parents in San Antonio who had gone to see their concert and I wanted to go and see if they were doing the same kinds of things. I couldn't make it whenever the date was.

Q - Frank Zappa has stated "The P.M.R.C. has demanded that the record companies reassess the contract of those groups who do things on stage that they don't approve of." Is there any truth to that?

A - No. Absolutely none. I can't believe he's sending that out. Oh, my God! That makes me really sick to my stomach.

© Gary James. All rights reserved.