Culture has been corroding young minds and horrifying parents ever since Mozart wrote Le Nozze di Figaro, complete with a randy count and a who's-yo-mama subplot. More recent examples might include Elvis and his hips, or Madonna and, well, herself.
It's an old, old story. But some people can't seem to stop telling it.
A case in point is news commentator/professional old coot Bill O'Reilly's interview of shock rocker Marilyn Manson for the recent O'Reilly special, "The Corruption of the American Child." Marilyn Manson is so 1999. Yawn.
The show on the evils of pop culture ran on Fox, the same network that has brought viewers such wholesome classics as Celebrity Boxing, Glutton Bowl, and Temptation Island. I first saw a commercial for O'Reilly's special while watching Greg the Bunny, a Fox show that features adorable, fuzzy puppets swearing, farting in their bathwater, and staggering around drunk.
The irony of airing his moralistic special on dirty ol' Fox was clearly lost upon O'Reilly, who only made one mention of the network's egregious, if entertaining, ways: "All the networks, including Fox, present adult situations to children."
Change "including" to "especially" and you might have something closer to the truth.
You might call this Fox-O'Reilly conundrum the "devil-divine dialectic": Hysteria about nonexistent Satan worshippers often occurs in very Christian towns. So perhaps it's only appropriate that the Sodom and Gomorrah that are Fox should have its own preacher of cultural fire-and-brimstone. It's even more perfect that O'Reilly's special displayed scads of the offending heaving bosoms, bloody gore, and booty shots that he claimed to be protesting. He was truly preaching against sin, Fox-style.
"This special is not designed for preteens, so if they're in the room, you might want to ask them to leave," O'Reilly intoned.
If there were any unsupervised preteens in the house, they definitely stuck around to watch O'Reilly's smorgasbord, including "rage rockers" the Insane Clown Posse (ICP), naughty footage from American Pie 2, and images from Internet porn sites.
The opening interview with the ICP yielded few memorable moments, other than when O'Reilly displayed some choice ICP lyrics, including: "I stabbed a fat guy in the butt."
"These songs they're strictly entertainment," said Violent J, a largish man dolled up in clown makeup. "I'm guaranteeing you whatever you listen to, I don't find entertaining."
Things heated up when O'Reilly donned a hideous, offensive accent to announce the segment on rap music: "Inner-city rap and kids: What's up with that?"
Rap and its glorification of drugs, guns, and the pimpin' lifestyle, O'Reilly charged, are "not exactly a recipe for success for children trapped in poverty." "Sixty-three percent of black fourth-graders cannot read," he said to Russell Simmons, founder and chairman of Def Jam Records. "Rap won't help them lift themselves out of poverty."
I slipped into a reverie about O'Reilly giving Guns 'n' Roses, the musical juggernauts of my Midwestern youth, a talking-to. "Many of your fans are glue-sniffing white teens who have no future outside of minimum-wage jobs," he said. "Your immigrant- and gay-hating music won't make them stop hating, won't give them decent jobs outside of McDonald's. They're spending their money on incredibly ugly acid-washed jeans and bandannas instead."
Whoops, my bad. It's only black musicians who have an obligation to be uplifting.
I snapped out of my daydream to hear Russell Simmons deliver one of the hour's rare words of wisdom: "The war on poverty is a much greater war than the war on music."
But O'Reilly, unfazed, continued to harp on gangsta rap, labeling a whole genre of music by one of its subsets. Rock music happily escaped this treatment -- when he was trashing ICP and Marilyn Manson, he had the courtesy to label their music "shock rock." He also neglected to mention that with rap and hip hop's booming popularity, most of their audiences are not "these people," but white teens.
Whoops, his bad.
O'Reilly did score some points between the blunders, like comparing Hollywood tactics to market R-rated films to those under 17 with tobacco company ploys to hook the next generation of smokers. He summoned up viewers' gag reflex by discussing the online North American Man/Boy Love Association. And he even targeted bad parents by focusing on the rabid screaming and assaults that have marred the idyllic childhood joys of Little League.
But then "cringe radio" personalities Opie & Anthony, who had the temerity to call themselves "artists," sank O'Reilly's credibility completely when they asked, "Do you have any proof that we're corrupting society?" O'Reilly admitted, "I have no proof."
He did, however, have lots of waggling butts, potty mouths, and World Wrestling Federation scenes to go along with his hair-raising, alarmist, and conspiracy-laden (Hollywood! The music industry! The Internet! Are out to get our children!) harangue. Whatever else you might say about his moralism, on O'Reilly's segment there could be no doubt that the two sides of Fox -- the sex and violence part, and the lurid X-Files part -- had at last been reunited.