Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Aug. 28, 2006)

Pop Culture still under attack

  By John Martin

Popular culture took a double hit this past week with two studies blasting professional wrestling and rap music.

Researchers at Harvard Universityís School of Public Health released data that suggested teens who regularly watched wrestling on TV were more likely to behave violently with their peers than kids who flipped the channel to something else.  The study further concluded that girls were even more influenced by shows like Raw and Smackdown than were boys.

Meanwhile, the Rand Corporation published a study concluding teens that listen to music with raunchy lyrics start having sex sooner.  Rap and Hip Hop were singled out for their sexually explicit content.

I hate to break it to these guys, but televised wrestling and sexually laden lyrics are hardly recent phenomenon.

Pro wrestling was a staple on network television in the fifties and sixties.  And itís popularity played a major role in making the TV an enduring regularity of contemporary life.  Teen violence, juvenile delinquency and televised wrestling have coexisted for over half a century.  Years ago it was Gene Kiniski and Whipper Billy Watson.  Today itís Kurt Angle and Triple H.

And anyone who thinks todayís rap artists invented raunchy lyrics should check out the great blues men of days gone by.  Mississippi John Hurt was singing about a stick of candy nine inches long that the ladies couldnít keep their hands off of in Candyman decades before Eminem was born.

Thereís no denying much contemporary music glorifies drugs, misogyny and breaking the law. 

But itís all been done before.  In 1968 Johnny Cash recorded Cocaine Blues in which he snorts coke, shoots his unfaithful woman, gets nabbed after running from the law and is sentenced to 99 years in San Quentin.

And that was based on a Clarence Ashley song from the 20ís called Little Sadie.

No doubt, in many cases the lyrical content and graphic portrayals of violence is cause for concern.  The envelope keeps getting pushed and thereís bound to be some negative consequences.  But blaming entertainment and media is taking the easy way out. 

There are some very serious social trends fuelling juvenile delinquency.  Parents are much less likely to have a clue where their kids are at two in the morning.  Illegal drug use is becoming accepted and normalized.  The courts have cast the concepts of accountability and responsibility aside.  Anyone stressing morality and decency is dismissed as a religous zealot.

By blaming rappers and wrestlers we become distracted from the much more complex issues that may require some pain staking analysis and re-evaluation.

More likely, the gutter content in todayís media and entertainment is a symptom of the times.  Not the cause.



John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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