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Music videos influence our thoughts and acts

Column/Elliot Marx




Tom Wilson's assertion ["Popular music has many more merits than simple popularity," Nov. 1] is a somewhat naive description of the positive aspects of pop music. Pop music is not all bad -- I enjoy music written by the Police, Prince and Madonna -- but its recent popularization on MTV has negative aspects that Wilson has failed to deal with.

Until a few years ago, listening to pop music was mainly just an aural experience. The visual aspects of the musicians' performances were unnoticed except in movies and rock concerts.

Now we have MTV, and pop music has become a visual phenomenon. With this additional sensory stimulus, it is influencing the ways we think and act more than ever before.

For young children, this effect can be extremely damaging. Young children often have trouble distinguishing between reality and fantasy, right and wrong. They do not have enough personal experience to compare what they see on TV with real life. As a camp counselor last summer, I observed many of my five-year-old kids emulating He-Man, punching others and showing how tough they are. They had no concept of the impropriety of such behavior. MTV only encourages this sort of behavior with its violence.

As young adults, we become conscious of the inappropriateness of the violent behavior depicted on TV. But we still act out the personalities of many TV characters we see.

Whenever I watch a situation comedy TV show, I cannot help but laugh at the vanity and superficiality of the characters. My amusement turns to disgust once I notice that people often act like them in real life.

I have fallen into this trap. In high school, I thought that boy-girl relationships were spontaneous just like they are in the movies. Acting on these beliefs, I suffered a great deal of disappointment. I still have trouble getting rid of this false notion.

MTV is not much of a help. Lust and violence seems to be what prevails ineveryone's life but my own, not to mention in most videos. When we constantly see these programs, we come to take such behavior for granted.

TV, especially with the added glamour of MTV, will control our lives more than ever before. Many of us already are robots programmed by what we see on the video screen. We lose our individuality; many of our interests may be superceded by those shown to be "cool:" partying, drinking and picking up girls. We will become a society of followers, not leaders.

Kurt Vonnegut, in his story "Who Am I This Time?" from Welcome to the Monkey House, depicts two characters who are "robots" influenced by the media. In the story, Vonnegut depicts the characters acting out a play. They are excellent actors, displaying much emotion; they are best in love scenes. Once the play is over, however, they first avoid each other. They do not know how to love each other in real life. But after having acted in many plays together, they get married.

Amusingly enough, their marriage holds together because they relate to each other strictly by acting out plays such as Romeo and Juliet; outside of acting, they are incapable of relating to each other.

Many people in our society relate to each other by putting on acts. Our relationships end up being meaningless. MTV can only make such occurrences more common. People will emulate MTV characters just as they have TV characters.

Please, let us enjoy pop music for its musical quality and take it out of the picture.