Eminem’s parenting tips

Eminem is right: children need parents, Mary Eberstadt writes.

If yesterday’s rock was the music of abandon, today’s is that of abandonment. The odd truth about contemporary teenage music — the characteristic that most separates it from what has gone before — is its compulsive insistence on the damage wrought by broken homes, family dysfunction, checked-out parents, and (especially) absent fathers.

She quotes music critic William Shaw’s conclusion “that this emphasis in current music on abandoned children represents an unusually loaded form of teenage rebellion.”

“This is the sound of one generation reproaching another — only this time, it’s the scorned, world-weary children telling off their narcissistic, irresponsible parents,” he writes. “[Divorce] could be rock’s ideal subject matter. These are songs about the chasm in understanding between parents — who routinely don’t comprehend the grief their children are feeling — and children who don’t know why their parents have torn up their world.”

I guess “don’t trust anyone over 30” still applies.

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Comments

  1. It’s more than that, though. It’s what someone called the “curse of affluence” too. Remember back in the day when there was the character who was the poor little rich girl/boy? This was a child ignored by his wealthy parents, left alone with indifferent nannies and hired help.

    Now that character exists in many households, but without the hired help. I know many affluent parents who are too busy volunteering at chic charities, having coffees, being “involved in the community,” making money, to do the boring, tedious, difficult, and immensely important work of parenting.

    I have one acquaintance who regularly seeks out other homes where she can dump her kids after school so she can workout, or go shopping. When we see her, we try to get away. Her kids are overweight, sullen, rude, and unhappy.

    Unfortunately, raising kids well is real hands-on work requiring lots of patience.

    One other thing, I don’t think that kids in homes where both parents work means they’ll be poorly raised. But in some cases, the jobs overtake the family. It’s an attitude.

    PS> Are you feeling better?

  2. The theme of family dysfunction in music is not necessarily a reflection of culture in general. The economic needs of radio stations are a huge influence on the musical output of record companies. (MTV and magazines are arguably more important, but their needs are served through videos and press releases; radio still has a stronger influence on lyrics and melody.)

    The main value of music to radio is collecting listeners in certain high-value demographic groups. Young people who are not on good terms with their parents (or churches) often have bad credit and no recourse to co-signers, so they can be charged much higher interest rates, making them a lucrative target for advertising. Radio stations can attract these kids easily by playing songs about abandonment, killing your parents, opposing Christianity, and similar nonsense. This makes record companies issue plenty of such music.

    If radio advertisers suddenly found a reason to spend more on, say, recruiting linguists, then record companies would push songs in obscure foreign languages to radio instead, and pundits would still wonder what aspect of American youth culture this reflected.

  3. “The main value of music to radio is collecting listeners in certain high-value demographic groups. Young people who are not on good terms with their parents (or churches) often have bad credit and no recourse to co-signers, so they can be charged much higher interest rates, making them a lucrative target for advertising.”

    It’s not unusually “lucrative” to charge higher interest rates to people with a higher tendency to not pay their bills.

    The common thread between the music of the past and the music of the present is that, regardless of how involved their parents are, teenagers tend to be angry about not being able to fend for themselves. If their parents are involved, they’ll bitch about their parents running their lives. If their parents leave them to their own devices, they’ll bitch about being abandoned and still helpless. If a future generation of kids was actually educated in a timely manner and could fend for themselves at teenagehood, I don’t really know what their music would be like, but it would likely be a lot different.

  4. It’s not unusually lucrative to charge higher interest rates to people with a higher tendency to not pay their bills.

    You’re quite right, of course. But you can get more money out of them for the same ad spend, which is why radio stations prefer those listeners.

    Similarly, a divorcee who doesn’t see his kids for much of the year (as in the original linked article) or the wealthy but absent parent that JennyD describes is much more likely to buy an overpriced, useless product that his kids keep talking about. (“I haven’t seen my kids much this year, but I’ll just buy them these expensive cool sneakers and they’ll love me again!”)

    Ads for those products work best if kids from such families are listening to the radio.

    Any analysis of “youth culture” based on pop-chart lyrics is going to focus on the segments that produce the best return on advertising expenditure. Nothing wrong with that, but it rarely sheds light on trends in the cohort as a whole.

    If a future generation of kids was actually educated in a timely manner and could fend for themselves at teenagehood, I don’t really know what their music would be like, but it would likely be a lot different.

    There are quite a few well-educated teenagers from the current generation at many folk music shows. They choose their music carefully and individually, so it doesn’t show up on top-40 charts.

    I’ve even seen a few concerts with many parents attending together with their teenage children. And yes, the music was rather different from the usual fare. (At least different enough to confuse reviewers: “modern jazz rock”?) So again you’re right, and what you describe is happening alreaady.