Happy Sunday. So I said when I did the first one of these that I wasn’t sure how often I would do them, and it turns out: not very often. For this edition, I have once again picked a song that came out in 1984, which might lead one to believe that I am constantly pining away for my life as a 15-year old. Well, I’m not; or at least no more than any other married guy in his early 40s with two kids. Hmmm, moving on.
First of all, let me say that, unlike Dancing in the Dark, I don’t have any cool personal stories to tell about Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Gonna Take It. It was never one of my favorite songs, and in fact I don’t have any memory at all of ever listening to it on purpose. It was a song that all my friends knew about, and sort of liked, and would sing along to, and that’s about it, from what I can remember. You might wonder then why I would choose this song for the second edition of Songs for Sunday. Hold on, I’m getting to it.
While the Boss sang a seemingly upbeat song that masked darker themes in its lyrics, We’re Not Gonna Take It is a song that was considered dangerous back then, but is now seen as mostly innocuous. Let’s look at the first verse of Dee Snider’s lyrics:
We’ve got the right to choose and
There ain’t no way we’ll lose it
This is our life, this is our song.
We’ll fight the powers that be just
Don’t pick our destiny ’cause
You don’t know us, you don’t belong.
Um, that’s… pretty innocent actually. I mean, yeah, it’s kind of defiant, I guess. But do those lyrics rise to the level of being included on a list of the “Filthy Fifteen,” the list of the supposedly most dangerous songs to our nation’s youth, as compiled by Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Center?
Of course, it wasn’t the lyrics that were so shocking to the PMRC, it was Dee Snider’s persona as the lead singer that caused all the pearl clutching. Here’s the video:
The PMRC included We’re Not Gonna Take It on their list because of violence, but the lyrics don’t have any (outside of a vague promise to “fight”) call to violence. The “violence” in the video was quite a bit more tame than a typical Tom & Jerry cartoon. The PMRC used its influence to have Senate hearings on this danger to society, in which Dee Snider famously made the Senators, including Tipper’s husband Al, holding the hearing look pretty silly.
Here’s the second verse:
Oh you’re so condescending
You’re gall is neverending.
We don’t want nothin’, not a thing from you.
Your life is trite and jaded,
Boring and confiscated.
If that’s your best, your best won’t do.
Well, gosh, you could kind of imagine those lyrics coming out of the mouths of modern-day Tea Partiers, complaining about the arrogance of the Obama administration, proudly proclaiming their independence from government handouts, and finally deciding that the president’s best effort has been found insufficient.
In fact, it is so much like the message of the Republican party that the Romney/Ryan campaign was playing it at events when Paul Ryan took the stage. Dee Snider, who ironically endorsed Al Gore for president in 2000, didn’t think much of that idea and sent a cease-and-desist letter to the campaign. The Ryan campaign responded with a single sentence, “We’re not gonna play it any more.” Credit where due, that’s a pretty funny response, Congressman.
This story is pretty illustrative of the cultural changes that have happened in the last 30 years. A song that was considered so filthy that it prompted Senate hearings on the dangers of rock music to our teenagers goes on to be used by the conservative vice presidential candidate (himself one of those teenagers in 1984) as theme music.
If you want to know why conservatives are all kind of losing their minds right now, try to imagine current events in their eyes. In 1984, Twisted Sister was a danger to society; in 2012 the Republicans blast their music at campaign events. In 2004, George W. Bush came out strongly for “traditional marriage,” pushing to get anti-gay marriage laws on state ballots to turn out voters and help him win re-election; in 2012 the incumbent president makes a statement in support of same-sex marriage and is currently ahead in the polls. Oh, yeah, and he’s black.
They’re losing the culture wars and they know it, and they aren’t going quietly.