Does Heavy Metal Corrupt Youth?


 Musical preferences are as diverse as the people who listen to 
it. Different types of music have different reputations. Heavy metal 
music is often labeled as "negative." Yet others find it a harmless 
form of music. The argument presented in this paper will show that 
heavy metal music poses no threat to the well-being of its listeners.

 Like other types of music, such as jazz, blues, and even rap. The 
distinct style of heavy metal music can be grouped into three main 
sections (Ratliff 1). One popular style of heavy metal is death metal. 
Death metal has a more dark sound and eerie style than other forms of 
heavy metal. The music itself is fast, heavy, and loud. The images 
that death metal portrays are death, doom, destruction, suicide, sex, 
and drugs. Some see these images as harmful or having a negative 
effect on the listener (Halbersberg 1). Another form of heavy metal 
music is speed metal. Speed metal has a more upbeat sound than death 
metal and is not as depressing as death metal. It is fast paced and 
has a hard impact The lead guitar follows a frenetic pace. This is in 
contrast to death metal which emphasizes rhythm guitar (Graff 3). The 
last type of heavy metal music is thrash metal. The name refers to 
both the thrashing sound of the music and the flailing movement of its 
listeners. The sound is very loud and has the same tone and style of 
speed metal (Graff 3). These styles however, attract certain people.

 The majority of people who listen to heavy metal music are 
suburban white males. These males range in ages between 14-24. They 
have a certain style of dress and way of life. They wear dark 
clothing with morbid images of death and destruction. This clothing 
can be seen to be a costume that advertises the teens' musical 
preference. It is a way of getting attention. Surprisingly, even 
though the crowds tend to be young, adults are also seen at these 
concerts. One example of an adult and a parent is Dave Mullins. He 
likes to take his sons to see death metal shows.(Graff 1) Mullins says 
about death metal, "I did see one band that had a clear bag with a 
fetus inside it. It looked gross, but it was just a gag. When I'm 
watching the kids, they're just letting off steam. When I was a kid, 
we used to beat people up after school. This seems better to me." 
(Graff 1) Of course, not all parents agree with Mullins. 

 Parents want the best for their children, but sometimes their 
efforts are not beneficial. When parents nag their children about what 
they should and should not listen to, kids can become angry and 
depressed. This possibly can lead to drinking and drug use, and 
suicide. Parents can blame this behavior on the music that their kids 
are listening to. A group of parents formed the Parent Music Resource 
Center in the 80's (Gonzales 1). Even the Vice-presidents wife, Tipper 
Gore, got involved. She led the center in the fight against heavy 
metal music. The center's main goals were to destroy heavy metal music 
and all other music that had a negative message. They were effective 
in banning some groups from record stores and canceling some concerts. 
However, Tipper Gore's mission failed to kill off heavy metal music. 
The Parent Music Resource Center still exists, but it is not as 
powerful as it once was (Gonzales 3). This group never examined 
whether heavy metal music could be a healthy outlet for aggrssion. 

 A well known psychologist from Durham, Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, 
said that music can influence a person's state of mind. In her studies 
she found that "if people listen to music that is faster than their 
heart rate, such as heavy metal, it increases the heart rate. If 
you're trying to increase your energy level, it might be a good way to 
generate excitement." (Freelon 1) Heavy metal music by increasing the 
heart rate of its listeners can be seen as a form of exercise or a 
physical release. 

 Studies have been done on the effect of heavy metal music. Roe 
and King, child psychiatrists at the University of Iowa examined the 
effects of heavy metal music on teenagers social behavior. These 
studies show that many teens who thought seriously about suicide and 
abused drugs listened to heavy metal, but they also showed no direct 
connection between the music and these actions.(Freelon 2) Another 
recent survey done by the University of Iowa reported that teenage 
female hard rock fans thought about suicide more often than people 
that listened to other types of music. However most of the females who 
thought about suicide were too scared of dying to try it.(Freelon 2) 

One positive effect of this music was that even if the teenager was 
feeling bad and low, listening to his or her favorite music helped him 
or her feel better again.(Freelon 2) 

 In another test, teens and their parents were surveyed to 
investigate the association between heavy metal music and teens' 
social function. The people taking the survey were asked about current 
and past psychological functioning, as well as their music 
preferences. The results indicated that teens who preferred heavy 
metal music had a higher incidence of below-average school grades, 
school behavior problems, sexual activity, drug and alcohol use, and 
arrests. Despite this, it was evident that the teens' home lives were 
stable with two parents, good living conditions and sound financial 
status.(Took 1) Although it seems that heavy metal music was 
corrupting teens' lives, there was no direct correlation between poor 
behavior and heavy metal music. Some listeners do not always 
understand what they are listening to.

 One study group, Prinsky and Rosenbaum, found that many teens who 
listen to heavy metal music misinterpreted the lyrics. 
This misinterpretation was said to be due to the teens' limited life 
experience and immature development. Unlike adults, who find 
references to sex, violence, drugs and Satan, teens tended to 
interpret the lyrics of their favorite songs as being about love, 
politics, growing up, friendship, and other appropriate subjects. 

 Many people do not take this music seriously. Brian Slagel, CEO 
of Metal Blade Records, says:

 I think the genre as a whole is serious in wanting to shock 
 people, but it also has its tongue planted in its cheek.
 These bands don't do cannibalistic things, they do not 
 worship Satan. They don't do all the things people think 
 they do. If you take it seriously, you're further off the
 deep end than most people, I think."
In other words, the content can be discounted because it is not meant 
to be taken literally. On stage, groups of death metal sing about 
Satan, societal ills, cannibalism and sex with rotting corpses. But to 
fans its entertainment. "It's good violent fun," says Ron Holt, 26, a 
death metal fan. "Its like seeing Jason slash someone's head off; it 
helps me release my aggressions, but it doesn't mean i'm going to go 
out and do it." David Horn, from Metal Blade Records, says:
 The difference between this type of music and something
 like gangsta rap, is that heavy metal is pretty much
 firmly based in fantasy...I don't think a song about some 
 mystical war or slaying a barbarian poses as much of a
 threat as far as influencing people.

 In conclusion, heavy metal music, while much maligned, has not 
been found to seriously damage listeners' lives. Yes, it is violent 
and depicts images of doom and destruction, but it should not be 
interpreted as a negative influence on its listeners. Teens will 
continue to listen to music their parents do not care for. Heavy metal 
music can be healthy for the mind psychologically as well as 
physically. When people look at heavy metal music, they should not see 
it as a negative influence, but as a therapeutic release for teenage 
energy or angst.Studyworld


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