Monday, November 06, 2006

Dee, me, & the PMRC

First of all, if you're living in the United States, vote tomorrow. That's what's really important.

Now on to matters at hand. I was watching one of those "totally 80s" countdown shows on VH1 the other day, when I heard the Twisted Sister anthem, "We're Not Gonna Take It," start blaring. It was such a blast from the past, especially seeing lead singer Dee Snider all decked out in the band's drag-show-gone-wrong regalia. I never was much of a Twisted Sister fan myself, though several of my friends had a penchant for drawing the band's "TS" logo all over their notebooks when we were in junior high. Even so, there's something so wonderfully anti-establishment about "We're Not Gonna Take It" that it always manages to put a smile on my face.

Or so I thought. The "We're Not Gonna Take It" clip also included a "where are they now?" segment, which focused mostly on the comings and goings of Dee Snider since the heyday of Twisted Sister. Evidently--and perhaps this is news only to me, since I live in Indiana--he's a staunch Republican who's campaigned for Arnold "the Govinator" Schwarzenegger and other Republican candidates. I was shocked to hear this, not only because of the song's message (and here I'm reminded of the adage, "the politics of media texts aren't inscribed in media texts..."), but also because of Snider's resistance to the Parent's Music Resource Center or PMRC. For those of you who don't remember, the PMRC was founded in the mid-1980s by spouses of prominent US senators (then-Senator Al Gore's partner, Tipper, chief among them) who campaigned to censor "explicit" music. One of the more intriguing moments that I can recall from my adolescence is seeing images of Dee Snider emerging from the US Capitol after testifying on behalf of musicians opposed to the PMRC. Talk about dissonance.

I suppose it was naive of me to assume that Snider's resistance to media censorship would carry over into a more general, left-leaning politics. Beyond that, I'm also reminded of the fact that the PMRC was composed of both Republicans and Democrats, so I guess there should have been no reason for me to assume that Snider would have been a Democrat, anyway. I guess that all just goes to show how formal governmental politics and the politics of culture aren't always commensurable and how, conversely, they sometimes make strange bedfellows.


Professor said...

There is nothing like this story to obliterate the idealism we might have felt about those bands who frightened our parents during out teenage years. I, too, was shocked initially to hear about Snider. I guess I shouldn't have been, though; it seems that he was just another celebrity who spoke about principles (re: the PMRC) but was more concerned about profits.

Now I'm going to return to my work on a conference paper and try not to wonder which icon of my youth will disappoint me next.

Ted Striphas said...

Herr Professor,

Thanks for your comment, and indeed I hear you. Whenever it comes to celebrities, I always try to bear in mind that, like us, they're human and prone to contradiction. I guess what's at stake for me is, to what extent does someone let that contradiction get the better of her/him?

I'm thinking, for example, of Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, who once critiqued the unrealistic body images that fashion models put forth in various societies--only recently to turn around and marry a fashion model. While I don't understand his apparent reversal, I don't think that trumps all of the activist work he does with respect to gun control, a woman's right to choose, environmentalism, and so forth.

Snider, as you rightly point out, is another matter entirely....

Yahenda said...

I urge you guys to search youtube for the Dee Snider interview with Strombo on CBC's 'The Hour'... He makes it clear there that he is neither Republican nor Democrat and says plainly that to vote along party lines is to be an idiot and that he simply votes on the issues and always has. Seriously, save your disappointment for the celebrities who've earned it, you'll have no problem picking one.

PS - as I recall the woman Eddie Vedder married (I think her name was Beth...?) was his high-school sweetheart, regardless of her figure.

Ted Striphas said...


Thanks for leaving your comment and for including the link to YouTube. Snider's comments about not voting blindly along party lines are intriguing and astute. Still, it seems clear that he tends to support Republican candidates and issues more than democratic ones.

As for Eddie Vedder, he and Beth Liebling divorced in 2000, and he is now married to model Jill McCormick.

Finally, the issue at stake for me isn't so much disappointment per se as it is the social roles that celebrities like Dee, Eddie, and others play in US/global culture, and the way in which their celebrity images play in (and out) of political process.

Judge Fudge said...

Wait...You mean to tell me that you're a progressive living in Indiana? How have my right-thinking Hoosier buddies not exiled you to Illinois yet? I'm teasing, of course.

I'm a Republican who was attracted to the party during my teen years because of their limited government, don't tread on me philosophy. George W. has pretty much sold out our party and shot those ideas to hell to appeal to the extreme religious creeps in the party. However, before it was hijacked, the GOP's philosophy worked well with what Dee Snider was fighting against in the 1980's: Less government intrusion and more freedom. I wish more people in the party still thought like Dee Snider, and I. I guess we're what P.J. O'Rourke calls the "Republican Party Reptiles."

Anyway, that's my two cents. If you haven't been totally disillusioned by the fact that Dee would probably rather support Rudy than Hillary, you should pick up Twisted Christmas. It's the only Christmas album I can tolerate, and it proves that Dee and his buddies still rock.

Here's hoping that you and yours have a great Christmas!

The Judge

toxicdoc said...

Dear Judge Fudge (a candy aficionado?),
What a funny and smart post! First, I'm sure if you do have friends in Hoosier country, they'll tell you that the small city of Bloomington (where Striphas lives) doesn't count in the predominantly red state. Like Jesse Helms used to say about Chapel Hill/Carrboro in North Carolina, even good red states have college towns that vote blue (actually, his comments were less friendly--something about a fence and a zoo, I believe). I mean, the non-sell out musician, John Mellencamp--and his former supermodel-turned-rockstarwife--live here. (Talk about someone who can rock!)

Second, Bush II is a horrible president for many reasons, but he definitely is a horrible conservative, as you say. I can't believe the RAND Institute couldn't think up a better candidate who actually stood for smaller government (including ending corporate welfare, which RAND eloquently points out is a conservative issue). The Republican Senator of Indiana, Richard Lugar, actually is one of the most sound Republicans in Congress. He actually shows up to vote, first of all. He also takes seriously some of the most pressing issues of our times, including energy security, believes foreign diplomacy still matters, and more. Indiana gets a bad rap nationally, but I'd take Lugar over any Republican candidate for president running today. (Though I'll be voting blue, whoever that is, so that might not count for much.)

Hope you have a fun and food-filled Christmas and New Year too!