Sep 29, 2009

Baby Irony Advisory

Among the things that's tripping me out the most about being a new father is that a new consciousness is forming next to my wife and myself--at just shy of three months, he's just starting to really see us and respond, but he has yet to learn to love his first song, see his first movie or play, read his first book.

Not that we haven't been reading and singing to him, and, of course, making mix CDs for his crib CD player (yes, he's got one, because I hate the thought of leaving his lullaby playlist to the discretion of the fine folks who make those shaky seats with an "on" switch for "music"). I confess I'd given a thought or two to whether I need to slightly baby-proof my vast iTunes library--maybe de-select songs with gratuitous swearing, shotgun effects, heavy breathing, and/or an overly aggressive sound/tone? But then recently three songs in a row came up on random shuffle that really gave me pause--not for their transgressive content, exactly, but for the fact that none could/should be taken at face value. All have a meta-meaning apart from their surface appeal, and I wonder what it would mean to have a small child's mind absorb them before he learns, well, other important things about life and the world. The songs were:

Randy Newman's "Rednecks." All right, this song liberally uses the "n" word, so on those grounds alone I shouldn't play this song for my son till he's old enough to know you don't say that--not unless you're an acerbic social critic with many layers of bitter irony at work.

"Tomorrow Belongs To Me" from Cabaret. Christ, I love this song, but I know that somehow I "shouldn't." It's not a real Nazi anthem but merely an incredible simulation, and it's as beautiful and seductive as intended; I remember Reza Abdoh employing the song with withering irony in Bogeyman (it was sung by a chorus of naked men, many of them pierced and shaved, if I recall correctly). In short, though there's nothing overtly objectionable about it, I would be a little queasy hearing my son sing it around the house.

"Lake of Fire" by the Meat Puppets. Another head-scratcher. It's a funny and chilling parody of backwoods fire-and-brimstone, but the details are a little too grisly to be laughed at too easily (that girl with the rabies is a particularly fine and disturbing touch). But not least because it's light years away from my own personal theology, I would hesitate to have a child learn anything about hell this way, even if the Pups are winking through the sulfur.

(I can't find a decent YouTube of my fellow Arizonans doing the song, so I've posted the most famous version below)

Now what do I do about "Welcome to the Terrordome"?

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