Among the year’s more controversial start-up magazines is a new monthly whose binding staples are barely strong enough to contain the litanies of the filth therein: page after page of graphically depicted sexual debauchery, brutal violence, drug abuse, and, well, lots more sexual debauchery. Target demographic: the PTA.
”The real response has been from educators, social workers, people who work with children on a regular basis — they’re eating it up,” says Charlie Gilreath, 35, publisher of Entertainment Monitor, which comes not to celebrate all this degradation but to take a stab at deciphering it. Intended to navigate moms and dads through the thickets of a youth culture that might seem increasingly coarse and cryptic, EM is less interesting for its handful of feature stories than for the three quarters of the magazine devoted to carefully explicating the themes and lingo of the Top 40 in pop, rock, rap, and country. It’s Cliffs Notes for the non-homies among us, with explanations that range from the obvious (unless you hadn’t figured ”wassup” is slang for ”what’s up”) to the genuinely obscure (the publisher says more rappers are altering the term to ”wessup” to signal loyalty to inner-city west-side gangs).
Now Father can truly know best by learning more synonyms for ho than Ward Cleaver could ever hope to. ”[The magazine’s] not just for this small clique of people who seem obsessed with what Johnny is up to,” Gilreath says, careful to avoid pandering to the right. ”It’s for parents who want to get involved with their children and know what their culture is serving up to them.” Gilreath came up with the idea for the magazine a year ago when he heard his fiancée’s preteen daughter cheerfully reciting the lyrics to a rap ditty by Roula (”You gotta lick it before you kick it”) in the backseat of his car. ”The problem is, the music sounds a lot different coming out of an 11-year-old’s mouth than it does out of an adult’s on the radio. But it led into an opportunity for us to talk, and that’s what’s really important.”
The mag’s rap pages are especially thick with parental red flags, pointing out some seemingly pro-armed-robbery or pro-prostitution lyrics mortifying enough to make Martin Lawrence blanch. But the nonpartisan EM is quick to also include qualifiers you might not get from conservative watchdogs — like ”Repeated use of the word ‘girl’ may be demeaning to some women” in Michael Jackson’s entry, a PMRC-goes-PC warning.
And, yes, ”achy-breaky” lyrics undergo the same scrutiny as blankety-blank ones. Says Gilreath, ”Country music people often refer to their women the same way they do their trucks, which could be as offensive to someone who’s sensitive to those issues as the F-word is to somebody else.” Sexism is, of course, totally wack.