Music listeners and music critics both have turned away heavy metal for many years. For that reason alone, heavy metal has become more of a cult following, never to get the mainstream success of pleasant sounding genres such as pop and soft rock. Heavy metal has been the scapegoat for various tragedies and crimes in history. It is known as the most destructive genre of music because of various misconceptions. It is very easy to dismiss heavy metal as a destructive genre.
It is the loud, aggressive noise and the content of the lyrics that has the public point to heavy metal bands as the scapegoat for tragic events such as Columbine and suicide attempts by young adults. Whether it was music made by Marilyn Manson or Judas Priest, the public has correlated violence with heavy metal. What most of the public won’t admit why the reason such violence can happen is not because of the music the criminals listen to, but because of other factors. A common factor in the criminals is a poor up bringing. Abuse, divorced parents, and a poor environment are some reasons why the criminals had a poor upbringing. Musicians have always been a scapegoat for why crimes happen. Larry Rohter, New York Times journalist, covered a 1990 trial in which two families sued Judas Priest for the reason why their children decided to commit suicide. It was stated in court that Judas Priest had subliminal messages in their songs and the messages drove the kids to commit suicide. What was not used in the trial was the fact that the families the kids came from were very dysfunctional. Kenneth McKenna, lawyer for the boy’s families, claimed in court, “The members of the chess club, the math and science majors don’t listen to this stuff. It’s the dropouts, the drug and alcohol abusers.” His argument is invalid merely for the fact that he did not know if members of the chess and math club listen to metal. The dropouts and drug abusers listen to heavy metal because they can relate to the lyrics easier. They both usually have a troubled background. The prosecutor for the families did not state the fact that both of the families the kids came from were very troubled. Domestic violence and child abuse were prevalent in both families. The kids had troubled pasts. Heavy metal was a way for them to get away from all of the drama in their lives. Families love to point fingers at everyone except for themselves and do not like to take the blame for their children’s death because they do not want to admit they did not see the signs or that they failed as parents.
Many people blamed Marilyn Manson for the reason why Columbine happened. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Columbine shooters, were bullied in school and wanted revenge on their classmates. Eric Harris was told he was “weird looking” and Dylan Klebold had a cup of fecal matter thrown at him. This bullying incited the retaliation from Harris and Klebold. Manson responded to the accusations, through an article written by Elena Gorgan, by saying, “Blaming me for Columbine was ridiculous. It’s a lack of responsibility from everyone. If you want to blame something, well, I went to a Christian school. That’s why I write what I write. Shall we blame the Christians?” Manson is making the point that he did nothing to incite the violence that happened in Colorado on that day in 1999. Manson’s music promotes individuality, thinking for you, and questioning things. His music has very good morals and messages.
“Suicide Solution”, a song written by Ozzy Osbourne about the passing of AC/DC’s frontman Bon Scott, was said to push teenagers to commit suicide. 19 year old John McCollum shot himself in his bedroom while listening to Ozzy Osbourne’s music. The parents singled out “Suicide Solution”, saying that song had subliminal messaging in it and drove McCollum to shoot himself. The parents admitted that McCollum was emotionally unstable. The parents did not do anything to help their son, such as send him to therapy. While this case was going on in court, two other families jumped on the opportunity to blame Osbourne for their son’s suicide and sued him as well. Those cases were thrown out of court immediately for lack of evidence. Parents jumped on the bandwagon of suing artists for their child’s suicide just to make money and have some peace of mind. Parents do not want to admit they failed as parents, rather they would much rather admit a song pushed their child to kill themselves.
A study done by Shaleen Coss of Loyola University has found that this is not true and there is no direct relationship between heavy metal and violence, such as crimes and suicide, especially in younger listeners. In fact, participants in the experiment that listened to heavy metal were less violent than those in the control group. One hypothesis that is widely accepted is that since the listener is exposed to violent music, they become immune to it and decrease their desire to be violent. They are able to expel the negative feelings they have in their mind while listening to something deemed “violent.”
Heavy metal does not incite violence. Abuse, a poor environment, and bullying incites violence. Nobody wants to take any blame for why events, such as suicide and mass murders, happen. It is much easier to point fingers and blame musicians who already have a bad reputation. While the court cases usually do not amount to anything and are thrown out of court relatively quickly, it damages the artist’s reputation and costs them a lot of money.
Coss, Shaleen. The Effects of Heavy Metal Music on Aggression in College Students. 2009. http://clearinghouse.missouriwestern.edu/manuscripts/209.php
Gorgan, Elena. Columbine Massacre Cost Me Everything, Marilyn Manson Says. 2009. http://news.softpedia.com/news/Columbine-Massacre-Cost-Me-Everything-Marilyn-Manson-Says-114107.shtml
Murphy, Kim. Suit Claiming Ozzy Osbourne Song Led To Suicide Dismissed. 1986. http://articles.latimes.com/1986-12-20/news/mn-4460_1_ozzy-osbourne
Rohter, Larry. 2 Families Sue Heavy-Metal Band As Having Driven Sons to Suicide. 1990. http://www.nytimes.com/1990/07/17/arts/2-families-sue-heavy-metal-band-as-having-driven-sons-to-suicide.html