« WSAU Opinion Blog

OPINION - Blurred Lines

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Lisa Joling has a point. She's the former Marshfield High School dance team coach. She was dismissed last fall after a community complaint that her team performed to Blurred Lines, the catchy-funky song with risque lyrics. The performance was to an edited version of the song which radio stations are very familiar with since its the clean version that's okay for broadcast.

This is a case of the school administration overreacting. It's likely that the person who complained heard something like --- "Do you know what that song is really about?" --- then looked up the unedited lyrics on-line and complained. I also blissfully listened to Blurred Lines for months with very little awareness of what the song was actually saying. The song trivializes sexual consent.

Joling's complaint says there are many other high school teams have warm-up music that's played over the PA system that are far more objectionable. She's right. I've been at dozens of high school events in the past two years, and you'd blush if you knew what some of the warm-up songs were saying. Consider the rap song Do It In The Mirror by Headband. It includes the lyrics: " make [the female anatomy] whistle like the Old Spice Man" . I'm only aware of it after hearing the unedited version, not played during basketball warm-ups.

Many dance teams use edited, cleaned-up mash-ups of dozens of songs during their routines. Putting each of those songs through the same approval process is ridiculous. Carry this to the extreme and polkas and the chicken dance will be the only acceptable music.

I think radio stations can offer a reasonable guideline. If a song is acceptable for broadcast airplay, its acceptable for high school use. There are standards. Because radio stations are federal licensees they can't play songs with profanity or the 'seven dirty words'. Record companies work with radio stations to edit songs that might put broadcast licenses in jeopardy. And, of course, school administrators should have the right to overrule anything they find objectionable.

Lisa Joling will easily be able to make the case that her firing without advance warning is a double standard. She will also successfully argue that she suffered damage to her reputation and her dance-studio business because of her dismissal. If the Marshfield School District doesn't settle, they are going to lose an expensive lawsuit.

Chris Conley
5.1.14

Image: Single cover for Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell via WikiCommons.com