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The Blurred Lines of Cultural ConsumptionRobin Thicke / Star Track Recordings / Vevo

The Blurred Lines of Cultural Consumption

Jul 9 2013
Transformation, redemption, and a certain raunchy Robin Thicke video.

When I played the music video for the song of the summer, "Blurred Lines," topless women sashayed across my screen to the delight of Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I., and my heart sank.

It was my fault. I should've noticed the "unrated version" warning in parentheses before I clicked on the link, but when my friend told me about her new summer jam, I hurried to check it out.

It sank even further when I watched on the "rated" version, which somehow managed to be even more offensive—"degrading" according to Thicke himself. No longer caught up in the boobs on my screen, I noticed the performers' leering, creepy eyes that couldn't unglue themselves from the female dancers' (covered) butts.

My heart sank because I recognized the song. Without knowing the name or artist, I'd already gotten hooked on Thicke's "Blurred Lines," with its infectious melody and dance-a-licious groove. My kids and I had raised our hands and wiggled our bodies to it in the car. We'd thrown dish-washing dance parties in its honor!

That said, after seeing the video, I realized my own lines toward the song had been quite blurred. As brilliant as its melody and groove are, the idea behind the song—prodding a "good girl" to give in to Thicke's come-ons ("You know you want it")— sent me over the edge... or, to be honest, made me want to send Thicke over one.

So I faced the conundrum: What to do when a message is at odds with the medium? More specifically, how could I live out Paul's instructions in Philippians 4:8 think about "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…excellent or praiseworthy…" when the music was those things but the intent was not?

To the strictest adherers of this verse, the answer would be easy: Ban it. Shun it. Listen only to "Christian" music.

But in this broken world, that answer means we'd miss so much of the nobility and righteousness and purity and loveliness around us. A strict, no-holds-barred adherence to this verse would mean missing out on much of the music we listen to, the books we read, the clothes we wear, the art we savor, the food we delight in, and the nature we enjoy.

I can't take my kids to our local park (excellent and praiseworthy!) without worrying if that clutch of bullies will be hanging around the equipment again. I can't head off for a bike ride through our local forest preserve (pure and lovely!) without wondering if the quick-sexual-thrill-seeking folks will once again be overrunning the parking lot. I can't enjoy the songs I loved from my youth—or my parents' youth!—without now thinking, Really?! That's what this is about? And I can barely pick up a book without stumbling over the unholy or unexcellent.

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