Parental Advisory: Tipper Gore and the PMRC


  • Avery Anderson


A defender of childhood innocence and the wife of a powerful politician, Tipper Gore became the spokesperson for concerned mothers after forming the Parents’ Music Resource Center (PMRC). Joining forces with Susan Baker, wife of the secretary of the treasury, and other similarly well-connected women, Gore formed the PMRC to combat “porn rock”: a catch-all for the explicit sins and excesses depicted in some of the rock music of the time. She felt that these excesses had the potential to corrupt the nation’s youth, so the women of the PMRC came up with a solution: label offensive albums with a warning sticker. Leveraging the power of their influential husbands, the PMRC and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) were called before the Senate Commerce Technology and Transportation Committee for a hearing. While the hearing was still ongoing, the PMRC and RIAA came to an agreement behind the scenes. The RIAA agreed to place a Parental Advisory — Explicit Content label on albums with potentially objectionable lyrics, an addition that had drastic effects on the music industry. This case explores the relations between motherhood and culture, negotiating the ambiguities between good-natured efforts at protection and explicit censorship.


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