Embodied: Who Decides What Content Is Explicit?

Sep 24, 2020

Parental advisory labels date back to the 1980s. They exist, in part, to alert consumers to the presence of profanity, explicit discussion of sex and sexuality and graphic violence. But there has never been a unilateral ranking system to determine what content must be labeled as explicit. 

For music, those decisions are made collaboratively, between artists, their recording labels and the Recording Industry Association of America. But for newer content models like podcasts and web streaming series, explicit content labels are even more subjective. Creators can determine before releasing their work that their content is not suitable for an all-ages audience and self-identify their work as “explicit.” But in the event that they do not, listeners can deem the work explicit and appeal to the creator’s distributing partner to add an explicit content label.

Cultural historian Chloe-Rose Crabtree believes that it is that subjectivity that makes explicit content labels ineffective. She joins host Anita Rao to discuss the history of the Parental Advisory Label system and how it continues to influence what content we consider explicit today.