Mark Hunter, a shy teenager alienated from his family, has just moved to a suburb of a large, Arizona city, where he feels trapped and disconnected in “white bread land.” To relieve boredom and vent hatred for his new school, Humphrey High, Mark sets up a renegade radio station in his room using the shortwave set his parents gave him to communicate with friends back East.
Mark can barely speak to fellow students at school, but is persuasive and uninhibited on the air. His “Talk Hard” program, which glorifies sex and profanes adults and America, rapidly builds a teenage following. Broadcasting punctually at 10 p.m. every night, the disturbed D.J.’s influence begins to grow, as teens tune in on the sly to listen to Mark’s smutty philosophical rambling and erotic raging (he frequently pretends to masturbate on air and plays sexually explicit rap music). Many of his phrases are unprintable here.
Flowing from the premise that today’s teenagers are bogged down by boredom in a world where “everything has been used up,” he tells his listeners how “everybody has sold out” and “America has evolved into a smug and sleazy country, a place you can’t trust…. There is nothing to look forward to and no one to look up to.”
When students begin spreading bootleg tapes of his defiant and offensive broadcasts, school officials are outraged and start looking for the anonymous troublemaker. Mark’s parents, meanwhile, are oblivious to what is happening, blithely going about their daily concerns which don’t include Mark. Mark’s talk-radio antics go too far when a desperate listener phones in before committing suicide, as the D.J. is just a little too flip about the promise.
Aided by the FCC, the police finally track down Mark after he goes mobile for his final broadcast by stealing his mother’s jeep. As Mark is taken into custody in a powerful slow-motion sequence, other pirate radio stations spring up all over America, showing that Mark’s voice will continue, through others, to proclaim rebellion.
PUMP UP THE VOLUME portrays American youth with vivid starkness to pinpoint a real problem: a generation unable to identify with parents, causes, or religion. Unfortunately, the movie does not offer a real solution, but instead touts sexual gratification and living beyond the limits of propriety as the only things that give meaning to life.
Like MTV, PUMP UP is doubly powerful in that music is combined with film to get across its messages, one of which is suicide. Mark comments that “being young is sometimes less fun than being dead,” and theorizes that suicide is a “simple solution.” A background rap song suggests driving one’s car into the ocean. In discussing death, Mark asks, “assuming heaven, who would ever want to go there? (Expletive) boring.”
Another message is to show parents as weak in their own ideals, stupid and unable to communicate. Mark’s parents, whose only goals in life are power and money, seem like phonies to him. Furthermore, Mark sees his father as a sellout because, as a ’60s radical who pushed for change, he bought into the yuppie system by becoming a county schools commissioner. Worse, when his father discovers a girl in Mark’s bedroom, he encourages her to stay, and leaves with the comment, “Now, that’s my kind of homework!”
Homosexuality is endorsed. When one caller asks, “Why is one person born one way and one person is born another?” Mark responds, “Nobody knows why.” This discourse assumes that homosexuality is an inborn condition which the Bible says is a lie.
Climbing teenage rates of suicide, drug use, pregnancies, school drop-out, depression, and alienation — these dilemmas have only one solution: faith in God’s living Son, Jesus Christ. This is the message that today’s parents need to hear, as these teenagers are direct evidence of their parent’s moral emptiness. Until we revive and instill a spiritual dimension to our lives, anything else will be a band-aid on a mortal wound.
However, PUMP UP THE VOLUME calls one to be a follower of the rebel Barabas, not Jesus, the reconciler. In fact, supposedly mature 60-year-old men were so “pumped up” by the movie’s forceful suggestions, that they were heard repeating the film’s obscenities upon leaving the theater.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please address your comments to:
New Line Cinema Corp.
575 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018
Profanities and obscenities; rap music advocating sadistic sex, crack use and suicide; female nudity and suggested masturbation; several replicas of the male sex organ; contempt for parental, school and police authority; homosexuality; nihilism; theft; and, teen smoking.