I detest the visual and verbal censorship that we are still subject to even in this day and age. For programs produced specifically for the TV medium, the writers tend to pre-censor themselves while they are writing. They usually know in advance what may not be acceptable, so they will do their own editing to get it to its proper state by the time it actually airs. The problems occur when they show theatrically-released films that the station moguls feel need to be edited for TV. Now, the original film editor has taken great artistic pains to present the movie just as they want it, but then the network overseers come along and decide what should be cut further. I would be insulted, if it were me. How dare they change my work like that without my consent?
I feel that if a movie has material that is deemed objectionable for TV audiences, then they shouldn’t air it at all, rather than censor it. Do they think that they are doing us a favor by putting a great movie that we want to see on network television and then editing the thing to death, leaving out pertinent dialogue and visual images? If I am seeing a certain movie for the first time, then of course, I won’t miss what I haven’t seen. But if I already saw the film previously in the theater and remember it, I am going to know what is being cut. I’m not talking about the editing done to make the film fit into a two- or three-hour time slot while getting all their paid-for advertising in as well. That’s another matter altogether. I am talking about what they do to the material that they choose to leave in.
I once witnessed the most ridiculous incidence of movie censorship in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988). The film uses a lot of sight gags, puns and literal humor. There is a scene with Priscilla Presley climbing up a ladder in a room of her house to retrieve something from an upper shelf to give to Leslie Nielsen, who is standing directly below her, supposedly looking up her dress. When the film played in the theaters, Nielsen exclaims, “Nice beaver!” Then Priscilla hands down a stuffed beaver with the line, “Thank you. I just had it stuffed.” An innocent double entendre, which I think is clever and funny. But when it was shown on cable network TV one year, Leslie’s line was simply, “Nice _____!” which spoiled the joke for the visual image as well as the next line.
I don’t understand what the objection was about saying the word beaver, as the whole point of the joke is that the audience is supposed to think that he was saying something racy, when he really wasn’t. By leaving out the word beaver, it forces us to fill in the blank with any word that comes into our own dirty minds. So why omit the word for decency’s sake? And for the people who don’t know the other meaning of beaver (a woman’s pudenda, by the way, for the uninformed), they wouldn’t get the pun anyway, so no harm is done in any case. I wonder about the logical mentality of the person who made that particular decision and about the persons who went along with it.
Sometimes they will kill a good joke because they believe the sentiment to be too shocking. Airplane! (1980) is another spoof film loaded with sight gags, literal humor and daring sexual innuendos throughout. There is a scene with two children, a boy and a girl both about 10-years-old. The boy has a tray with two cups of coffee and he offers one to the little girl, who accepts. When he asks if she would like some cream, the girl replies, “No thanks. I take it black…like my men.” I think that’s outrageously funny. When the film came to TV eventually, of course the last part of that line was left out. Come on, they’re just innocent jokes. The situations aren’t even real. I don’t know how those censors can take any of it seriously. It makes no sense.
I, myself, was subject to some senseless censorship when I appeared as a contestant on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” I was asked the question, “What is the common nickname given to Broadway in NY’s theater district?” I had answered correctly–“The Great White Way” and then added, “And for the longest time, that’s exactly what it was, too!” The studio audience laughed, and even Meredith Vieira had to help me say. But when I saw the recorded broadcast later, my remark was conspicuously missing. The show’s producers had edited it out! How dare they! Here I am trying to show off some of my wit and humor to my TV audience, and I get censored. Maybe they considered my comment somewhat racist, although it was a true observation. It was only unacceptable because I was throwing shade at them. Well, so much for one’s freedom of speech.
Even today I still encounter films on cable TV where entire scenes of dialogue are bleeped to death, and then when the characters comment on what is being said, I’m at a loss wondering, What did they say?! Again, it makes no sense to me to censor dialogue in a movie when that is the very thing that carries the story. If they don’t let us hear what is being said, then what’s the point of showing it? It’s not always profanity that is being censored either. As I previously demonstrated, they will bleep out words that are deemed offensive to some people, like nigger and faggot, for example. But these particular words are used for a reason. If they are said to or about a character, it’s probably meant to be offensive to that person. It’s not said to the viewer personally, so why would we be offended? Let us hear it too, then. “I don’t like that character. He just called that black man a nigger.” Well, you are not supposed to like him. Maybe that’s the whole point. If we don’t know how a person really feels about another, we might have unwarranted sympathy for that person.
The made-for-TV movie The Women of Brewster Place first aired in 1989. When they showed it again years later on the Centric cable channel, there were certain lines of dialogue blotted out. This program was produced by and starred Oprah Winfrey, and it was she that was being censored. Now what could she have possibly said in the script that was completely acceptable 28 years ago but now is so taboo that it has to be deleted? Has our toleration of what we consider to be indecent decreased over the years rather than increased? I mean, it’s Oprah! How bad could it have been?
How is this for more ridiculousness? Did you know that when the Warner Brothers cartoon character Tweety Bird appeared in his first cartoon in 1942, his color was pink? He was subsequently changed to yellow because some corporate censors thought that pink made him look naked. Can you believe such nonsense? It’s a bird–of course, he’s naked! But then, he’s not really, because a bird’s being covered with feathers serves as a coat of sorts. A bird is naked only when it’s plucked clean of its feathers. But even then, so what? Those censors’ objection also carry with it racist connotations. Why would a pink body suggest nakedness, if not for the fact that pink is the color of some Caucasian flesh? Daffy Duck is black, but they didn’t think that he looked naked.
I can’t see any specific dress code when it comes to animal cartoon characters. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Pluto, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner don’t wear clothes, as a rule, except when they have on a costume, but Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck, Porky and Petunia Pig, and Goofy, among others, do wear pants and skirts, at least, which I don’t think makes them more human than the ones who go without clothes. It seems to be an arbitrary decision for one character to the next. But why are they even taking such a thing so seriously? These cartoon characters aren’t real, but fantasy, so why must they even abide by the human conventions of vestiary modesty? Who would even think about their being “naked” if it were not pointed out that they are not wearing clothes? What does it matter anyway?
Thanks to our human forebears, nudity has been made to be an aberration rather than the natural normality that it should be. Since we are all born without clothing, to cover our bodies after birth is what’s unnatural. There is a double standard used with regard to humans and animals. People are socially required to wear clothes while animals are not. A person observed with clothes on requires no special terminology, but if they are unclothed, we say, “Ooh, look at that naked person there!” We never say, “Ooh, look at that naked dog or naked horse.” But if the animal were dressed, we would comment on that. “Oh, isn’t that cute! That hippopotamus is wearing a tutu and little ballet slippers!” You never hear, “Can you believe that? That man is actually wearing a tuxedo!”
Now what irks me about all this is that we don’t have the same rights as animals do. If they can run around “naked” in public, why can’t I do the same without being accused of “indecent exposure”? Indecent, indeed! I’m not ashamed of my bare body. I can’t help that it is what it is. I like to go unclad. Shouldn’t I have the same rights as a cat or a pig? I fail to understand this hangup or irrational fear that people have about their bodies.
Three friends, a Protestant minister, a Catholic priest and a Jewish rabbi, went for a hike one day. It was very hot. They were sweating and exhausted when they came upon a small lake. Since it was fairly secluded, they took off all their clothes and jumped into the water. Feeling refreshed, the trio decided to pick a few berries while enjoying their freedom. As they were crossing an open area, who should come along but a group of ladies from town. Unable to get to their clothes in time, the minister and the priest covered their genitals, and the rabbi covered his face, while they ran for cover. After the ladies left and the men got their clothes back on, the minister and the priest asked the rabbi why he covered his face rather than his privates. The rabbi replied, “I don’t know about you guys, but in my congregation, it’s my face they would recognize.”
Not only do we not want anybody looking at our own naked bodies, we are not allowed to look at anybody else’s either. Some parents go to great lengths to hide any sort of nudity from their children, no matter how old the kids are. And if these parents are not able to keep tabs on their kids every minute, with regard to their TV watching, they can rely on the network executives to do their job for them. Phil Donahue once did a show on Nude Modeling. There was this avant garde photographer on who took pictures of naked people in public settings and passed it off as “art.” He was trying to challenge people’s attitudes about nudity and actually held a photo shoot with willing naked models right there in the studio during the show. But of course, the viewing audience at home didn’t get the full effect of what they were doing because the censors chose to obscure breasts and genitals on our TV screens. So the whole point of the show was lost to us home viewers.
They built a whole show around the tolerance of public nudity but denied those of us at home the chance to test our tolerance by not letting us see any. Does that make any sense? Not to me. I mean, do they think that we are powerless to change the channel if we are offended? We don’t have to look if we don’t want to. I happen to enjoy looking at naked men. So why should I be deprived just because somebody else doesn’t want to see it? But then, how did they know that nobody wanted to see it? They didn’t ask. They just took it upon themselves. We were watching the show, weren’t we?
Geraldo Rivera had some exhibitionist “showgirls” on his show one afternoon. One guest had the biggest breasts I have ever seen on a woman. She was a size 70 and she had on a very low-cut dress, so the things were practically hanging out. There was no way she could hide them anyway, even if she had tried. At one point in the show, she stood up, flopped them suckers out and started swinging them at the audience (I told you she was an exhibitionist). On my TV screen, however, right across where her boobs were, was a “CENSORED” sign. Well, now… Explain to me why it was all right to look at her exposed titties, even though they were only partially-covered by her garment, but as soon as her nipples were fully exposed, she gets censored? I’ve seen them do that before. Help me out here. Is the sight of a woman’s nipples supposed to be more obscene than the actual breasts themselves? Women can wear low-cut dresses and show all the cleavage they want, as long as the nipples are not exposed. They will let us watch a lactating mother breast-feed her baby, as long as the baby’s mouth is covering the nipple, therefore hiding it from our view.
An episode of “Picket Fences” had a character once say, “Boy, it’s colder than a witch’s nipple out there.” We all know that the expression is “witch’s tit.” But back then I guess they weren’t allowed to say tit. So, now I’m even more confused. They can show a woman’s tits on the screen but not her nipples, and they can mention her nipples but not her tits. Are you getting the illogical pointlessness of it all? And there is that old double standard again. Why is it perfectly all right for men to expose their breasts and bare nipples in public and on screen but not for women? That’s not fair. Is it because heterosexual men (and sapphists too, I suppose) consider a woman’s breasts and nipples, especially, to be sexual objects, therefore they must be treated as such and withheld from view like our other “naughty bits”?
How, and why, can certain parts of the human body be obscene or taboo? Who decides these things? It must be the men and their need to protect, or rather control, their women. There was a time, in some society somewhere, when a woman wasn’t allowed to expose any part of her body. She had to keep everything covered from head to foot. Even her head itself was subjected to hats and veils and scarves of some sort. It’s still that way in some mid-eastern and eastern cultures. Of course, men have never subjected themselves to the same restrictions. But over the decades she gradually began to give us glimpses of previously-forbidden territory—a neck here, an elbow there, oh-oh, there’s a bare ankle!—until the changing fashions started revealing almost everything.
Champion swimmer Annette Kellerman caused a near riot and scandal in 1907 when she appeared on a public beach in a revealing one-piece bathing suit and was arrested on the spot for “indecent exposure.“ People were shocked and appalled by her brazenness. Nowadays, with regard to swimwear, it’s the skimpier the better. It appears that the last bodily frontier is still female breasts and genitals of both sexes. Actually, they will show you someone’s bare ass or even a woman’s breasts before they show you their genitals, especially a man’s. I suppose it is because men vary so much in size and appearance, they feel threatened or inadequate when compared to other men who are better endowed. But that, to me, is the great fascination with men, the sheer variety. Women don’t have anything down front, at least that protrudes on the surface, so they all look pretty much the same, don’t they? Cosi fan tutte.
Then there is the matter of visual art. In the case of certain human sculptures that are rendered with their genitals intact, some go to such lengths as to cover or even obliterate the offending parts. If a person has feelings of personal modesty about their own naked body, they shouldn’t project their prudish attitudes on a work of art. It’s a statue! It doesn’t harbor any shame. Michelangelo’s David didn’t ask anybody to cover up his dick! Whose benefit was it for, then? If you don’t want to see it, don’t look. I do want to see it!
You will notice that many directors prefer to give us violent and gross images in their films over benign same-sex love scenes. In Midnight Express (1978), for only one example, while heterosexual director Alan Parker has Brad Davis’ true-life character, Billy Hayes, who was gay, firmly reject the loving caresses of his fellow prisoner (which the real Billy Hayes did not do), he didn’t mind at all showing our hero being brutally attacked by a sadistic guard, biting off the guard’s tongue and then spitting it across the room in a spray of blood (which the real Billy Hayes did not do either)!
We are constantly bombarded with disgusting scenes of gratuitous violence and graphic shots of blood and gore in the movies and on TV as well, which are admittedly disturbing to a lot of impressionable viewers. But they must think that we would be even more permanently traumatized, for life, if we are shown a mere glimpse of a man’s exposed penis in a film. How shocking! Something that we all have and can look at anytime we want to, we are not allowed to see on screen. But check out this decapitation and this man being gutted with his innards spewing out all over the ground! Now, how cool is that! That’s something that you don’t see every day.
What’s even more maddening is the imposed verbal censoring on taped talk shows and others. In earlier days, when someone on “The Tonight Show,” for example, would say something risqué, it would be bleeped out, and the host and guests would go on and on about it with the audience and crew still laughing, and I’m sitting at home again wondering, What did they say? What was so terrible that they couldn’t allow my virgin ears to witness? When Comedy Central airs a standup comic’s act, much of what they are saying is bleeped out, even whole jokes and punchlines. I can’t understand the purpose or audacity of censoring a comic’s routine like that. Why show it at all? Or just do what they did with Eddie Murphy Raw (1987) when Comedy Central showed it one night. That film is so loaded with so-called foul language from beginning to end that it would have been pointless to censor every word. So that time they just put a warning before the film and at commercial breaks that it contained explicit, adult language. They should do that all the time. This way, we are told what to expect and don’t have to watch if we find constant cussing offensive.
On the daytime talk shows, the language often gets rather uninhibited, and the censors will either blot out the “offending” words or exchange them with a high-pitched beep, which I find to be much more annoying than anything the guests might have said. It’s very unfair for the studio audience to be aware of everything that is said on the show and not the home-viewing audience. The whole practice seems stupid and pointless anyway. What are we being protected from? Nobody can utter any word that I or everybody else has not heard before. Oh, it’s for the children’s sake, you say? I’m sure that every child knows all those words, too, having heard them right in their own home and elsewhere, most likely. But, if it is a word that we or they have never heard before, then how do we know that it’s offensive?
If I am watching a movie at 4 AM and they bleep out a so-called dirty word, for whose benefit is that then? If a parent lets their young child sit up that late watching TV, then the youngster must be mature enough to hear a bad word and not be traumatized by it. I mean, come on! We can’t protect children from dirty language. They’re going to hear it sometime in life; you can’t avoid it. All we can do is tell them what is not acceptable in their particular household. If you don’t want your child to use a certain word, then just tell them so. Maybe I don’t mind if my child hears those words on TV.
Logo is one of the gay cable channels, all of whose programming is of an adult content. So why do they feel the need to censor certain words and situations for us adults? We usually have some idea what words are being bleeped anyway, so if it’s already in our conscious minds, what difference does it make if we actually hear the word or not? I admit that I am not crazy about chronically potty-mouthed people, but it’s still more desirable than that infernal bleeping sound or omitting what is being said.
What right does anyone have arbitrarily to make such decisions for everybody in a local area, as if everyone has the same tolerance level of decency? When the cop drama “NYPD Blue” premiered on TV in 1993, there were a number of local stations across the country that refused to broadcast the series because of its gritty, adult content. How can they do that, to make a decision like that for an entire community? Viewers should always have the option of what to watch. There are people in those areas who may have wanted to look at Dennis Franz’ bare butt. Those who are offended by partial nudity and raw language don’t have to watch the show. Just turn the channel.
Is it the presumption that since network TV is “free,” the executives think that that gives them the right to control and arbitrate our viewing? Well, the real fact is, most people nowadays have cable TV, and those who do, know that it is far from free. Whatever amount we pay for our cable, I think that should entitle us to demand an uncensored, unedited program. Fortunately, I do have a few available channels that show its films complete and uninterrupted. I wish they all would do that. They all could air their commercials and sales pitches in between programs instead of during them.
(# You say “e*ther” and I say “*ither”… #)
Literary censorship is just as pointless to me. Can someone explain to me the purpose of using asterisks or some other symbol in place of one or more letters of an objectionable word, when we all know what the word is supposed to be, so why not just spell it out? If I type “F*ck you!” you know what I’m saying; I communicated my thought. So why is “fuck you” any more offensive than “f*ck you”? The symbol is not pronounced, so the word is still what it is.
When I was on the QuantumLink Internet years ago, I would occasionally be reprimanded by the system watchdogs in the chat rooms for cursing onscreen. I did it only to make a point. Other people there would use objectionable words but would substitute a letter or two for symbols instead of the actual letters. I would always proceed to point out the gross hypocrisy of that. Why is it perfectly okay for that person to say “sh*t” onscreen, and I get yelled at if I supply the missing “i”? So I’m a better speller!
Political commentator Keith Olbermann was on “The View” one day to promote his new book. Initially, they would not display the cover onscreen, and the author could not even tell us the title. He told us to ask for it at the bookstore. But how can we when don’t know what the title is?! When Joy Behar finally did, she told us that it is called Trump Is [Bleeping] Crazy, and a certain word was blurred so as not to be read by the viewing audience. It was obvious to me and, I expect, everybody else what the word is, so why can’t they just say it? When I looked up the book online, I found the cover to read, Trump Is F*cking Crazy. Okay, so that is the word I was thinking of, but how does substituting one letter for an asterisk make any difference? Leaving out one letter doesn’t change anything. It makes no sense at all.
An award-winning play came to Broadway a few years ago with the controversial title, The Motherfucker With the Hat. But they would never say or write the full title when it was referred to. Instead, asterisks were inserted in the second half of the word or that part was left out altogether. During the Tony Award ceremonies that year, it was simply “The Mother With the Hat.” Why would the author give a theater piece a title that couldn’t be uttered by the media? I have not seen the show, but I would assume that the title would have important significance and is most likely mentioned sometime during the play, but apparently, not outside of the theater.
When the stars of the show, Chris Rock and Bobby Cannavale, made the rounds on the TV talk shows to promote it, they couldn’t even tell the viewing audiences the name of the play. Now how silly is that? “Hey, I’m in a new play on Broadway, but I can’t tell you the name of it.” The mere fact that everybody knows what the censored word is, again, what is the harm in uttering it? That’s what I find so senseless about this kind of censoring. If the word is already in our consciousness, how does hearing it spoken out loud change anything? So, he just said “fuck.” The sky did not fall. Everything is exactly the same as it was.
Writers are subject to censorship and editing even when the material is not explicitly obscene. I related in another blog that certain lyrics of some songs done by the Flirtations, although benign (we never used profanity), still were deemed to be controversial and therefore had to be censored. There has been similar discussion about gay-themed children’s books, like Heather Has Two Mommies and My Two Daddies that don’t feature any profanity or violence of any kind, but because of the subject matter, i.e. gay parenting, some feel that they have to shield their impressionable youngsters from such deemed decadence.
Someone can always find something objectionable in virtually any literature to merit some kind of censoring. There was the not-so-long-ago incident of some self-appointed book police who went on a mission to have such literary classics as Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn removed from all the city’s schools and libraries because of their use of racial epithets and attitudes. Come on, the man was just telling a story! I just heard that as a compromise, instead of banning the Twain books entirely, they merely will be rewritten, the racist stuff either changed or taken out completely. I don’t think that Twain would have allowed it. Can you imagine how much unnecessary work that is?
Now they are all up-in-arms about the movie classic Gone With the Wind (1939), complaining that it does not give a true depiction of slavery and southern conditions of the time. Well, of course it doesn’t! There is a reason for that. The producers of the film went to great lengths to “whitewash” the original book on which it was based so that it would be less offensive to the general public. They chose to focus on the characters and the love story instead. Movies are works of art. Regard them as that, whether than picking on every little thing in them.
I could take issue with all those old MGM musicals and the many thousands of films produced that include no black people whatsoever. That is more offensive to me, and I expect a lot of others as well, than Gone With the Wind ever could be. Can you imagine watching film after film for decades with scenes featuring crowds of people in public settings, like big city streets, nightclubs, restaurants and theatrical presentations, and never to see anyone like yourself represented on the screen, except white folks exclusively? But if we banned all of those films, there wouldn’t be a whole lot to watch. I elaborate on this subject in my blog article, Black History, Part 3: Racism via Show Business.
A popular choice when performing Shakespeare in high schools is to do Romeo and Juliet. But some have objected to that because of its subject matter, that is, romanticized teenage suicide, which is a common occurrence nowadays. The message that they get from the play is, “Our parents don’t want us to be together, so we’ll show them. Let’s just kill ourselves! Better to be united in death than alive and apart.” Of course, there is more to the story than that, but people will focus on any aspect that they choose to object to. This all sounds too much like the autarchic world of George Orwell’s 1984, where the government decides what everyone reads and watches. This idea was not acceptable in 1949 when the book was published. So why is it still a considered issue 70 years later? Don’t we ever learn?
There is this thing that has recently cropped up with protesters objecting to statues and memorials that have to do with the Confederacy. It’s gotten so out-of-hand now that, in addition to literature and certain movies, some people are re-evaluating practically every piece of public art and finding something offensive or objectionable about them. If they are allowed to have their way, where will it end?
Why not get rid of all the statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Christopher Columbus that you can find all over the place, to name only three? They all were slave owners. In fact, let’s tear down the Jefferson Memorial and rename the Washington Monument, as well as everything else with those names on them. Get rid of Columbus Day. We don’t need to be reminded of that racist asshole every year.
Well, guess what? Just days after I wrote the last paragraph, I heard on the news that two (so far) statues of Chris Columbus–the one in New York’s Central Park and one in Brooklyn–were vandalized and defaced. There was even some protest of the Columbus Day Parade this year. I’m just talking. I didn’t expect anybody to take me up on it!
Even a certain U.S. flag is being maligned. I am referring to the Confederate Flag. The main objection is that it symbolizes the antebellum South and white racist sensibilities. Well, so what if it does? I don’t have a problem with that. It’s just a piece of cloth. I think the same could be said about our other American flag, the Stars and Stripes (or The Star-Spangled Banner). This one symbolizes war and national conflict, that I am totally against, and reflects the same racial sensibilities, since the same people that honor the Confederate flag also pay tribute to the other one. One can make a flag stand for anything they choose, so what’s the difference? If you ban one, why not ban the other one as well? I honor the Rainbow Flag. Are they going to try to get rid of that one next?
These people need to chill out and stop taking everything so seriously. It’s as if they want to erase all references to unpleasant historical events. The danger in that, however, is if we forget our dubious past history, there is the chance that we may repeat it. Why not relegate these questionable items to museums where instead of being honored, they would be considered historical archives. So then, those who don’t want to see upsetting images, don’t have to, unless they go specifically to where they are being privately displayed.
As for getting rid of the Columbus Day Parade, I would deem that to be a losing battle, especially for Italian-Americans. The Irish have their St. Patrick’s Day, we blacks have Martin Luther King Day, and the Italians celebrate Columbus Day, regardless of what anybody else thinks about it.
Look at some of the words that were once considered abhorrent in polite Victorian society: belly, breast, cock, leg, pregnant, sex and virgin. Even up until a few decades ago no one could say pregnant in the movies or on TV. It was always “I’m going to have a baby.“ But that was not always accurate or appropriate, because the character would sometimes miscarry or terminate the pregnancy. A woman’s being pregnant does not necessarily mean that she is having a baby. That comment states an eventual outcome, whereas the other word describes the actual, present condition. I don’t understand the objection to the word. So a woman could be “with child,“ be “expecting” or have “a bun in the oven,“ but she couldn’t be “pregnant”? Who decides these things?!
Everything written probably has something in it that somebody somewhere is going to object to or be offended by. I mean, we have to draw the line somewhere! Otherwise, all human creativity would be in danger of being squelched. Therefore, I am opposed to any type of imposed censorship. I think it’s up to the artist to censor their own work, instead of some arbitrary mediator. For someone to tell me that I cannot use certain words or expressions would be rather insulting and controlling besides, not allowing me to express myself as I see fit. When I do use vulgarity (if you want to call it that), it’s part of an expression or I am trying to make a point about something. I don’t usually cuss just to be cussing. And let’s face it, vulgarity can be funny when it’s used sparingly. It is the basis of much of the humor in the world.
A psychologist is administering the Rorschach Test to one of his patients. He shows the guy the first inkblot and asks him what it reminds him of. “That’s a man and woman fornicating.” The therapist shows him the next inkblot drawing. “Oh, that’s a beautiful and sexy, naked woman fingering her vagina.” He shows him the next inkblot picture. “That’s two men in a 69 position.” The doctor tells the guy, “I am rather concerned that you seem to be preoccupied with sex.” The patient replies, “I’m preoccupied with sex? You’re the one who keeps showing me the dirty pictures!”
By the same token, a word is not dirty or obscene in itself, but only as it is perceived in our individual minds. In that way, we can make any word objectionable. So then, it’s our minds that are dirty, not the word. People on TV can say penis and vagina but they can’t say dick and pussy, unless it’s somebody’s name or they are referring to their cat or the house detective. But then, aren’t they the very same words, regardless of their different meanings? So, why are they dirty then? Apparently, it’s not the word itself but the intent or specific meaning of it.
When referring to waste material, crap, dung, feces and manure are allowed, but not shit; urine and even pee, but not piss, although one can be pissed off nowadays. Again, what’s the difference? It’s the same word. Subsequently, TV folk are now allowed to utter the word fart without being bleeped. Also, ass is allowed now but not asshole. In fact, they will bleep out only the “-hole” part of the word. (I fail to see the logic in that.) But you can say anus and rectum. People can have sexual intercourse, and as a result of the Austin Powers sequel, “shagging” has become popular, but fucking is still verboten. Why? They’re just different terms for exactly the same thing.
It appears that each new TV season gets more daring in its language, though. When “100 Centre Street” debuted some years ago, in every episode somebody had to utter the word shit as an expletive several times, despite what I just said about it. Now it’s in common usage on TV shows. Can fuck be far behind now, the last frontier of taboo words? Well, the answer to that is “no.” On the pilot episode of “Atlanta,” a new drama last season on the FX channel, I heard one of the main characters say to another actor, “Fuck you!” And it became a regular utterance on last season’s “American Horror Story,” also on FX. So, I guess now the word is finally out, as other cable channels have followed suit, even Oprah’s channel, OWN.
Some words have different meanings in different cultures. Let’s take the word bloody or bleeding, for example. In America, it’s a synonym for sanguinary, gory, gruesome, but in the British Commonwealth it’s considered a cuss word, sort of equivalent to our “lousy,” “goddamned” or “fuckin’,” as an adjective. (Other variations are blinking and blooming.) Bloody is said to be a bastardized contraction of “by Our Lady,” whereas its utterance used to be and perhaps still is by some considered blasphemous. So then, is bloody a bad word?
Another example would be the word fanny. Other than its being a woman’s name, in America it’s a euphemism for the rear end, or butt. But in Britain, it’s a slang word referring to a woman’s frontal midsection, namely her vulva. But even that is a euphemism, because the specific term is what is said to be the English schoolboy’s mnemonic acronym for Lord Nelson’s memorable victories: Copenhagen, Ushant, Nile, Trafalgar. Get it? So, in itself, how is fanny a bad word? As with most words, it would depend on where you are and how it’s used, wouldn’t it?
British actors use those words often on American television, and they are never bleeped out. I don’t know if these words are censored on English broadcasts or whether or not they are as strict or puritanical as our own media watchdogs. The whole point and cleverness of puns is the fact that many words have multiple meanings. Many jokes and riddles employ puns to provide the humor and punchlines.
When Zsa Zsa Gabor was a guest one night on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, she came on with her pet female cat, which was sitting on her lap, and she was stroking her while talking to Johnny. At one point Zsa Zsa asked Johnny, “Do you want to stroke my pussy?” Johnny replied, “Sure, if you move the cat out of the way.”
So I ask again, how can certain words be taboo? Is it a human need always to have some words that should not be uttered by anybody? Freedom of speech is supposed to be one of our most-cherished Constitutional rights. The standards change from time to time, too, whereas certain words that are deemed unmentionable eventually become allowed and then are replaced with others that we can’t use. Language and its words are in the public domain. There should not be any word that we are not allowed to see in print or hear uttered. With virtually every human concept and situation, there is always more than one way to express it.
Which brings me back to pointless and hypocritical censorship. It’s not so much what you say, it’s how you express it. “Seinfeld” did a very clever and funny episode one season about masturbation, and they didn’t say a single bad word (not even the word masturbation itself) or make even a clarifying gesture, but with carefully chosen words, we knew exactly what they were talking about.
So then people can really say anything they want to on TV and in public as long as they choose the right words to use. Obscene gestures can also be disguised. On “Motive” the lead actor has a penchant for “flipping the bird” to people who piss her off. But instead of her showing us doing it, she covers her hand with something and asks, “Guess how many fingers I am holding up?” We are supposed to assume just the middle one.
Have you seen this TV commercial? “Do you suffer from feminine itching? Use Vagisil!” Uh, pardon me? “Feminine” itching? Since women don’t have a monopoly on bodily irritations, they must mean something more specific than that. Here is my take on it. ‘So, you got an itch in your snatch, huh? Girl, you better get you some Vagisil!’ I have no idea what Vagi-Gard and Vasistat are supposed to do. The commercials don’t exactly say. FDS is a “feminine deodorant spray,” but it’s not intended for the underarms. So where, then, I wonder? Are women supposed to figure it out for themselves?
For equal time, men seem to have a problem with “male itch.” They, therefore, must be referring to the scrotum, which is exclusively male, or some kind of “crotch rot.” The area around and on our balls is more likely to itch than our dick. So there is a product for that particular problem. The Vagisil people also promote a euphemistic product for women which they tout as an “Intimate Moisturizer.” I think that is so silly. Why must they be so vague and mysterious? Just call it what it is. “Uh, excuse me. I need some Intimate Moisturizer, please. I can‘t seem to find it.” “Hey, Joe, do we have any more of that Pussy Lube in stock?!”
[Related article: Political Correctness]