TV 101: My fix for the censorship debate (or, G*dd*mn S*lly!)
1) Last Sunday, I liveblogged the Emmys for TV Squad.
2) During the Emmys, Sally Field decided to make her feelings about war known. She said, "If mothers ruled the world, then we'd stop this G*dd*mn war."
3) AOL, TV Squad's parent site, decided to link to my liveblog under a question asking their readers to "sound off" about what Sally said.
4) Every single comment that is posted on something I've written here at TV Squad is sent to me as an email.
5) AOL has a lot of readers. Not that TV Squad is any slouch, but holy Jeebus, my inbox was stretched to the breaking point.
(By the way, "My inbox was stretched to the breaking point" can be found in my new book: 5,000 Sentences That I Have Written Which Could Also Be Read As Horribly Pornographic.)
The first batch of Sally-related comments focused on how horrible it was for Gidget to use the word G*dd*mn. The second batch arrived to yell at the people who posted the first batch. The third batch called the second batch a bunch of weak-kneed liberals. The fourth batch responded by telling the third batch exactly what they could do with their love of censorship. The fifth batch... well, you get the idea.
As a non-practicing agnosticatholic (which means that I follow strict agnosticism except during turbulence), I was shocked to discover that "G*dd*mn" is such an offensive word. People were appalled that were it not for the quickness of the Fox censor, the Flying Nun's taking of the Lord's name in vain might have momentarily slipped out of their TV's speaker box and into their brain-holes. Judging from the hysteria bouncing around my inbox, you would have thought that it was a level nine power word kill spell.
What didn't shock me was the left/right shouting match. You see, I've spent enough time at places like slashdot.org and digg.com to know exactly how any debate about naughty words always plays out:
"I can't believe people get upset about this kind of stuff! I mean, do we have freedom of speech in this country or don't we?" says the liberal as he and his cronies at the ACLU plan to tear down another nativity scene placed on public property.
"It's not a freedom of speech issue! Fox has the right to put anything they want on their airwaves! I for one am glad that they decided to make the world safe for children and women to watch television!" says the conservative as he and his friends use bibles fired from a bazooka to hunt bald eagles.
"If you don't like it, just turn the channel!" replies the liberal, washing the soot from a recent flag burning off his hands.
"It's the public airways! Children might be watching!" shouts back the conservative, his fingers tired from placing "These colors don't run" bumper stickers on his car.
And so on and so on.
I tend to fall into the liberal camp when it comes to censorship. I like to think that words are only as powerful as their meanings and banning the word does little to ban the meaning. Censoring a word to eliminate a bad feeling is kind of like trying to get rid of Osama Bin Laden by banning blank videotapes and beard dye. Maybe you see less of the evil, but it doesn't mean the evil has disappeared.
That being said, I do understand where my conservative friends are coming from. Having recently had a baby (well my wife had it, I mostly just shouted reassurances and tried not to pass out), I've had to confront the idea of what I want my children exposed to. I'd hate to have to explain to my son what a Cleveland Steamer is because Fox and I have different ideas of what TV-PG means.
We'll never fully rid ourselves of naughty words (in fact, some have argued that the dirty words are a byproduct of the evolution of language and are thus ingrained in the way we speak. Mentioning evolution, however, might not be the best way to get the conservatives on your side!) If it's part of our nature, it seems rather silly that some words are vilified as if they were the seat of evil themselves.
The airwaves, though, are public. Just because it's silly some people would get upset at certain words, don't they have a right to be protected from those words? It's quite a quagmire.
We, as a nation, need a solution (if not for any other reason than to free up blog bandwith for more important things, like making pop culture lists). Luckily, I have one: Let's get a scapegoat!
And when I say scapegoat, I mean an actual scape goat. In Bible Times, what they used to do was literally put the sins of the tribe onto an actual goat and then sacrifice that goat as a cleansing ritual.
Well, that's my Solomon-like compromise for what to do with the censorship debate. Every single time a network allows a naughty word to air, they have to take that word and write it (with non-toxic ink!) on the side of a barnyard animal of their choice. The branded animals will then live in what I like to call "Freedom Farms." Pro Free Speech advocates can go and look at the animals and marvel at what an amazing thing the first amendment is.
To appease the other side, at the end of every year those animals are slaughtered as a testimony to the naughty-no-no words they represent. The meat from those animals are then given to the homeless. What a delicious (pun intended) irony: Satan's dictionary being used as the basis for good Christian fellowship.
One unedited airing of Scarface on HBO would result in all the poor families on the East Coast having a happy Thanksgiving. The BET Hip-Hop awards only needs one censor to fall asleep during an acceptance speech and poof, Tiny Tim gets a Christmas Goose.
All of a sudden, instead of getting angry when we hear dirty words, we'd be happy because we'd know that good things were about to come out of it. We'd get to enjoy the fruits of our freedom -- right in our bellies!
Think about it. You've just come back from a meeting at the Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce. You and your 2.34 children settle in for a night of Academy Award watching. Suddenly, George Clooney gets up and says while he's happy winning the Oscar, he'd be much happier if Dubya removed his head from his *ss. Your family begins to reel. Upon hearing the word, your daughter immediately starts pole dancing and your son announces that he's going goth.
But the situation is not lost! You say, "Don't pay any attention to that word! That silly word is just going to be put on the side of a cow and next year that cow will be used to feed Hobo Fred! Good things will come from that evil, children!" Your daughter then goes back to writing her Oral Roberts University application essay while your son announces he's got to go help out the prom committee.
The only people I can see getting upset about this are vegetarians, and I don't worry about them because their protein deficiencies make them very easy to take in a fight.
In all, I don't see how this isn't a wonderful solution.
At the very least, it makes a lot more sense than our current system where people on the left and right just shout and insult each other online.
Of course, I'm open to your ideas. Just try to keep the comments clean of any curses. I live in New Jersey and have no access to barnyard animals.