Monday, September 27, 2010

The Final Taboo

We’ve come a long way, baby. In 1960, NBC censored Tonight Show host Jack Paar’s joke that mentioned the phrase “water closet.” In 2010, NBC might tell Jay Leno not to tell a joke with the phrase “water closet,” not because it is indecent but because most of his audience won’t know what a “water closet” is.

Short of hardcore pornography, there isn’t much that is forbidden on TV. Showing taboo used to be limited to premium cable channels with their unedited movies and adult-themed original programming, but now regular cable networks like FX and AMC have gotten into the game. Shows like Mad Men have no qualms about using whatever language seems to suit the moment. Take this exchange in the elevator between Don Draper and Pete Campbell from last night’s episode. (I don’t have the transcript, so this is an approximation.)

DON: Shit on a shingle, Pete.

PETE: Shitty, shitty, shit, shit, shit, Don. Drinking, smoking, womanizing, and trying to hang onto the 50s before the hippies and civil rights era takes over, you shit-faced shit stain.

Later in the same episode, Roger chastises Pete and uses the word “fuck.” At least I think he said, “fuck,” as AMC muted the word. “Shit,” which was on George Carlin's list of seven words you can’t say on TV now flies freely, but “fuck,” which was also on the list, is not allowed. Why is that? The show is already rated TV MA, and if you’re offended by the word “fuck,” you’ll probably find “shit” offensive too. It’s 2010. Shouldn’t “fuck” be allowed to have a place of prominence next to “shit” on prime time cable TV?

And while you’re at it, can you show a little tit?

1 comment: