it’s something we all do, in private. as Groucho might say on his quiz show, You Bet Your Life, “it’s something you find around the house.” in fact, some of us are in deep doo-doo as you read this. others are constantly being admonished to get our shit together. yet on television or radio the word is taboo no matter what the context, no matter what the reference, no matter if we are referencing our stuff, or expressing something complementary, or distasteful, or venting, or checking out something of which we are in awe, or bullshit, as some of you may think of this post, or as Robin might say, “Holy shit, Batman.” (is that religious?)

i find it most annoying and puritanically disconcerting when i’m watching a Brit  program such as MI-5, or New Tricks on American tv to find the word blotted out.  tits (as slang), bastard (as expletive), son-of-a-bitch (not referring to a male puppy) are all acceptable. why? are the religious right involved? don’t think so as it’s been going on for decades long before their ascendancy, in fact, when Fox airs re-runs in syndication it excises words used on the original network shows. (but then Murdoch is a special case.) PBS has been doing it for some years. but it wasn’t always thus.

i remember when PBS not only left the defecation word in –it’s in the dictionary, as you know; spell check doesn’t even highlight it– but also displayed nudity, frontal at that. i pay dues to my local PBS and tolerate (sometimes) their ever more frequent and lengthening beg-a-thons; i don’t appreciate expurgation, censorship, nor being treated as a child being scolded in school. as they constantly remind us. it’s our station. so leave it the fuck alone.


i expect more realism from PBS programming. in their fine series on the western mythical persona, Billy The Kid, Jesse James, Geronimo, Wyatt Earp, et cie, we were enlightened as to their brutality, their viciousness, their treatment of the citizenry, women and American Indians, idols with feet of clay, indeed. but you never heard the word. and those war docs. shit, man! did you ever hear sailors, soldiers, marines, whatever, not pepper their specch with vulgarities? the movies have grown up; Broadway and dance have come about. but on tv they’re still squeaky clean.

there was a tv series by Amistad Maupin based on his Tales of the City (San Fransisco) truly adult material with nudity, transsexuals, transgenders, drug use, homosexual and heterosexual behavior. the script contained liberal use of the vernacular. it was one of Laura Linney’s early star turns. Tales worked because that was the way the inhabitants of Haight-Ashbury spoke and comported themselves in the social revolutionary ’60s & ’70s. when the sequel was aired in the U.S.A. “Goddamn” became “gosh darn,” “shit” became “shoot.” it waa laughingly ludicrous and embarrassing actually making it worse than if the original script had been left intact. nudity? fugetabahdit!

Victoria’s Secret proves the point that scantiness is sexier than nudity. all the censoring just highlights the “dirty parts.” our imagination takes care of the rest.

your comments are always appreciated.

- © arnold jay smith

February 2012





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