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Topic #11
You can do it, you can say it… why can't we see it on TV?



The other night, while channel surfing around and around and around the dial, we noticed that Mallrats was about to start on Channel 7. At first we were thrilled…until we realized that the movie was being shown on network television and was bound to be beyond censored. But we started watching it anyway, hoping that the powers that be had gotten more lax (well, at least more creative&#41 with the corny overdubs.

Alas, it wasn't meant to be. I don't know why they even bother showing movies that are practically based on four letter words on network television. Mallrats was an adequate movie…maybe not Kevin Smith's best work, but funny nonetheless. The characters, though, are all young and they swear. A lot. I  mean, my favorite character calls himself "Bad-Ass Motherfuckin' Jay" in the movie. Needless to say, they made so many edits and word substitutions that it was not even the same movie! They overdubbed the word "fart" with "vomit!" It wasn't even a joke anymore, it was just plain confusing. I mean, "fart?" Don't all kids over the age of two know (and use&#41 this word?

As we watched the movie become more and more un-funny, I started picturing all of the aging network censoring people fervently leafing through their dog-eared yellowed copies of their outdated Bad Word Handbooks and slang dictionaries.

The last time I was on an airplane, I happened to catch the in-flight movie, Good Will Hunting. Not only do you have to pay for the flimsy earphones to watch the movie, but you also get the added treat of having it edited and censored for your viewing pleasure. It's hard to get emotionally involved in the storyline when Robin Williams' pivotal monologue is peppered with words like "darn", "jerk" and "dummy." If there are virgin ears anywhere on the plane, just don't sell the kid the flimsy earphones! Like he won't hear the word "fuck" one or two hundred times before he's seven years old, anyway.

I also recall thinking how absurd it is that children as young as eleven years old are building bombs, loading shotguns and murdering their parents in cold blood, yet people are worried about them hearing a few "dirty" words. These are not the innocent youth of the 1950's! When these kids play cops and robbers on the playground, it's for real!

TV violence and its effects on children has always been an issue talked about in many a Family Circle article. When I was little I always ended up reading my mother's magazines because I had nothing else to do, and to this day remember reading about a kid who hung himself after seeing it done on a cartoon. I also remember thinking, why would anyone copy a cartoon? A few years later, when I was in my I-love-to-read-collections-of-quotations phase, I remember one that had to do with the Little Matchbox Girl and said something along the lines of how kids used to be sad when the Matchbox girl was sick or poor or something, but nowadays kids aren't satisfied until the Matchbox girl gets beat up, set on fire, robbed and thrown in the dumpster (or something like that.&#41 Whatever the quote, the point was that modern kids have become desensitized to violence.

So why isn't violence censored like swear words are? After hearing a perfectly good stupid joke get ruined by censors replacing the word "fart" with "vomit" (I know I'm focusing on this example, but I still can't believe it. I mean, are these two things even related?&#41 I changed the channel and promptly viewed someone planting a bomb in a car, the car blowing up, and chunks of said car flying through the air, along with a body or two. And that was only 60 seconds on one channel!    

I suppose I agree that even though I use it frequently, perhaps the word "fuck" and all its variations aren't ready to go mainstream. But isn't a kid hearing or saying a few swear words better than a kid seeing so many people blown up or shot that doing the same thing himself is no big deal? The thrill of saying a "bad" word will wear off pretty quickly. Quicker than a prison sentence, that's for sure.      

Every morning, I wake up, turn on the morning news and then go and pee. Right before I fall asleep, my evening ritual consists of peeing, turning off the light and then turning off the television… usually the evening news. Television starts and ends the day for me. So why didn't I end up being an ax murderer?

The current popular sentiment in the United States is that all television, aside from the history channel and PBS, is evil, and that if you watch it, you will become a drain on society. If so, how does that explain where I am?

I grew up watching the sort of TV that would be considered unwholesome for children these days. I watched Sam Malone try to get into every woman's pants every week, as he served up beer to the barflies at Cheers. I watched the glamorous violence of Hill Street Blues. I watched Porky's and Hardbodies when I stayed up late at friends houses on HBO. So tell me, did I end up being a sex-obsessed violent barfly?

Ok, maybe, I have been affected more by television than I initially thought when I started writing this Topic of the Week. I wouldn't say that I'm excessively violent, but I am an aspiring boxer. I'm most certainly a barfly, so I can't argue that one… and I'm certainly not a sex-maniac, though I do love a good romp in the hay.
The question is did television make me the person I am today?

Television is not good or bad… it's an inanimate object. It's a box that transmits pictures and sound into your living room… a box with a number of buttons, including an off button.

It's quite easy for pundits to blame television for all of the woes in our society, but how can you blame an inanimate object? Do you blame trucks for the rise in country music? No, that would be considered ludicrous. But politicians, teachers, and every other self proclaimed "Children's Expert" seems to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of television.

Aah, television. It has become the easiest target for a generation of unfit parents. Kids with Attention Deficit Disorder? Blame it on MTV and give them ritalin. Kids using drugs? Blame it on the heroin chic fashion styles found on television and throw them in jail. Kids killing other children? Blame it on television violence. Bullshit.

Television isn't responsible for the problems in today's society. The cause of the problems are parents who don't have the time to teach their kids the difference between right and wrong. It's easier to have the kids watch 4 hours of television when they get home from school instead of spending time with them.

So, instead of having parental involvement in their children's activities, we have just given parents control over their children's sole activity: television watching. Instead of a caring parent, we have given the children of the nineties a v-chip… a silicon parent.

It's funny, when a kid figures out a way to outsmart the v-chip, will most parents try to talk to their kids to find out why they decided to break the v-chip? No, they'll scream and punish their kids. Then they'll blame the maker of the v-chip for not being a better parent to their kids than they are.

So, stop trying to blame and punish television for your children's problems. Get off your collective parental asses and get involved… and as Homer Simpson said to the television, "Let us never fight again."

By the way… if you have any topics that you would like us to take on in next week's Topic of the Week, Go to the Message Boards and use the Topic of the Week Conference.

Posted in Topics of the Week (1990s).

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