Thursday, March 16, 2006
Watch your language, soldier.
When is a dick not a dick? In these days of terrorism, wiretapping, and shows like Celebrity Fit Club, The FCC is trying to hold the line on foul language and teen nipples.
Language fines were directed at Rupert Murdoch's Fox, the home of Manson family values, for D.B. Cooper's use of shit, bullshit, horseshit and shit-eating grin. I've never seen D.B. Cooper, and I'm not all that interested in scripts dependent on variations of shit unless they work in merde and caca. Oh, and poop. Poop is funny.
Other language fines were leveled against the WB for "The Surreal Life 2," a vulgarity on so many levels, and PBS for the Martin Scorsese documentary "The Blues: Godfathers and Sons." Bluesmen, don't you know, should never use foul language, even when speaking about club owners and record companies.
"NYPD Blue," dodged a bullet when the fine parsers of profanity ruled that, in context, 'dick' and 'dickhead,' did not refer to a man's privates. Lenny Bruce got arrested for saying schmuck in a nightclub because, as the undercover Yiddish-speaking officer testified at trial, schmuck refers to the head of a man's penis. But now Blue's homicide dicks can properly call a scumbag a dickhead, so that's progress.
We're certainly seeing progress on the nipple front. Seems the FCC fined a network for an episode of "Without a Trace" which showed a teen orgy and flashed a bit of teen nipple and I wonder where the fuck was I? Teen orgies on TV and I don't have a Tivo? That's not right. Goddamn it, that's just not right.
I bring this up to get to the language question. I get asked about it all the time and I always say that I use words appropriate to the character and most of my characters are bad-ass motherfuckers whomping the holy shit out of evil cocksuckers, so they tend to work blue.
The question was asked of the panel at Cape Fear and in the discussion Mailer's The Naked and the Dead was mentioned. In those tightly-laced times, Mailer felt constrained to use the word frig for what is inarguably a GI's favorite noun, verb, adjective, adverb, interjection and exclamation.
That prompted Jack Bludis to tell the story about Dorothy Parker meeting Mr. Mailer and saying, "So you're the young man who can't spell fuck."
God bless you, Ms. Parker.
And God bless all the writers wrestling with what's appropriate to character and what's necessary for the FCC.
Feel free to add your own encounters with readers who don't object to the violent dispatch of a dozen or so human beings, but get the vapors over the word cunt. We're all grownups here.