America’s “swear ban” is scrapped. What a ******* shame!
There is sadness for people who, like me, have in recent years enjoyed the occasional spectacle of America getting its collective knickers in a twist over, say, Bono saying a vaguely rude word at an awards ceremony, or Janet Jackson displaying half a bejewelled nipple (left) for a fraction of a second on live TV .
A US appeals court ruled this week that the government’s “zero-tolerance” policy regarding indecency on the public airwaves – which was ratcheted-up to the point of Victorian absurdity during the Bush era – violates the right of TV networks, and the people who appear on them, to free speech.
The decision is being pegged as a huge victory for broadcasting firms, who in recent years have faced hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines every time they offend those of a Mary Whitehouse persuasion. Now they’ve no need to fear the accidental utterance of an F-word, or even C-word on one of their programmes.
It’s also good news for viewers who might want to watch, say, the acclaimed CBS documentary 9/11 (in which firefighters faced with the deadliest terrorist attack in modern history were understandably potty-mouthed) or the PBS mini-series The Blues, both of which were censored under the previous rules. Gordon Ramsay, whose TV career on these shores is already going great guns, may also be able to explore his Glasweigan roots to their fullest extent.
All the usual prudes will of course complain that this court ruling represents the end of civilisation as we know it. Someone from the “parents television council” said today that it’s a “slap in the face” to upstanding Americans and will see children subjected to the “unbridled use of the F-word.”
But I’ve a more parochial concern. In recent years, the use of the “bleep” in place of rude-words (and the comic trend for pixellating the v-sign and other allegedly-offensive hand gestures) has become central to the best of this nation’s comedy. It’s almost impossible, for example, to think of an episode of South Park, perhaps the finest satire on air these days, that doesn’t make several dozen judicious uses of “bleeps.” The Office often makes hilariously-judicious use of pixellation when the script demands nudity.
In both shows, and in many others, the process of censorship can actually make an obscenity funny. Sometimes, uniquely funny. So I hope that people who run America’s airwaves will in future bear in mind that – when you swear – less is often more.Tagged in: janet jackson, south park, swearing, the office, tv
Recent Posts on Arts
- Friday Book Design Blog: Fitzcarraldo Editions
- Children’s books for October: Meg and Mog, The Demon Dentist and The Whispering Skull
- Friday Book Design Blog: Slightly Foxed and Notting Hill Editions
- Good Indian sales at Sotheby’s London but contemporaries’ slump worsens
- Ryoichi Kurokawa: "Digital art is already classical"
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter