Only in the US Supreme Court, apparently.
In hearing oral arguments Tuesday Nov 4th over whether or not the government can outlaw (read: fine heavily) fleeting or one-time use of expletives on television programming, some scenarios got rather ridiculous. The case surrounds Cher dropping an F-bomb, and Nicole Richie talking about cow poo in her Prada.
Both were one-time use expletives on live award show ceremonies that aired in the evening. The problem is the FCC is afraid young children will be exposed to these supposedly horrendous words, thus changing their lives forever. (Read the rest of the story here.)
Now, of course I agree with the general concept the FCC puts forth- keeping smut and obscenity away from children. Children grow up fast- we don’t need them to grow up any faster. And there is that tricky business of figuring out exactly what is smut, what is indecent, what is obscene- and what is not. I do not envy those that are tasked with definition-creating.
But let’s be realistic- these words were fleeting. Unlike watching Good Will Hunting (I once counted 75 f-bombs in the first half hour), any parent could reasonably expect the evening airwaves to be free of consistently-used profanity. That is a granted. But to fine television stations millions of dollars (a la the Janet Jackson fiasco) due to a random star’s own use of a four-letter word here or there is silly on the verge of draconian.
Chief Justice John Roberts, debating a lawyer for Fox Television (the unlucky station on which the profanities occurred), asked “Why do you think the F-word has shocking value or emphasis or force? Because it is associated with sexual or excretory activity.”
Hmm. Last time I checked, every living thing is involved in some sort of excretory business throughout it’s life cycle. And it’s a near absolute to say that just about everyone that hasn’t voluntarily declared celibacy has or will be at some point in their life be involved with sexual activity. Ditto for most mammals, insects and all non-asexual plants.
Something so ordinary, so daily, so basic to the existence of life is not of itself shocking. The perversion of it? Generally, yes. But that was not the case with these award shows.
I’d rather stay on the current path rather than the slippery slope towards total censorship.
And as always, parents can turn off the television. Good rule of thumb? If you’re afraid your child might be maimed (or bring up what to you might be an uncomfortable conversation) by a curse word, you’ve got more to fear if you’re letting them watch programs with non-role model stars like Nicole Richie in them.