Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Censor, Censor

This is a bit of an extension on yesterday's spiel about the censorship of books. Now I'm going to talk about censoring in American television, which I often find to be as ridiculous as the people who ban books.

It's strange what will create an uproar, a demand for censorship. The United States is a country that made freedom of speech the first amendment, and yet people ban books, ask that episodes of television shows to never be repeated or ask to ban the show completely. And let's not forget the "watchdog," the FCC, which inspects episodes for indecent material.

And by indecent, I mean sexual. Violence rarely raises a red flag, unless there is too much blood. Go ahead! Let someone get shot in the stomach! Just don't dare to show the actual consequences! But if a woman's skirt be too short or two men happen to kiss...then we have a problem.

And sixty years ago, the television taboos were so much worse! Married couples couldn't be shown in the same bed. Until the biggest television star in the country became pregnant, pregnant women weren't allowed to be shown, either. Even the word "pregnant" wasn't allowed! And do you know why that was? Because everyone knows in order to become pregnant, you have to have [looks around furtively] sex. And we can't have that. 

Then there were the complaints about "appropriate dress," again mostly for women. I Dream of Jeannie had to keep their female lead's belly button covered after someone casually mentioned you could see it. On The Dick Van Dyke show, people were scandalized by the capris Mary Tyler Moore wore. They weren't a dress! And let's not forget, the original character was deemed too Jewish.

Flash forward to the nineties, when the two reigning shows were Seinfeld and Friends. Lots of sex there, including the first admission that people actually do masturbate. But I can count on one hand the number of black characters on each show. Asians and Hispanics? Maybe a few. Gays? What are you nuts? Perhaps it's interesting to note that the character of Chandler on Friends was originally meant to be gay. If he was, I wonder what would have happened in the gay movement? It may have jumped forward a few years, and not needed Will & Grace (which my uncle found offensive) to bring it into people's homes.

Like sex (but really not), homosexuality is a touchy subject on TV. Will & Grace brought it to the fore, but how often did you see Will kiss a man as opposed to Grace? And the first same-sex couple kiss wasn't even on this supposed barrier breaking show. It was on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Of course, it created a small storm, too, although when I saw it, two females who had been dating for a while exchanging a simple kiss of affection, I didn't think twice about it. I didn't realize it was an issue (and neither did Joss Whedon, apparently). Maybe it wasn't until other people made it one.

What is it about sex that puts people on edge so badly when they could just turn off the TV? They don't want their children exposed to it...then don't expose them. If they look it up, which they're bound to do because adults are making a big deal about it, maybe you should tell them why you think it's inappropriate rather than demanding it be taken away from the people who enjoy it and don't have a problem with it. Maybe you should throw out your freaking TV! But this is the United States. People can say what they want, and that includes when they're on TV. Whatever you think of a show, it has a much a right to be heard as your complaints.

And people: sex is just sex.

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