Friday, July 28, 2006

Pixelate This

I don’t spend much time weighing in on what PBS does or does not do. Only time I’ve ever really cared is when PBS (or various affiliated PBS type groups) tried to steal local access channels. Bad girl that I am, I think PBS is mostly irrelevant.

However, that said, I find the FCC fining of PBS affiliates for two words used in a documentary (Martin Scorsese’s “The Blues”) shown before 10 p.m. to be bullshit. Oooops! Was that one of the words?

I guess everything depends on your definition of obscenity. For myself, I stand accused and convicted of periodically having a foul mouth. I got it righteously from my mother. Church going saint that she was, when pissed off, she could swear like a sailor. Foul words don’t bother me unless they’re used gratuitously, peppered into the language for just no good reason at all or simply for shock value. But when you’re trying to tell a compelling story or get somebody to pay attention, I think blue words as nouns or adjectives can be necessary.

When Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi stepped on stage and uttered “Merde!” all of Paris went into a tail spin. That utterance was just the beginning of the obscenity the theater goers would be subjected to that evening, because the real obscenity was the violence and the disregard for humanity that King Ubu carried out in his quest for power. That “Merde!” summed up the man.

So we don’t want the kiddies to hear jazz musicians saying something not so nice but we are perfectly willing to cram their little mouths with Coco-Puffs and Happy Meals. We’re also quite enamored with having little girls dress like Brittany Spears and titillating little boys with Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. And we can’t wait to sell them all the Barney and Big Bird accessories their parent’s can’t or shouldn’t afford.

Meanwhile you gotta pixelate Jazz musicians lips (bleeping isn’t enough) because Susie or Johnny might be adept lip readers. And the Congress upped the ante, after Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, to a maximum of $325,000 per word that broadcasters can be fined.

“Paralyzing,” is how Paula Kreger, Public Broadcasting’s Service chief described it.

Damn straight Paula.

Word to the FCC. Whoever said that kids had a right to stay up past nine p.m. watching t.v. anyway? If the good stuff, like documentaries on Jazz musicians, has to wait until after 10 p.m. then you ain’t getting me cause I gotta go to bed before then and I don’t have TiVo.

All this extreme reaction to language doesn’t do anything to eliminate the overt violence and sexuality children are exposed to every day. There are Victoria Secrets commercials shown in the middle of the day that are just this side of Behind the Green Door. Last I looked, CSI and Law and Order start at about six p.m. I want to do a study to find out how many kids get a dose of Maury Povich during the day and come away thinking that everybody’s got two or three “Baby’s Mommas” or that sleeping with your father-in-law is perfectly acceptable social behavior.

More than anything else, this pixelating of mouths and freaking out over a couple words teaches our children that hypocrisy is standard operating procedure.

“You can do it Susie, just don’t talk about it.”

Morality is not about words, morality is about behavior. Which also brings me back to Janet Jackson. Having your boobie pop out during a half-time show at the Super Bowl is an “oops” moment but it is not immoral. Selling beer like it’s soda pop for four straight hours, during that same Super Bowl, is not an “oops” it’s immoral. Broadcasting the most outrageous behavior of degenerates at the top of every news cast, as if it were really news, and non-stop day and night through reality shows, is immoral. Having a couple old guys throw out a couple three or four letter words while recounting their lives as musicians is not immoral. Fining a PBS affiliate up to $325,000 dollars per word is immoral and pretty much every decision the FCC has made over the last five or so years has been immoral.

So if the FCC or Congress want to have a better picture of what is or what is not obscene or immoral, my suggestion is they take a good hard look in the mirror and adjust the fines accordingly.

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