Monday, February 22, 2010

Bleep You

Aun que aprendi a español primero, hablo ingles todos los dias.

Despite my inability to spell fifty cent words like "moratorium" correctly, I really love the English language. Writing it, reading it, babbling on and on in it with my buddy Jeff or into a microphone. I like big words, arcane words, fifty-cent words, funny-sounding, and nasty-sounding words. And I'm quite fond of certain words that evoke stress or emotion or anger or perversion or any number of interesting sentiments. Hence, I really like profanity.

But it's a double-edg--oh wait, I'm not going to say "double-edged sword" anymore.

Have I mentioned that yet?

Well, it doesn't matter, 'cause that's not what I got on here to talk about. I guess I wanted to say a few (dirty) words about profanity. Besides, I highly doubt there's a Bible passage that says "Curse not lest ye be cursed."

I'm editing the podcast right now, and at one point I say, "Well, I don't have kids, so I guess I'm an unfeeling shit," in reference to the nonsense of teachers or coaches making it against the rules to keep score or declare winners or losers.*

As I sometimes do on the podcast, I became a bit puffed up with that sweet sugary righteous indignation you're always feeling, and started to say that I think kids need to understand that they're not always going to win and that there's going to be somebody better than them at things and they absolutely NEED the ability to lose gracefully without pitching a histrionic (see, another fifty cent word there) screamfit when it happens. 'Cause it's gonna happen. To you and me both (though probably more to me than you**).

But, like I usually do when editing, I had to make the decision of whether to bleep the profanity, or to let it be.

And that's not always an easy thing to determine. If it's a joke, sometimes it's funnier to bleep a word, especially if it's there for shock value. I watched a recent "South Park" where they bleeped the episode on television, but left in all the cursing on the internet version, and the bleeping was funnier than all the "flicks" and "bunts." Yet at the same time, in the SOUTH PARK movie, when they use the phrase "donkey-raping shit-eater," that's a big laugh for me every single time, and it just wouldn't be with added bleeping.

Sometimes I decide to bleep a word that's NOT obscene or profane because it makes things more oblique or amusing (like once I said, "So it makes me look like a total jerk either way," and I bleeped "jerk" just for the bleep of it), even if we self-censored ourselves beforehand, by saying "effing" or "a-hole." A lifetime of watching television has shown me that bleeps are funny, sometimes in and of themselves.

But when I'm angry or feeling really sincere (read: self-righteous), I often choose not to censor things. And I don't know if that works to my advantage or not. I believe I actually used the f-word in a recent podcast episode and left it in because I was trying to get my point across and make it obvious I really meant what I was saying. Monsieur Anklevich left it in, though he has bleeped things before (most recently, when I said the words "Aunt Jemima" as an example of something offensive one might say. In retrospect, that may have been misconstrued had he left it in), but I don't know whether that was right or not.

Which brings me to the "shit" comment on this week's episode. It's hard to make the decision here because it's not supposed to be funny (even though Big laughs), and if I bleep it, it will probably sound more like a joke than if I leave it. If I went by the rule Is It Really Necessary? in using or not using certain naughty words, that opens another can of monkeys since my buddy Jeff's mother would NEVER deem profanity necessary, and another buddy of mine (also named Jeff) said there wasn't a single word he considered over the line . . . ever.

When writing in college, I constantly had to censor myself, and I remember using the f-word in a screenplay and being pressured to change it to something else (I also got grief for using the word "damn," "bitch," and "golf balls" around the same time, so there's the sliding scale again). I tried less R-rated curses like "asshole" and "bastard," but they didn't have the same effect or sound as natural as the f-word. I tried removing the curse altogether, since I've found that substituting other sentiments often works better than simply changing "shit" to "spit" or "prick" to "jerk" or worst (and also most common) "fuck" to "screw." But it just didn't work the way the f-word did in that case, and I ultimately ended up putting it back in. There are certain colloquialisms that only work with the real words, kids.

Honestly, I really should be covered on the Dunesteef, no matter what I choose. When we started our podcast, we had to make the determination of whether we would make use of the Explicit tag, since there aren't letter or number ratings for podcasts, just Explicit or . . . not. And from the very beginning, we decided that, while we didn't intend to fill our show with blasphemies and the always delightful c-word, we weren't going to tiptoe around language every week and a half. Life has taught me (and Now Slightly Less Big Anklevich) that somebody is going to be offended no matter what you do. If there's nothing overly offensive about your entertainment, that person will find it on his own, whether it's there or not.

And just between you and me, in most people's eyes, the whole Explict or Not Explict line of demarcation is the f-word. I'm not exactly sure who decided that it was the foulest of all dirty words, but when they announced it, people really sat up and paid attention. It's a pretty powerful word, and I've been told that it's the most versatile word in the English language, but it has the power to set people off like nobody's business.

In '08, Big and I weren't about to go through every episode of our podcast and determine on some personal scale (or arbitrary one like the f-scale) whether each show was Explicit or not. So we just put a blanket caveat on every one of our episodes, hoping that it would warn the wrong type of people away, even though we have yet to air a child-is-raped-by-demon-possessed-grandfather story like a certain podcast I know.

Is it possible that we have chased off potential listeners that way? Oh bleep yeah, but hearing some angry parent claim we traumatized his twelve year old by saying "dildo" or "bungstain" on our show is a headache neither of us want. As Big always says, what the devil are you doing listening to podcasts with your kids anyway?

Abbie Hilton, friend of the show and fellow podcaster, says that the Explicit rating is a good thing. It offers a freedom and openness to say whatever you want without the fear of a dark shadow standing behind you. She said she sees the Explicit warning on a show and she's even more likely to check it out. But of course, her upbringing was pretty similar to mine, so she's broken as an objective observer.

Everybody has their own rules as far as language goes. There was a time when I refused to use certain words and frowned upon anyone who did use them. But I grew out of that, the same way I finally stopped wetting the bed in my early twenties. Some people are more sensitive to profanity than others, and many are more sensitive to certain words than all the others, and walking on eggshells isn't going to please them or me.***

I still haven't decided if I should bleep it or not. I probably won't, because while this post started out as an amusing little "I wonder which is better" paragraph, it spiraled into some kind of rumination on rules and sensitivities and language mores and female circumcision, so I'd better just leave it in, or all this blather will have been for nothing.

Even more for nothing, I mean.

Rish "Bich is Latin for generosity" Outfield

*My niece Lexy has started playing basketball on some kind of kiddie girls league, and they have games but they don't keep score, out of the altruistic desire to protect children from a sense of failure or loss or disadvantage or challenge.

**Although, is that fair? I'm the kind of geek that sits in the sidelines not even gearing up to play the game, so it's possible that those with the lumbar to actually participate in life are going to lose a lot more than me, numberwise, at least. But man, you guys are so much the better for it.

***Here's one last aside. One time at work, a friend of mine called a woman a fucking bitch after verbally she ripped me up and down. Was that appropriate? Well, probably not, since I got fired for doing an impression of President Bush on the phone once. But did I appreciate it? Oh hell yeah, even though I don't think I ever said so.

1 comment:

Abigail Hilton said...

What makes me giggle is that you're on your own journal in a little backwater of the internet (where you never respond to replies and probably won't even read this) and still...STILL you are typing "the f-word." Oh, Rish.

Say what you want to say. Fuck is shorter to spell! On your podcast - be fearless.

Of course, do as I say, not as I do...