Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Queer and a Motherf****r

Gets your attention, doesn't it? But the producers opted for the more tame An Officer and a Gentleman. Either way, the movie is brilliant and I had the adulterated pleasure of watching it on AMC last night. And yes, I have the soundtrack on vinyl. I also have the movie on DVD, but instead opted for keeping my butt firmly planted on the couch and watching the edited version.

And I'm glad I did, because I learned a thing or two about what's acceptable language on my favorite standard cable movie channel. Well, to be more accurate, I was totally perplexed by their editing rules and I'm not sure I really learned a thing.

PARENTAL ADVISORY: explicit lyrics. As in, I'm advising my parents not to read further.
Here are a few examples ([Censored] words in brackets; movie quotes in italics):
  • They treat me like [shit] . . . Some bull[shit] code of ethics . . . [I just can't shit on people and sleep at night]. OK, I guess "shit" is out, that must mean "bitch" is out, too, for sure . .
  • KC Jones is a son of a bitch . . . That son of a bitch! . . . You bitch! OK, I stand corrected, "bitch" appears to be in, no problem.
  • Quit whispering, sweet pea, [you're giving me a hardon], says Sergeant Foley to Officer Candidate Worley. Really? We can say "bitch," but can't talk about an erection?
  • It's growing out more than an inch, says Worley to Mayo as he went to dance with Lynette. OK, I guess we can talk about erections, but only when the guy is aroused by a woman. Hmmm.
  • The only things to come out of Oklahoma are steers and queers. I don't see no horns, so yo must be a queer . . . Best head in 52 states . . . Napalm sticks to kids . . . [Foley's a queer!] He got his balls shot off in the war! Why can we talk about someone's balls being blown off but not call them "queer? " Mutilated genitalia and mangled children are fair game, as is talking about oral sex between a guy and a girl, but even a hint of homosexuality is off limits? But wait a minute. We can call an officer candidate "queer," just not an officer. I guess 'cause we're still weeding out the candidates . . .
  • Oh God! Oh God . . . So help me, God . . . Get the hell out of here . . . Damn you! [God]damn you! . . . Can't you bend your [God] damn rules? So lets get this straight. We can say "God." We can say "damn." But "God damn" is censored every time? We can even talk about Hell, you know, the place God damns you to. What's going on here?
  • Jesus . . . Jesus . . . Jesus [Christ] . . . Jesus [Christ]. What? Really?
  • Your father was an alcoholic [and a whore chaser]. OK, this is getting ridiculous, but I think I've figured it out:
There's a God and you can be damned, but it's not that God's fault. We can say "Jesus. " That could be Jesus Shuttlesworth or Jesus Quintana, for all we know. But Jesus Christ? Well, that's the Lord and we can't be taking his name in vain on television at midnight. And talk about penises, balls, and erections all you want, but homosexuality doesn't exist for actual military officers. Alcoholism is fine for the whole family, but prostitution is too dirty. Oh, we can call women "bitches" that's OK but don't say "shit." That's too bad a word.

OK, AMC was a little bit respectful of women. They did censor out the infamous "you little c***" from Mayo to Lynette at the end. But we censor that even here at Feigned Outrage . . .

I tried to think of some method to AMC's madness, but couldn't find anything on perceived severity of swear words in the US. (There's this great little report done about British swear words — skip right to the rankings on page 9).

But can anyone make better sense of:

Acceptable: bitch, god, jesus, damn, hell, balls, alcoholic, mutilated children, officer candidates might be queer;
Unacceptable: shit, god damn, jesus christ, whore chaser, officers might be queer?

Louis Gossett, Jr. won an Academy Award for his brilliant performance. His profanity was central to the character. Removing it weakens the movie. So if you really have to remove some of it, at least have rules that make some fucking sense.


Phutatorius said...

Does the "Queer" in your title correspond with "Officer?" If it does, you'll need to bleep it.

"Edited for television" is always a kick. I remember them doing great things with The Breakfast Club, in particular.

There was a Golden Age when they used to try to convert all the censored content into something softer and mainstream. This would result in almost comical non sequiturs, a la "No more yank-ee my [hair], the Donger need food," (made-up example) or something. Too often now they just cut out the word.

It's worth noting that for cable-only channels, this is all voluntary. The FCC doesn't have jurisdiction (yet) to censor cable-only channels -- it's just the folks who use the broadcast band.

What do they do with The Sopranos on A&E?

Mithridates said...

The Village Voice commentary on Pulp Fiction on AMC is amusing. But we'd all like to see the completely unedited version of these things. That's a no-brainer. I just wonder if there is any rhyme or reason to their censoring methodology.

WhiteCollar Redneck said...

I watched "The Breakfast Club" on network TV about a decade or so ago, and when the slummy Judd Nelson character asks the prim Molly Ringwald character if she'd received "the hot beef injection," they replaced it with a rather more tame "some hot love affection".

I wish they'd advertise the job of rewriting unairable dialogue with FCC-friendly phrases, I feel like I could do that almost effortlessly. Heck, I bet I could knock out a prime-time ready version of "Pulp Fiction" in an afternoon. "Describe what Marcellus Wallace looks like! Does he look like a bridge? Then why you try to cross him like a bridge?"

Unknown said...

Major League has my vote for best made for TV movie of all time. I think it is actually better with the voice overs than it was in the theatre if you can believe that.

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