After watching NBC bleep out the words "tits" and "fuck" during a recent broadcast of their new drama, "Southland," the folks at AdAge wonder if bleeping out profanities on network television shows is really necessary.
"While NBC bleeped out the words, it was abundantly clear what was being said," writes AdAge's Brian Steinberg, "But the very fact that the network felt the need to put a semigloss on harsh language — even though it appeared in a gritty drama that initially aired at 10 p.m. on a Thursday — epitomizes the confused TV world in which we live." Indeed: why would NBC even bother to allow those lines to be shot if they knew they'd just get bleeped out anyway? It's a stupid tactic to appear edgy that actually makes the show look ridiculous and fearful of the censors.
While it's understandable that you probably shouldn't be allowed to say "go fuck yourself" on an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba, why are we still, in 2009, acting as if people don't swear on a regular basis? Paid cable shows have the luxury of adding realistic dialogue to their programming, as swears are allowed. Can you imagine Tony Soprano or Kenny Powers using "friggin'" and "bullcorn?" No. So why do we get up in arms when an actor playing a NYC cop uses the word "tits?"
Perhaps the ever blending cable, network, DVR, and paid cable landscapes are to blame for the seemingly strange decisions over what is and is not okay to say on television: "whether you agree there's no place on TV for cursing or accept that it's part of the language as it exists today," Steinberg writes, "it is impossible to miss that the rules today seem to be mostly arbitrary and based in a time when there was a much larger distinction between broadcast and cable, and when a TV time slot was a fixed appointment to view."
I will admit, however, that there is one bonus of swear removal: the amazingly bad re-dubs of 80's films, wherein you can see the character mouthing "fuck off, shithead," but hear some ridiculous replacement like "fuzz off, shipmate." That's the stuff that profanity-free dreams are made of.