VH1's Stance On "Retarded" Is Inconsistent

On tonight's episode of Charm School, Ashley insults another girl by calling her a "retarded child." The word "retarded" has long been used colloquially in ways that aren't as closely connected with mental disability, but, in recent years, has been considered so politically incorrect that some networks will bleep it.

VH1 does not bleep out the word when it is first uttered, or when Ricki Lake talks about the incident, but bizarrely, when Ashley is rehashing the conversation in an interview segment, it is bleeped. Ashley was clearly using "retarded" in a very literal, and offensive, sense, but no matter where you stand on the issue in general, you can't deny the irony of the typo within the subtitle of that screen shot.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter



Ugh, I'm horrendously guilty of using the word "retarded". And I have really mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, words matter and how we talk to one another is important to me. Calling someone a "retard" isn't any more acceptable than calling them stupid. The intent is to insult, any word in that context is meant to make someone else feel bad.

But there is an appropriate use of the word, literally as someone up thread pointed out (flame retardant, mentally retarded, etc.), as it relates to diminished mental capacity...

So, if that's applied to a situation, say "Everything got so screwed up, it was retarded..." ie. it was not handled well, or stupidly, where does that fall? Would referring to it as stupid or moronic be better, even though both those words are also terms of diminished mental capacity?

I suppose I fall under the category of people who hate misusing words as a insult that don't actually mean something insulting. For instance, "gay" literally means joyful or homosexual. Not "stupid". So using it in place of "stupid" or "lame" is incorrect and doesn't even relate to the actual meaning of the culturally applied one. But then we define words by how we use them and meanings shift.

So, if a situation is stupid, is it "retarded", or is that basically just a word we should forego altogether. I wish I didn't feel conflicted about it (and I have made an effort not to use it thoughtlessly or casually) but I do.