[T]he use of bleeped curse words on television has risen steadily, particularly over the past few years, according to a recent study by the Parents Television Council, an L.A.-based media watchdog group. Across all networks and prime-time hours in 2010, a bleeped or muted S-word aired 95 times (up from 11 times in 2005) while a bleeped or muted F-word aired 276 times (up from 11 times in 2005).
Before we get inundated with comments* ranging from HOLY DIARRHEA-BLUBBERING FUCKBALLS FCC SUX 1ST AMENDMENT RIGHTS THAT MEANS FREEDOM OF SPEECH YOU FASCIST COMMIE NAZI PIG RAPERS to HOLY FROG-FLOPPING SHITCICLES THIS IS A MOTHERFUCKING OUTRAGE LET'S STRING UP ALL THESE PREVERTS BEFORE THEY DESTROY OUR CHILDRENS' PRECIOUS BODILY FLUIDS WITH FLUORIDATION, let's take a look at America's TV history, and censorship as a whole after the break.
*DISCLAIMER: The above comments are designed as samples and do not convey actual commentary written to this blog. Your mileage may vary. Professional driver on a closed course. Do not attempt at home. Viewer discretion is advised.
Before the 1930s, TVs existed as these giant, almost industrial machines with huge spinning plates within that produced crude moving pictures, of far less quality than the kinescopes you could peer into on the boardwalks and nickelodeons for a nickel. Until 1939, at the World's Fair, when the first cathode-ray tube television was displayed to the public. RCA seized upon this and sold their first sets. However, as soon as they all got home and installed their fresh, new, and wonderfully-styled boxes with wood furniture, they complained there was nothing on.
And for several years, that was indeed the case. From 1941 to 1945, any fledgling television agency that was broadcasting was cut short due to the then-new FCC's regulations. But after the war was over, the industry blossomed. All kinds of programming came about, and Americans were enjoying their new entertainment medium. You had comedy, drama, documentaries, kid's shows, even the first sitcoms in the later years. And thus, a blissful coexistence was drummed up, a man and his tube.
Now let's take a look at the censorship side. America, as a whole, has two sides. This great Republic was created by the revolutionaries, the rabble-rousers, those who wanted to be different and rebel from His Majesty and create their own way, their own style, their own experiment in the world stage. An experiment of limited government and personal freedom. The other side of the coin is our ingrained puritanical roots, from the settlers in 1620, the Quakers and Puritans; separate religious sects with their own interpretations of the Bible and God's will who favored modesty and humility above pride, one of the seven deadly sins.
We see opposing sides in everything to this day, and broadcast television is no different. We've got those who want television to be less tightly controlled by the FCC, citing freedom of speech and wanting less rigorous restrictions in programming and content, e.g. no bleeping of bad words. Then we have the other side, those who think the FCC has gone soft and is allowing more trash and filth going through the airwaves and rotting the minds of poor, defenseless, innocent children with violence, overt sexual references and racy dialogue.
What course should we follow? Entertainment is reaching us in far more ways than radio and television. What to do about these new ways of getting our favorite shows, via such services like Netflix, Hulu, or even downloading them? The article continues:
Meanwhile, viewing habits have gotten more personal, with more viewers choosing what and when they watch instead of accidentally happening upon, say, Melissa Leo cursing her way through her Oscar acceptance speech. Regulation gets even trickier when the same shows that air on broadcast television are being watched on the Internet, which, like cable, isn't regulated by the government.
"Considering that people are getting their television in a more private way, it's less appropriate to censor it," argues Greg Daniels, creator of "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation." A few years before the FCC lost much of its power, Daniels says NBC's standards and practices department pressed him to cut a few bleeps from a heavily bleeped "P&R" episode that focused on a nickname given to Leslie's mom, "the [bleep] of Pawnee." Now, Daniels says, "If we were to cut something bleeped for broadcast, we would feel more comfortable putting it online, and that's becoming the main way that people get their entertainment."
Indeed, the FCC has been getting beaten down by the courts recently over claims of indecency and grabs over net neutrality. Shows have been pushing the envelope more and more in the late-night blocks, almost falling into the category of Skinemax. Okay, maybe not that severe, but there is a change in the dialogue and scenarios presented to the viewership over the past several years.
So now, we've finally come to the opinion piece of this post. What do I think about all the beeps and bleeps and wonderful black bars? Here's my two cents. I like entertainment that makes me think. I don't need to see a pair of breasts flashed on the screen to tell me I'm having a good time, and I don't need to hear a middle-aged woman using words that would make a longshoreman blush to tell me something's funny. I love a comedian who can do an entire skit and be clean throughout. Red Skelton and the Three Stooges have released far more laughter from me than, say, Larry the Cable Guy or Jackass. And I do confess I enjoy the dark comic works of the late Messrs. George Carlin and Lenny Bruce.
Having said that, I leave you, gentle reader, with this. What we choose to see on television should come from personal choice. You have the choice, and the freedom, to decide what programming is best for you and your sensibilities, no matter what they may be. So pick up that [bleep]ing remote and set that [bleep]ing DVR, there are shows to watch.