Jan 16, 2012

Vulgar is as vulgar does

Yes, the title is a Forrest Gump-ism.

My apologies to Forrest, but it sounds like something he might have said, doesn't it?

A few days ago, I saw where the Supreme Court is being asked to weigh in on the FCC's guidelines and fines.  Basically, the case would open the floodgates to the broadcast networks to show and say anything, just like the cable networks.

Not too long ago, I came across an online discussion regarding offensive language in a prime-time television show. Someone raised an objection to the proliferation of "G-D" bombs in a new USA Network original series.  I happened to see several episodes of the series they were referring to and also found the inclusion of this particular phrase to be gratuitous and crude - it wasn't uttered in the context of a heated outburst, it was a casual adjective tossed in and repeated numerous times, like a kid who has learned a naughty word and looks for every opportunity to use it in a sentence until he gets scolded.

But apparently, the majority opinion - at least in that little fishpond/forum - was that this phrase and others of its ilk are now commonplace in modern society, and anyone who objects to them is either geriatric and/or too sensitive for their own good. And the old-school folks would do well to get used to such language. Or turn off their TV.

Really?  That's their best argument?

For too long, I think we've accepted the idea that if we don't like something, it isn't our place to render judgment, but we should simply leave it for those that do. That advice might be fine for the buffet line, but when it comes to what comes to us through our radios and televisions sets, just how long do we continue down this path before the only recourse is to shut ourselves in our homes and tune out the rest of the world, figuratively and literally?

As a kid growing up, any potty-mouth phrases were met with--at a minimum--a stern, "Don't be vulgar" rejoinder from any adult within earshot. And so I always equated the word "vulgar" with coarse, crude language.

But its core, vulgar (vulgare, vulgaris in Latin) means "common." I guess it is fair to characterize offensive words and phrases as vulgar - sadly it seems they have truly become truly common and commonplace.

I'm not naive and I do understand that most of us utter impolite things from time to time - some people more than others.  However, if I could, I would ask script writers to consider this:

Does life imitate art, or vice-versa?

if it's life imitating art, then screenplay "art" has a moral imperative to inspire us to be better than we are.

If art imitates life, then that's a pretty sad commentary on what the writers see when they view the world.  Maybe they should get out more, or at least become a little choosier about the company they keep.

Looks like a lot has Gone With the Wind...
Maybe someday televisions and movies will come up with the "novel" idea of holding up a more enlightened and refined vision of humanity to us, instead merely echoing what is coarse and crude and well....vulgar.

If they do, let's not spoil it for them by reminding them they've gone back to the "good old days" when only movies were allowed to have any bad words and the earliest adopters of coarse language even had to pay a fine to the FCC to include those particular phrases.

Until then I guess I'll keep picking and choosing what to watch from a shrinking pool of possibilities.

Happy thoughts,

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