Language and Television Shows

April 30, 2010

Language fascinates me. Vernacular too. But what really fascinates me is the way “acceptable” language on television has changed over the last 25-30 years. Sitting down one night a week or so ago to watch an episode of the 1970’s TV hit “All in the Family”, it suddenly dawned on me: the censors have lost their grip on reality and sensibility.

The main character in “All in the Family”, Archie Bunker, was portrayed as a racist, bigoted, hate mongering, stereotypical buffoon. He was an EOO – Equal Opportunity Offender — spewing bigoted comments towards all minorities with equal aplomb. No minority, race or religion was granted immunity from his misguided and often misdirected hate: Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, Catholics, Polish, the list goes on forever.

The following are some (but not all) of the terms Archie would often use to “describe” various minorities:

Kikes (Blacks)

Pollacks (Polish)

Mics (Irish Catholics)

Heebs (Jews)

Spades (Blacks)

3As and 3Bs (Hispanic Mexicans and Puerto Ricans)

Jungle Bunnies (Blacks)

(you get the hint, right?)

But, therein lies the problem with today’s censors. I’m not condoning the use of any of the above terms, but don’t they seem a little less “offensive” than, perhaps, some of the language that is allowed to pass through the censors today? Isn’t it entirely possible to picture a “Jungle Bunny” as a furry, cuddly rabbit hopping around a tropical forest somewhere, searching for fresh fern leaves to nibble? And isn’t the word “spade” just another word for a garden tool? “3As and 3Bs” is as innocuous a scientific classification as possible, so what’s wrong with using those to describe someone?

Nowadays, it seems like everyone on TV can swear all they want. I find it ironic that censors will let “ass” slide through, but bleep out “hole”, so it comes across as “ASS(bleep!)”  And for reasons no one has seemed to be able to explain to me, it is now perfectly acceptable to say G-ddamn. I know every time I say that, I look for lightning bolts to suddenly appear.

The ironic beauty of the language used in  “All in the Family” cannot be overlooked. Despite the racist overtones, offensive stereotyping and political incorrectness, Archie never did utter a single “curse” word. Yet, if today’s scripts ever used any of the same terms he used, there would be organized marches going on across America within ten minutes of hearing those words spoken over the airwaves. But, “reality TV” censors don’t want to run the risk of “offending” anyone.

And G-ddamn it, ass(bleep!)s like that really piss me off.

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WHOA: Reflection on “The Oh Factor”

April 24, 2010

This poem is in response to Charles R. Smith, Jr’s published poem entitled “The Oh Factor” — a poem from his CD “Portrait of a Poet” about the effects poets can have on their readers. I call this “WHOA”, because of how my students reacted to “The Oh Factor”. I found his email and sent a copy to him this morning.
WHOA

Just lettin’ you know,
Your fluid flow
Made my poets say “WHOA
And move and groove
To the sweet, smooth, slick
Sensual sound of wondrous words
First time heard
Flippin, slippin’ and drippin’
Off your CD’s knees
Blowin’ thru the easy breeze
Aimin’ to please
young minds like these
Landin’ and commandin’ in their ears
Chillin’ their fears
‘Bout hearin’
One. More. Pointless. Poem.
Taught by teacher
Preachin’ ’bout
Love for all poets
And funky, fresh, flowin’ poems
That roam
From the home
inside the
fine young mind’s
predefined eye
where they realize
recognize
and utilize
scraps of verbs and
unknown words
can make themselves shout out:
“OH!
What do you know–
I guess
MY best
can make
others say ‘WHOA.’”


The Taylor Swift/Father Tiresias “Get Me Some” Postulation

April 17, 2010

Want a romantic love song to sing or play to your beloved? Below are two suggestions. You’ll see by reading them which one is more likely to “get you some” (that is, if you’re over the age of consent), when played on your surround sound stereo.

“Love Story” by Taylor Swift

We were both young, when I first saw you
I close my eyes and the flashback starts
I’m standing there, on a balcony of summer air

I see the lights, see the party, the ball gowns
I see you make your way through the crowd
You say hello, little did I know…

That you were Romeo, you were throwing pebbles
And my daddy said “stay away from Juliet”
And I was crying on the staircase
Begging you please don’t go…
And I said…

Romeo take me somewhere, we can be alone
I’ll be waiting, all there’s left to do is run
You’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess,
It’s a love story, baby, just say yes

So I sneak out to the garden to see you
We keep quiet, because we’re dead if they knew
So close your eyes
Escape this town for a little while
Oh, Ohhh

Cause you were Romeo, I was a scarlet letter,
And my daddy said “stay away from Juliet”
But you were everything to me
I was begging you, please don’t go…
And I said

Romeo take me somewhere, we can be alone
I’ll be waiting, all there’s left to do is run
You’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess
It’s a love story, baby, just say yes

Romeo save me, they’re trying to tell me how to feel
This love is difficult, but it’s real
Don’t be afraid, we’ll make it out of this mess
It’s a love story, baby, just say yes
Oh, Ohhh…

I got tired of waiting
Wondering if you were ever coming around
My faith in you was fading
When I met you on the outskirts of town
And I said

Romeo save me, I’ve been feeling so alone
I keep waiting, for you but you never come
Is this in my head, I don’t know what to think
He kneels to the ground and pulled out a ring and said

Marry me Juliet, you’ll never have to be alone
I love you, and that’s all I really know
I talked to your dad-you’ll pick the white dress
It’s a love story, baby just say…yes…
Oh, Ohhh… Oh, Oh, Ohhh…

We were both young when I first saw you.

*******************************************************

“Cinema Show” by Genesis

Home from work our Juliet
Clears her morning meal.
She dabs her skin with pretty smells
Concealing to appeal.
I will make my bed,
She said, but turned to go.
Can she be late for her cinema show?

Romeo locks his basement flat,
And scurries up the stair.
With head held high and floral tie,
A weekend millionaire.
I will make my bed
With her tonight, he cries.
Can he fail armed with his chocolate surprise?

Take a little trip back with father Tiresias,
Listen to the old one speak of all he has lived through.
I have crossed between the poles, for me there’s no mystery.
Once a man, like the sea I raged,
Once a woman, like the earth I gave.
But there is in fact more earth than sea.

Take a little trip back with father Tiresias,
Listen to the old one speak of all he has lived through.
I have crossed between the poles, for me there’s no mystery.
Once a man, like the sea I raged,
Once a woman, like the earth I gave.
But there is in fact more earth than sea.


The Britney Spears/Todd Rundgren Battle of the Lyrics Continuum

April 17, 2010

“Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears

Oh baby, baby
Oh baby, baby
Oh baby, baby
How was I supposed to know
That something wasn’t right here
Oh baby baby
I shouldn’t have let you go
And now you’re out of sight, yeah
Show me, how you want it to be
Tell me baby
‘Cause I need to know now what we’ve got

[CHORUS:]
My loneliness is killing me
I must confess, I still believe
When I’m not with you I lose my mind
Give me a sign
Hit me baby one more time

Oh baby, baby
The reason I breathe is you
Boy you got me blinded
Oh baby, baby
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
That’s not the way I planned it
Show me, how you want it to be
Tell me baby
‘Cause I need to know now what we’ve got

[Repeat CHORUS]

Oh baby, baby
Oh baby, baby
Ah, yeah, yeah
Oh baby, baby
How was I supposed to know
Oh pretty baby
I shouldn’t have let you go
I must confess, that my loneliness
Is killing me now
Don’t you know I still believe
That you will be here
And give me a sign
Hit me baby one more time

[Repeat CHORUS]

I must confess that my loneliness
Is killing me now
Don’t you know I still believe
That you will be here
And give me a sign
Hit me baby one more time

********************************************************

“Parallel Lines” by Todd Rundgren

Face the facts
Some things never come together
Parallel lines running on forever
And you can’t turn back
There is never any starting over
Parallel lines never do cross over

It’s a challenge
Gotta make myself remember
Facing the truth, well, that doesn’t mean surrender
What is bravado and how much is a force of will?
I know that the world is full of opposites that attract
But unless we ignore the physics
Very soon we’ll have to

So I send you the gift of empathy
If you’d once in your life acknowledge me
I have visualized so thoroughly
That when I think of me I think of we

Can’t face the truth
It means that we must surrender
Understanding won’t satisfy the hunger
It whittles away at the destiny we fulfill
And like an animal running wild
You can’t call it back
And it’s just gonna make it harder
When it’s finally time to

It’s like a train that’s stuck running on a track
Parallel lines running on, running on, running on

Score: Todd – 1, Britney – 0.


The Peter Gabriel/Justin Bieber Musical Let Down Hypothesis

April 17, 2010

Today’s pop musicians (read: nearly everything written from 1995 – present) have no talent. Gone are the days of imagery-filled, gut wrenching, make-you-go-wow lyrics. Songs about love and relationships and all things that pertain to it have been dumbed down so far, I am convinced that we’ll begin seeing music hitting the top of the pop charts that was originally written as a second grade assignment in some podunk school out in the cornfields of Nebraska (no offense to Nebraskans, but if I chose Detroit or Chicago, we would be more likely to see dumbed down, obscene, rap lyrics written by angry sixth graders).

To prove my point, I give you the set of lyrics to two songs about love and relationships gone awry:

“Come Talk to Me” — Peter Gabriel, 1992 (written because of his strained relationship with his daughter)

The wretched desert takes its form,
The jackal proud and tight,
In search of you I feel my way,
Through the slowest heaving night
Whatever fear invents,
I swear it makes no sense
I reach out through the border fence
Come down, come talk to me

In the swirling curling storm of desire
Unuttered words hold fast
With reptile tongue, the lightning lashes
Towers built to last
Darkness creeps in like a thief
And offers no relief
Why are you shaking like a leaf?
Come on, come talk to me

Ah please talk to me
Won’t you please talk to me
We can unlock this misery
Come on, come talk to me
I did not come to steal
This all is so unreal
Can’t you show me how you feel now
Come on, come talk to me
Come talk to me, come talk to me

The earthly power sucks shadowed milk,
From sleepy tears undone
From nippled skin as smooth as silk,
The bugles blown as one
You lie there with your eyes half closed,
Like there’s no one there at all
There’s a tension pulling on your face
Come on, come talk to me

Won’t you please talk to me
If you’d just talk to me
Unblock this misery
If you’d only talk to me
Don’t you ever change your mind
Now your future’s so defined
And you act so deaf so blind
Come on, come talk to me
Come talk to me, come talk to me

I can imagine the moment
Breaking out through the silence
All the things that we both might say
And the heart it will not be denied
‘Til we’re both on the same damn side
All the barriers blown away

I said please talk to me
Won’t you please come talk to me
Just like it used to be
Come on, come talk to me
I did not come to steal
This all is so unreal
Can you show me how you feel now
Come on, come talk to me
Come talk to me, come talk to me

I said please talk to me
If you’d just talk to me
Unblock this misery
If you’d only talk to me
Don’t you ever change your mind
Now your future’s so defined
And you act so deaf so blind
Come on, come talk to me
Come talk to me, come talk to me

**************************

************************************************

Now for Justin Bieber’s “Baby”: (About teenage love angst)

Ohh wooaah (3x)
You know you love me,I know you care
Just shout whenever, And I’ll be there
You want my love, You want my heart
And we will never ever ever be apart

Are we an item? Girl quit playing
Were just friends, What are you saying
Said theres another, Look right in my eyes

My first love broke my heart for the first time,
And I was like
Baby, baby, baby ohhh
Like baby, baby, baby noo
Like baby, baby, baby ohh
I thought youd always be mine mine

Baby, baby, baby ohh
Like baby, baby, baby noo
Like baby, baby, baby ohh
I thought youd always be mine,mine (oh oh)

For you, I would have done whatever
And I just can’t believe, we ain’t together
And I wanna play it cool, But I’m losin’ you
I’ll buy you anything, I’ll buy you any ring
And im in pieces, Baby fix me
And just shake me til’ you wake me from this bad dream

Im going down, down, down, dooown
And I just cant believe my first love would be around.

And I’m like
Baby, baby, baby ohh
Like baby, baby, baby noo
Like baby, baby, baby ohh
I thought youd always be mine, mine

Baby, baby, baby ohh
Like baby, baby, baby noo
Like baby, baby, baby ohhh
I thought youd always be mine, mine

Luda
When I was 13, I had my first love,
There was nobody that compared to my baby,
And nobody came between us or could ever come above
She had me goin’ crazy,
Oh I was starstruck,
She woke me up daily,
Don’t need no Starbucks.
She made my heart pound,
And skip a beat when I see her in the street and,
At school on the playground,
But I really wanna see her on the weekend,
She know she got me gazin’,
Cuz she was so amazin’,
And now my heart is breakin’,
But I just keep on sayin’…

Baby, baby, baby ohh
Like baby, baby, baby noo
Like baby, baby, baby ohh
I thought youd always be mine, mine

Baby, baby, baby ohh
Like baby, baby, baby noo
Like baby, baby, baby ohh
I thought youd always be mine, mine

(I’m gone)
Yeah, yeah, yeah (6x)
(Now Im all gone, now im all gone, now im all gone)
Gone, gone, gone,(gone)
I’m gone.

*****************************************************************************

I rest my case with this one. Coming up next — Britney Spears’  “Hit Me Baby One More Time” versus Todd Rundgren’s “Parallel Lines”.