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.