Thursday, May 11, 2023

Censorship of "Bad" Words

Graphic by Lynn D. Townsend
No, I'm not going to dig into the "banned books" quandary. I don't believe in banning books but, yes, there are books you shouldn't allow a young child to read or have read to them. Let them be children. Some things they are not ready to hear about.

But I'm thinking more about the censorship of bad word in television and print. The traditional networks still probably don't allow "swear words" on the air. But cable networks do. I've heard "shit" more times on Better Call Saul than I can remember. Also streaming services don't seem to care. There was a streamed episode of Evil where "fuck" was said numerous times. Even I got tired of it. Rabbit/Hole had numerous "fuck" exclamations, too.

There is a Martin Scorsese film called The Departed. One of the characters, played by Jack Nicholson, used the c-word constantly. "He's a c-word, they are c-words, do they think we're c-words?" I saw that it was going to be on television and I wondered how they edited that. I wasn't interested enough to watch it. (Don't get me wrong, The Departed is an excellent film.)

Some networks bleep out "bad" words and blur the mouths of the speaker in shows and live broadcasts (and some not-so-live). Live broadcasts are usually on a 10-second delay so bad words can be bleeped or just silenced (such as at the Oscars last year). (Less than 30 minutes later I found online an un-edit version of what happened with Will Smith and Chris Rock.)

In books and movies, it's anything goes. Same with magazines it seems, based on the policies of the publisher. One magazine I read edits out swear words with asterisks. Such as "sh*t" and "f**k." I think this is kind of ridiculous since everyone knows what word they are censoring. But there's a level of decorum with not putting in the actual word. And those words are only used when quoting someone.

In a recent edition of Car and Driver, (June 2022) they jokingly called luxury SUVs "NFTs" and said that stood for "Nice F----ing Trucks." (NFTs are, of course, Non-Fungible Tokens.)

Now, when I do freelance writing, I never use swear words, even if the person I'm interviewing does. The magazines I write for don't allow them. And I'm okay with that. They pay the bills, they can have whatever policy they want.

Another thing that cracks me up is people saying "lmbo" instead of "lmao" because "ass" is a bad word. 

When I'm writing fiction, I don't care. I'll use any word I think is appropriate. I don't use swear words gratuitously, but I'll throw out an f-bomb if it fits. 

What do you think of bad language in media such as broadcast and print? Do you like to see it censored out, or do you prefer it left as is? Let me know in the comments below.


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