I'm Mad as Hell, and I'm Not Gonna 'Tard it Anymore!

What makes television network censors nervous nowadays? According to four TV writers who sat on a great American Cinema Foundation/L.A. Press Club panel moderated by occasional reason contributor Cathy Seipp Saturday night, today's big no-no's include:

* Having sympathetic characters smoke. "If you show people smoking," Boston Legal Executive Producer Scott Kaufer quoted his network as pleading to him, "don't show them inhaling."
* Having anyone, let alone a serial killer (which was the case in question), use the word "retard."
* Using the word "vagina."
* Referring to a specific product, like, say, "Viagra." (It would make Cialis mad, etc.)

Angel writer Tim Minear also fired off a nice one-liner, when asked what he says to people who tell him they don't watch TV: "I run them over with my Mercedes."

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  • ||

    Angel writer Tim Minear also fired off a nice one-liner, when asked what he says to people who tell him they don't watch TV: "I run them over with my Mercedes."

    Ha ha ha. Only if...

  • ||

    "Using the word 'vagina.'"

    So what DO we call them, or do nextwork censors assume that women really are built like Barbie dolls?

    If we can't use the word "vagina," what about "penis?"

  • ||

    Whoops! Make that "network."

  • ||

    I hear the word penis every so often on Leno or Letterman.

  • Steve Smith||

    I wonder what the networks' problem is with having a villain use the word "retard". You would figure that "retard", as with other offensive terms like "nigger" or "kike", would be useful precisely to show what a creep a character is, rather than legitimizing the term in ordinary parlance.

  • Matt Welch||

    Steve -- I think it's just a don't-go-there type of thing (as are, probably, those other words, unless when spoken by specific neo-Nazis & whatnot). Though the substitution for retard -- handi-capable -- was obviously much worse on several levels....

  • ||

    What I think is hillarious is how each term that was at one point a technical term for someone that is retarded, has turned into an insult. Moron and retarded for instance. Yet, they keep changing the word, not realizing that it is the connotation of the condition that is an insult. If handi-capable swept the nation's vernacular, in 20-30 years we'll be moving to the next term because handi-capable will be considered an insult. Calling someone stupid and using whatever term is used for mentally challenged as a proxy will always be present in society. It's not like racial slurs, where the populations of people that think insults based on race are normal. I can see gay as a pejorative turning into the mid-late 21st century version of nigger for this reason.

  • Warren||

    Having anyone ... use the word "retard."

    The premiere example of just how inane the 'American English pronoun game' is. Even more poignant that Negro, Colored, etc. Here are the variations, of the exact same concept, I learned growing up:
    Mental
    Retard
    Retarded
    Mentally handicapped
    Learning disabled
    Special

    Some of them barely lasted a season. I stopped paying attention in mid 80's when I saw someone start a fistfight over being called "special".
    Oddly enough as six-year-olds we rarely used the word "mental" with malice. Perhaps not in a very enlightened sense either. Usually we used it to convey; "pay no attention to him, he's not an idiot, he's just mental".

    Which invites the question; What are we calling the cognitively challenged these days?... Oh right.

  • ||

    It�s like when you see someone look at a little handicapped and go �ooh, look at him, he�s not able-bodied. I am, I�m prejudiced.� Yeah, well, at least the little handicapped fella is able-minded. Unless he�s not. It�s difficult to tell with the wheelchair ones.

  • Warren||

    I can see gay as a pejorative turning into the mid-late 21st century version of nigger for this reason.

    Where you been Mo? No chance, since the faggots took back the word.

  • ||

    Heh, and to think, Howard Stern once had a retarded woman on his show who smoked Marlboros with her vagina. Now that would blow the censors' minds!

  • Matt Welch||

    Pavel -- I think you meant "ooh, look at 'im, 'e's not able-bodied" ...

  • ||

    Keep it up Matt. You could be the next Irvine Welsh.

  • ||

    "Using the word 'vagina.'" ... So what DO we call them... [?]

    May I suggest "Paradise Junction"?

    My favorite. There are many other synonyms, but they tend to be crude. This one is positive and elevating.

  • ||

    "Using the word 'vagina.'" ... So what DO we call them... [?]

    I've long been a "quim" partisan, myself.

  • Steve Smith||

    "Handi-capable"? What's wrong with "texan"? Or better yet, "yooper"?

  • ||

    Just learn to use euphemisms:

    "Don't get to close to Johnny; he rides the short bus."

    "Yes, Darla is special...in an Olympic kind of way."

    I do have to say, the best part of making light of truly retarded people is that they'll laugh along with you and still give you a hug.

  • ||

    Mo,

    You're dead on. It's a never-ending cycle as each new euphemism eventually becomes seen as pejorative, simply on the basis of what it describes. People should just stick to their guns and defend the proper, original usage of the term.

    It's kinda like when Democrats whine, "when did liberal become a bad word?" Uh, primarily when your side got ashamed of it, ceded it to Rush Limbaugh, and started defining itself as "progressive". If people had never tried to replace the word "retarded" with another euphemism, there would be a proper way to use the word, and a mocking way, distinguishable by context. Since people gave up on legitimate usage of the word, however, now "retard" is seen as a term of mockery (or at least insensitivity) in any context.

  • Brian||

    I haven't beeen to Paradise Junction since we had the baby.

  • ||

    Actually, I think the thing about "retard" is that it unambiguously sucks to be one much more than anything else - gay, black, white, etc.

    They're not just another minority. They're fucking retards. It's not like they cast for retards all the time! (Hell no - there's probably no more than fifty or sixty retards appearing on major network sitcoms right now...)

    So it's different.

    (I know I have a cruel sense of humor sometimes.)

  • ||

    Paradise Junction... that's great. ^_^

  • Xmas||

    I need to find that Scott Thompson monologue from Kids in the Hall on "faggot".

    It's that hateful "t" that reminds the Christians of the Christ dying on the cross that makes "faggot" a bad word.

    So go on faggos!

  • ||

    On a vaguely related topic, anybody know if Tim Minear is still working on a screenplay for The Moon is a Harsh Mistress? Anybody? I haven't heard anything about it for a while...

  • ||

    The interesting thing is that most of this censorship has nothing to do with the FCC. The FCC has no power to regulate smoking, non-sexual insults or the use of particular trademarks. And, it's unlikely they could do anything about the word "vagina."

  • ||

    Ah, the inter-web

    The first part for Xmas, the second for Jesse Noonan.

    Anon

  • Vache Folle||

    Q: What's better than a medal at the Special Olympics?

    A: Not being special.

  • ||

    It's not like they cast for retards all the time!

    Good luck getting on a Crispin Glover set if you're not retarded. Or at least an underground publishing magnate in blackface.

  • ||

    I was recently looked at funny by a co-worker for referring to another co-worker, without malice, as a Mexican. Seeing as how he was born in Mexico City and is in fact a Mexican, I'm not exactly sure how this was a slur. Like Mo, I find it fascinating how technical terms have evolved into pejoratives.

  • ||

    I work at a Community Services Board. THe last term I heard for the retarded was "intellectually disabled". It made me laugh since the term almost made it seem more like you were incapable of being "intellectual". As if failing to finish "Foucault's Pendulum" was a disability. Fortunately, the board has so far been unwilling to pay for the change in signs so we remain the "Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse".

  • fyodor||

    I work at a company that takes care of these folks and here we mostly call 'em DD people, DD meaning developmentally disabled. Of course, that includes autistic folks and those crippled from birth as well....

  • R C Dean||

    "Department of Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse"

    Sounds like my college fraternity.

    Good times, good times . . .

  • ed||

    A friend of mine lives in Montana. His name is Ray. The vanity plate for his car reads RAYTARD. He was pulled over one day and chastised by the officer for his insensitive license plate. Ray offered to replace it with one that said DISRAYBLED. The officer was not amused. True story.

  • ||

    May I suggest "Paradise Junction"?


    Nice. :)

  • ||

    Warren,
    It's still at that phase where it's semi-acceptable. The only people that have yel;led at me have been straight girls. My gay roommates haven't said anything about my usage of it. To aggravate one of my friends who would yell at me for using it as a pejorative, I would substitute "happy" for "gay." As in, "Those uniforms are totally happy. What's with the pink and purple?" Oddly enough, that pissed her off more.

    The whole technical term becoming a pejorative reminds me of the argument I had with a friend over why the word oriental isn't offensive and how the shift to Asian baffled me. It ended up coming down to this at the end:

    Me: "It just means eastern, which is technically accurate. I don't care if people call me Middle Eastern. Heck, oriental used to mean my people."
    Friend: "But it's a word that you use to describe objects, like rugs, vases or tea."
    Me: "You mean an adjective?"
    Friend: [dirty look]

  • ||

    Thanks to George Carlin, I prefer "The Bearded Clam."

  • ||

    May I suggest "Paradise Junction"?
    Stevo, I bow to you. I'm going to start using that term in lieu of vagina and spread the term across Southern California.

  • ||

    Mo, "sandy" is an adjective as well.

    So how are the sandies in your family?

  • ||

    Of course, Jiffy Pop works as well. Think about it. It's as much fun to make as it is to eat.

  • ||

    I'm not related to anyone named sandy (that's a new one, is it short for Sand N*?).

  • ||

    A friend of mine lives in Montana. His name is Ray. The vanity plate for his car reads RAYTARD. He was pulled over one day and chastised by the officer for his insensitive license plate. Ray offered to replace it with one that said DISRAYBLED. The officer was not amused. True story.

    That's a hilarious story, all sensitivity aside. But I find it ridiculous that a public protector (a peace officer) thinks it is right and justifiable to pull someone over for an offensive license plate. I say: if it gets past the DMV, it's fair game. Plus, he's supposed to be protecting people, not bending people over his knee to spank them or criticize people on their bad humor. Lordy, if bad humor were a crime, I'd be doin' serious time.

  • ||

    "... panel moderated by occasional reason contributor Cathy Seipp

    Why do some of you guys insist on lowercasing this magazine's title when using it in text? The lowercase is simply a graphic device, serving an aesthetic function on the magazine's cover. There's no need to imitate it when it appears in prose. That would be like using the Coca Cola font every time you used that soda's name in print.

  • ||

    reason aspires to be the e.e. cummings of magazine titles.

  • ||

    or the don marquis...

  • ||

    Ralphus talking about his Mexican co-worker reminded me of an observation/question I have. It has seemed to me, and my husband has the same impression, that while it is okay to refer to a person as "Jewish" it is not okay to refer to a person as "A Jew." I'm sure I don't see the second usage very often, and I find myself uncomfortable with that usage, for no rational reason that I can pinpoint. Say to yourself, "Sarah is Jewish." Then try "Sara is a Jew." Is it just me, am I weird? It seems to me that the media in general very rarely employ the second usage. Assuming it's not just me, any ideas on why this should be the case?

  • ||

    Tsiroth -

    I've gotten the vague impression that the most common mainstream term for those of Jewish ethnicity and/or religion is "Jewish people", while on the other hand, anti-semitics most often refer to "the Jews!". I've see both terms actually used by Jews, so I think it's more of an bad-association thing among us Gentiles.

  • ||

    tsiroth,

    Perhaps because using the noun version "A Jew" subconsciously connotates that that person you are referring to is X sort of object, whereas the adjective "Jewish" is attributive of that person. The adjectival use still allows a listener to imagine "a (racial descriptor) person ", whereas I think the noun somehow dehumanizes them. I believe Hitler favored that usage (i.e. referring to a Jewish person as "Juden" (Jew)), so if my linguistical theory doesn't work, then recent modern history would be a good reason to explain your discomfort, too.

  • ||

    tsiroth,

    And to answer your second question, I doubt you're the only one who feels awkward using the term. I feel awkward and/or uncomfortable all the time about stuff like that, regarding ethnicity, disability, etc., especially because I have such a bawdy sense of humor. At the same time, I don't want to step on anybody's toes, and I find myself walking a fine line sometimes....

  • ||

    Smacky, I've got no problem with "a Catholic," "a Russian," or "a homosexual," but I flinch at "a Jew." Completely irrational. I think it has something to do with seeing hundreds of hours of footage of the most evil people in history spit the word through clenched teeth as part of a mass murder conspiracy.

    If Hitler had been ranting about "fresh, soft laundry," I'd probably steer away from that term as well.

  • ||

    "A Jew" vs. "Jewish":

    A have a similar thing with "black." I'll say "a black person" but when I read or hear about someone being referred to as "a black" it strikes me as somehow potentially offensive.

    "Paradise Junction":

    Thanks, all! If this term becomes de rigeur I'll know that my life meant something ... that in some small way, I made a difference in the world.

    "Bearded clam":

    Nope, the imagery is too masculine (with the "beard") and too ... clammy. I'd rather go to Paradise Junction than do anything with a clam. (Not that I'm anti-clamitic or anything.)

    "reason":

    In the olden days, I think the magazine used all caps in self-references -- REASON. Then the magazine was redesigned, and Nick G. took over from Virginia Postrel. Maybe this is supposed to emphasize a point of departure from "the old REASON" to "the new reason."

    smacky:But I find it ridiculous that a public protector (a peace officer) thinks it is right and justifiable to pull someone over for an offensive license plate. I say: if it gets past the DMV, it's fair game. Plus, he's supposed to be protecting people, not bending people over his knee to spank them or criticize people on their bad humor. Lordy, if bad humor were a crime, I'd be doin' serious time.

    I agree. But now I have these mental images ... first, you being pulled over and spanked by a cop, then starring in women-in-prison movie. Shame on you for polluting my mind!

  • ||

    joe,

    That was my point (what you said about Hitler/Nazis) when I wrote this:

    so if my linguistical theory doesn't work, then recent modern history would be a good reason to explain your discomfort, too.


    Stevo,

    Shame on you for polluting my mind!

    Sorry, but you're responsible for this one. Do you want to bend me over your knee and spank me anyway? :p

  • ||

    Somebody else post something so that this thread doesn't end with me feeling like a dirty slut.

  • ||

    smacky, inquuiring minds want to know: Is your nom de web inspired by Bucky Katt's toy?

    Kevin

  • ||

    Kevin,

    Why yes, I did in fact derive my web name from the tiny teddy bear that Bucky loves so dearly.

    You get a toffee!

  • ||

    Incidentally, I just learned that I share a birthday with Satchel. Competely off topic, so I apologize.



    http://www.comics.com/comics/getfuzzy/archive/getfuzzy-20050320.html

  • ||

    Sorry, but you're responsible for this one. Do you want to bend me over your knee and spank me anyway? :p

    Yes!

    Actually, my break's over and I have to get back to work. I have to write something really boring about a vision care plan, and now I'm having a hard time concentrating, and it'll probably go to the printer saying people are entitled to one vision exspankination every 12 months.

    On a less naughty note, I've long wondered where smacky's handle came from. I had a weird feeling it was somehow related to "Get Fuzzy," but the only character names I could recall were Rob, Satchel and Bucky. Oh, and Fungo the ferret. Smacky's the teddy bear! Now I know.

  • ||

    Oh, and happy birthday to our smacky.

  • ||

  • ||

    Thank you, anon. if there's one thing the internet is good for, it's getting other people to answer questions for you just cause they're nice. and fast, too!

  • ||

    Happy B-day to smacky!

    So if smacky is power, does that mean power is smacky?

  • ||

    Steveo, Jew as a noun doesn't equate to black as a noun or gay as a noun. Jew is a real world, with a completely respectable history, whereas black and gay are slang terms that were created for the purpose of being derogatory.

    Discomfort with Jew might also stem from the fact that it is monosyllabic. Think of how many slurs came out of shortening legitimate terms - Yid, kraut, spic...

  • ||

    Found a nice history of colored/Negro/black/Afrian-American/person of color here:

    http://www.wordwizard.com/ch_forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=6722

  • ||

    Smacky corrupts!

    Wait, there's more: If smacky is power, and knowledge is power, and a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, then a little smacky is a dangerous thing.

    Wait, there's more: If danger is my business, and what's good for business is what's good for America, then what's good for smacky is good for America. Q.E.D.

  • ||

    Stevo,

    Brilliant! You've completely justified my web name, beyond my wildest, egomaniac dreams!

  • ||

    Get a room you two.

  • ||

    MMMMMMMmmmmmmmmm!

    I lurrvvve toffee!

    Happy, birthday, smacky!

    Kevin

  • ||

    Mo: "I'm not related to anyone named sandy (that's a new one, is it short for Sand N*?)."

    Or Sandmonkey.

  • ||

    "Bearded clam":

    Nope, the imagery is too masculine (with the "beard") and too ... clammy. I'd rather go to Paradise Junction than do anything with a clam. (Not that I'm anti-clamitic or anything.)

    Well both smell like low tide if you don't take care of them....

  • ||

    "THe last term I heard for the retarded was 'intellectually disabled'."

    I don't think even that's acceptable any more. I recently got a missive dictating that we are now to call them "people with intellectual disabilities." (Every time a hear the radio announcing that there's "a disabled vehicle on I-95," I'm tempted to call them up and say that the correct term is "a vehicle with disabilities.")

    Similarly, I've noticed that bien-pensant academics seem no longer to refer to slaves (as in the ante-bellum South) as "slaves"; they now are "enslaved persons."

    I guess the next thing will be to refer to blind people as "people with blindness."

  • ||

    Quote from Mo: "What I think is hillarious is how each term that was at one point a technical term for someone that is retarded, has turned into an insult."

    Just this past weekend in a parking lot of a small strip mall with a Starbucks [vague description protects the innocent], a guy in a pick-up truck zipped into a spot, and the little 4-door behind him tried to procede past behind the truck to a spot farther into the parking lot. But the truck abruptly switched into reverse, apparently to straighten a crooked parking job, and jerked backwards, barely missing the coupe behind it when the little car's driver leaned on his little car's horn. The truck's driver leaped out of his vehicle and ran over to and almost into the face of the person driving the little car. And do you know what the truck driver screamed at the little car's driver? Sure you do; he screamed, "RETARD!"

  • odysseus||

    "It's not like they cast for retards all the time! (Hell no - there's probably no more than fifty or sixty retards appearing on major network sitcoms right now...)"

    Is that why they had such a hard time replacing Dan Rather?

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