Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

You can't do that on TV

While listening to Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me in the car today, we learned a bunch of interesting facts about ridiculous examples of censorship. Most of which, sadly, I can't remember. I asked Jeremy, but he seems to be fighting a giant satanic purple smoke dinosaur and got very flustered when I tried to break his concentration. Sometimes you just have to let a man fight his purple smoke demons. Also, his character might be hiding a turquoise pony. All this World of Warcraft stuff is just too manly for me.
Okay, so I remembered that one of the examples of censorship is that in the 40s, censors decided Tweety Bird's sparse feathers were too scandalous and demanded he be less naked. Humorous anecdote: when I searched "nude Tweety bird," I purposely censored the results by using the "Moderate Safe Search" feature of Google images, wherein Google only returns images it thinks will not offend me. I used this tool based on my vast personal experience with "rule 34"; if it exists, there is porn for it. Then my scientific mind demanded I confirm rule 34 by searching "nude tweety bird" with safe search off. Don't do it. Just don't. 
Also, just an aside: if you can't think of anything more original than a Tweety bird tattoo, you don't deserve a tattoo. Just saying (though to be fair, this is coming from a woman who has a quill tattoo because she's a writer. Slightly more creative, but really only slightly).
Nowadays, with things like Hustler, unrated directors' cuts, and rule 34, it's hard to imagine that only a handful of decades ago, most sectors of the entertainment industry governed themselves by a strict set of rules that seem absurd today. And the twin beds in which Lucy and Ricky slept were the least of it. In 1921, according the Bill Bryson's Made in America, Hollywood decided it was time to make a bunch of really stupid rules. Over time, a group called The Hays Office developed a strict set of words and ideas that movies weren't supposed to show - and these rules lasted (though less and less strictly followed) until the 1960s. You weren't, for instance, supposed to show "excessive lustful kissing," and audiences should never be "thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil, or sin." Which is silly, because I want to  murder someone every time I hear Shirley Temple sing You Gotta Eat Your Spinach. You weren't allowed to say floozy (from 1902, possible variation on flossy, according to the online etymology dictionary), guts (which weren't particularly dirty then, but came to refer to a girl's lady bits in the hip hop slang of the 80s and 90s), and belch (from Old English bealcan).  You also weren't supposed to say louse, with the Hays Office suggesting films use the term stinkbug instead.
When I was searching for those facts from Wait, Wait that I mentioned earlier, I couldn't find them, but I did find this story about the state of Virginia censoring their official state seal to remove a bare breast. It struck me as funny that Virginia didn't censor the state seal when John Wilkes Booth basically reenacted the scene on the plate (slaying the nation's leader and then shouting "sic semper tyrannis." Not that I think it should have been censored then either. I just find it interesting the way people are always so much more eager to censor sex than violence. Like, of all the people refusing to let their kids watch Dancing with the Stars because Chaz Bono is trans, I'd bet about 95% of them have no problem letting their kids watch the Transformers movies, full of people and robots horribly murdering one another.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

We're "Wait, Wait..." nerds too. The tweety bird one is the main one that sticks out for me too...though I do remember the "Jack Butt" marquis substitution.