Friday, February 15, 2008

The 'C Word'

Yes, that "C word."

Jane Fonda blurted it out during a Today show segment about her appearance in the Vagina Monologues.

Television network NBC apologized for itself and actress Jane Fonda on Thursday after she used an offensive word on the "Today Show."

NBC called it "a slip" and said they did not mean to offend audiences.


"I was asked to do a monologue called 'C***,' and I said, 'I don't think so. I've got enough problems," Fonda said. "Then I came to New York to see Eve and it changed my life."

The "Today Show" airs live on the U.S. East Coast, and the word was not muted or bleeped. Moments later program host Meredith Vieira apologized to audiences.

"Jane Fonda inadvertently said a word from the play that you don't say on television. It was a slip and obviously she apologizes and so do we," Vieira said. "We would do nothing to offend the audience, so please accept that apology."
Obviously, awkward things happen sometimes on live television. Because it is live television, the only recourse you have is to apologize and move on, which is exactly what Meredith Vieira did.

Some people, however, are impossible to please.

Activist group Parents Television Council, which has pressured federal officials to crack down on broadcast indecency, was not placated.

"If an NBC employee used the 'c-word' to another employee, that employee would be suspended or even fired," PTC prexy and former NBC employee Tim Winter said in a statement. "While NBC's apology is helpful, it is not enough -- millions of families were indeed offended. NBC must change its broadcasting practices and implement a time delay on all of its live broadcasts, thereby ensuring that this type of language does not air on the publicly owned airwaves."
Oh, please. What kind of argument is this?

A little perspective here would be useful.

The utterance of one obscenity during one segment of one live television program does not mean NBC must now "implement a time delay on all of its live broadcasts," especially when you consider the sheer volume of live programming during which obscenities are never heard.

I am certain that a lot of people were shocked to hear what Fonda said, but only the most unforgiving among them would refuse to accept an apology for what was obviously a slip of the tongue during an unguarded moment. Mistakes happen.


Suricou Raven said...

I have three things to say to this:

1. The word is 'cunt.' Got it? It is not the c-word. It is not c***. Its cunt. I dont understand how a word can be considered to unacceptable, so dangerous, that it may not be said *even to say it may not be said*. Refusing to speak a forbidden word only increases its power.

2. The PTC is the self-appointed television nanny, and excels at making mountains from molehills. They are best known for their use of letter-writing campaigns in which they find an offensive program, and urge thousands of their supporters via a mailing list to write in a complaint to the FCC - resulting in a great volume of complaints from people who have never seen the program. This technique has been used even on very mild programs. There is also a political and religious influence - for example, they consider a positive portrayal of witchcraft or magic renders a show unsuitable for family viewing, they have an open policy condemning gay characters, and they attack any criticism of Christianity as an unacceptable insult while defending criticism of any other religion. So, I have no respect for them at all.

3. I find it interesting that a single word - or a momentary flashing of breast or behind, or a vaguely suggestive gesture, or a tellytubby holding a handbag to name past examples - can create such a storm of contriversy. People should lighten up a bit. Besides, if TV was made completly non-offensive, we would be stuck watching testcards.

UncommonSense said...

1. The word is 'cunt.' Got it? It is not the c-word. It is not c***. Its cunt. I dont understand how a word can be considered to unacceptable, so dangerous, that it may not be said *even to say it may not be said*. Refusing to speak a forbidden word only increases its power.

Raven, I appreciate your position. In this case, I hope we can agree to disagree.

I chose the euphemism because, with extremely rare exceptions, I do not use profanity on this blog. I thought about using the actual word, and in the end it just came down to a judgment call.

I decided to make my point about the Today show incident by referring to what Fonda said, rather than repeating it at least in part to avoid offending anybody.

I am familiar with the argument that using a slur, rather than shying away from it, helps to diminish its power to injure people. That may be so, however, I can tell you that Quentin Tarantino's use of the word "nigger" in his films hasn't robbed that slur of its ability to make my temperature rise when I hear it.

I would not argue with someone who accused me of self censorship in this case. I did censor myself, but I took the approach that made me more comfortable as a writer.

LeftLeaningLady said...

I appreciate your non-use of the word. I also appreciate the fact that we should take back control of words like this, therefore taking away their power. For some reason, though, I find this word appalling and, even when I want to use it, say 'the C word.'

I do not, however, understand the uproad over someone using is accidently, especially after the network, show and user apologized. Mistakes happen (isn't that Biblical?) and an apology is supposed to mean something. Maybe the brouhaha is more because of WHO said it then because of WHAT was said, but either way it is making a mountain out of a molehill and it is ridiculous. It should not be cause for changing the entire way a network is run. There are a lot more important things going on in the world.