Gray Watson Personal Thoughts 2006.01.16
Censorship of Swear Words Versus Violence on TV

So back in September 2004, I turned on the television in the early evening (it may have been the afternoon actually) and was very disappointed to find the Bravo cable TV station showing the movie Pulp Fiction. So first off, let me start by saying that I love this movie. I saw it twice in the theater and think that Tarantino is a genius. However, this movie is very violent and has drug and other themes that certainly are not appropriate for youngsters who could be watching TV at that hour.

But the thing that annoyed me most about this showing is that they bleeped the dirty words (mother fucker, shit, etc.) but openly showed people getting shot and killed. This appalls me every time I see it. Take a look at the following clip for yourself -- its size is 6mb. I've taken the liberty of add back in the swear words [gasp]. In the following scene, Samuel Jackson's character shoots and kills one person and then shoots another.

So the reason why I'm commenting on something that happened over a year ago, is that I've been struggling with the idea of posting this. I've been worried that I'm contributing to the problem. Although I have blacked out the actual shootings, this video is still for adults only and I have coded this page with PIC codes identifying it as adult in nature. Even so, it still could be scary for a youngster. Maybe I'm just making it worse. But I think that this piece loses its punch with the video so I'm going to post it -- please feel free to let me know that you disagree.

Pulp Fiction violence
Click to view movie

The only way I can understand this behavior by the censors is that people see dirty words as more subversive than violence -- I can't disagree more. Dirty words are a social convention. The words don't contain unpleasant sounds and their synonyms are acceptable (screw, do whoopie, make love). There was a time when the word "damn" was a swear word and it is highly likely that society will discover new words it deems inappropriate as it accepts other taboo terms into common usage.

But violence should be treated completely differently. Violence is subversive. The more we see the more we get numb to its effects. Young children tend to imitate behavior that they are exposed to since they have little to no framework to determine which behaviors are appropriate. I watch the kids in the video arcades playing the fighting games with wild abandon and I wonder what (if anything) is changing in their brains as a result. Are they going to become more susceptible to resolving conflicts with violence?

Now I'm someone who believes in the Bill of Rights. Someone who respects individual freedoms -- even if I disagree with the words or actions in question. I'm especially wary of federal government censorship in the name of morality because it's a slippery slope that we do not want to start down. However I feel at the very least that the cable channels need to make better decisions. Unfortunately, corporations rarely "do the right thing" without prodding.

So I leave it to you, the reader, to contact your cable provider and the station in question with a phone call and/or a letter. The programming department may be a good place to start. Maybe public relations. Bravo is owned by NBC whose address is:

Bravo Viewer Relations
c/o NBC Entertainment
3000 W. Alameda Ave.
Burbank, CA 91523-0001

Today, as I look forward on the Bravo schedule thanks to my Tivo and find that they are showing the Usual Suspects next Saturday at 2pm. Another movie that I love but which is not appropriate for kids who are likely to be parked in front of the tube on a lazy Saturday afternoon. But I shouldn't worry. Regardless of the killings, burnings, and torture shown in this particularly intense action movie, I'm sure they will bleep out those terrible swear words.

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