Scene4 Magazine: Life Among The Heffalumps
Scene4 Magazine-inSight

June 2010

I'm Going To Bleep Myself

Unfortunately, life isn't always like the Nutcracker.  Sometimes, mouths of babes aren't full of sugarplums.  One evening in January, my brother David, his wife, their daughter Sara and her three-year-old son Aiden and I were having a peaceful Sunday dinner.  Until, Aiden said, "don't be a bitch, Mommy," when his mother told him to stop chasing the dog and come back to the table.  As Sara reprimanded his grandson for his bad language, David turned to me and said, "his {Aiden's} Dad uses that kind of language all the time.  It's hard to get Aiden to stop."

Recently, my friend Terry, who's visually impaired,  told me that she was impressed when a group of middle-school boys offered to help her carry some packages at a bus stop.  But, the youths use of language shocked her.  "They used the F-Word every other word," she said, "it was 'can I fuck-you, help you with the fuckin' milk.

"I don't think they knew what it {the F-bomb} meant," Terry added, "they use it like we'd say 'you know'–as a filler."

The above incidents and a recent New York Times article headlined "Bleep or No Bleep, Bolder Words Blow In" on the increasing vulgarity of words used in ads have made me think about the continuing coarsening of our language (and as a consequence of this) our culture.

"Kick-Ass" is one of our zeitgeist's hot flicks.  We can sit on our fannies and watch "Dance Your Ass Off" on TV, and if that's too much effort, revive ourselves by buying a "Big Ass Fan."

If only I could be a fan of these naughty, bleepin' words!  Most everyone except me, from eight to eighty, it seems, rides the obscenity A Train these days (I mean A as in the word that's synonymous with donkey, not A is in Avenue A). 

We call on the F-bomb the way previous generations reached for their martinis. We're obscene when we celebrate, when we're mad as hell stuck in a handbasket and when we stub our toes. "This is a big fucking deal," vice-president Joe Biden told Barrack Obama, not realizing that his mike was on. Several years ago, former vice-president Dick Cheney when the Senate was in session told a pol he disagreed with to "fuck" himself.  Maybe, the motto on our money should be changed from "In God We Trust" to "F-Yourself, We Trust."

I'm no June Cleaver.  (Though I bet June, said "oh, shit" when Eddie Haskell was particularly annoying-- but quietly, after Eddie was gone, and always behind closed doors).  Last week, I said "fuck you" to one of my teddy bears (that had fallen to the floor) when I tripped on it.  Happily, I can report that the teddy bear didn't sustain any lasting injuries from my vulgarity.  But I wonder if our culture can sustain the wounds inflicted on it by the rampant spread and acceptance of obscenity.

I don't wanna be a goody-goody here.  In life and in art, vulgarity can be both an outlet (for pain, anguish, joy, campiness) and an essential component of craft.  Obscenity, by making us uncomfortable, can jumpstart our political consciousness and self-awareness.  Sometimes, it's as necessary as breathing.  At times, its absence would be at best ludicrous and at worse a disservice to truth.  Who wants to hear soldiers saying "gosh" and "oh, darn" in war movies?  Would Richard Pryor's work have been brilliant, if his comic monologues had been filled with "gee whiz" or "darn it'?"  If you or I are robbed, jilted in love, grieving, or in unbearable physical pain, we're entitled to release F-bombs whenever and wherever we want.

Other than wanting to keep porn out of the reach of minors, I'm opposed to censorship. As a writer, poet and citizen, I support the First Amendment.

This having been said, obscenity not only dampens, but frequently ruins the spirit and craft of life and art.  Obscene language isn't literally violent.  Yet, being exposed to obscenity can make the listener feel violated.  If you've ever had a loved one spout obscenities at you, you know that the old saying "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" isn't true.  This was brought home to me when Anne, my late partner and I had a fight. "Fuck you!," she whispered, leaving the room.  Her words hit me metaphorically like a ton of bricks.  "That's how you make me feel when you swear at me," she told me later. I still let out F-bombs on occasion, but generally when I'm alone.

Generally, being obscene is like masturbating.  It's a fine, healthy part of life--if done in private.

Speaking of masturbation, "The Contest" episode of "Seinfeld" was a masterpiece. Every viewer not in a vegetative state, knew that this was the subject of the show.  Yet, the program was hilarious even though the word "masturbation" (or any slang expressions alluding to it) wasn't used. 

I've no wish to repress anyone's creativity in art or spontaneity in conversation.  I don't want to go back to the days when you couldn't say "pregnant" or "toilet" on TV. I only hope that we can reduce the coarsening and increase the wit and civility of our life and culture.

Until then, please excuse me: I have to go bleep myself.


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©2010 Kathi Wolfe
©2010 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Kathi Wolfe is a writer, poet and a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.
Her reviews and commentary have also appeared in an array of publications.

For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives


Scene4 Magazine - Arts and Media

June 2010

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