Pop Rocks: F-Bombs Away
One of the more charming aspects of American culture is our keen sense of prioritization. Take television as an example, where on any given night one can see eviscerations, rapes, autopsies, and more beat-downs than you'd find in the bleachers at an English soccer game.
Violence is one thing, but take the Lord's name in vain at an awards show or flash a boob during our annual celebration of steroid-ridden mayhem, and it's FCC Fine City. Our outrage barely drowned out by the sounds of hastily rewound DVRs.
Late night programming, though arguably more naughty than anything shown during the family hours, still has to follow the rules, which is why Jenny Slate dropping the f-bomb on Saturday Night Live last weekend had everybody in such a momentary tizzy.
Apparently neither Slate nor NBC will be fined for the slip-up, and in spite of all the speculation that the whole thing was just a stunt to drum up publicity for a show that most of us haven't watched since the Chris Farley days, that's just what it was: a slip-up.
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The reason I know this is if they'd really wanted some publicity, they'd have let guest host Megan Fox say it. Besides, this isn't even the first time the Big One has been dropped on SNL.
I was actually watching the infamous 1980 "Who Shot C.R." episode when Charles Rocket said it during the show's closing moments and brought the Jean Doumanian era to an ignoble end. What few people remember is that musical guest Prince also said The Word during his performance of "Partyup" on that same episode, making him the inaugural member of SMGWSF (SNL Musical Guests Who Said 'Fuck'), where he would later be joined by Michael Stipe, Janet Jackson, Morris Day, Ad-Rock, and Steven Tyler.
Before that, Paul Shaffer -- then a band member and bit player -- misspoke the word "flogging" in a sketch that same year. Doumanian, Rocket, and most of the cast were fired a couple weeks after The Incident, and his career, while respectable, never really caught fire.
Slate may fear similar blowback, but it seems unlikely. For starters, the standards for network programming have...loosened somewhat. Sure, you still can't say "fuck," but the advent of reality TV and competition from edgier cable channels mean a mere *beep* is all that protects us from Gordon Ramsey's latest expletive-laden tirade or the tough-but-compassionate cops on Southland.
It was also by all accounts a mistake, and the FCC seems less vindictive when the offending party pleads faux pas.
But the real reason no one will ultimately give a shit is because the once-shocking phenomenon is now commonplace.
A nationally broadcast swear word used to be a big deal, because it was a rare treat and because we were never able to witness the dozens of similarly profane occurrences taking place every day on local broadcasts. But now, with sites like YouTube, Dailymotion, and Crooks and Liars, no Freudian slip or inadvertant reference to Beyonce's breasts will go unnoticed.
As Americans, we can only hope this national trend continues, for Slate's sake and ours.
And for all the chickens out there:
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