Well, shit, thanks for checkin out my fuckin article bitches! :D We're all adults here, right?
It's pretty wild how the perception of what's OK and what isn't in media has changed throughout the years, isn't it? If you haven't thought about it.. do!
Back when I was younger, the extent of swearing in TV shows was the occasional "What the hell?" or "Damnit!" And even those were few and far between. You might, very rarely, hear "son of a bitch", but most often they would censor bitch in that statement. You used to have to watch one of the premium channels or go to the movies if you wanted to hear swear words, and it was absolutely unheard of in video games. And if an album contained more than a few swear words, it was slapped with a giant "Parental Advisory" sticker
Of course, for me, that was almost the same as putting a cookie in a glass container in front of me and saying "You can't have it"... I was drawn to it and wanted it MORE! When I was a teenager (born in 83), I was into rap and R&B, and pretty much every one of those albums (except for Will Smith's) had that sticker. But that's beside the point...
So, we went about in the world of censored and G rated versions of R movies. But as the years went on, some of the words started to become more prevalent. Bitch started being ok, and a biggie was when South Park started so freely using g--damn. That set MANY people aback! I remember when I first heard it, I was like...
I also started watching WWF around that time, initially switching between Raw and Nitro, and eventually just watching Raw. I won't lie, hearing "Listen up you son of a bitch... I'm about to kick your sorry ass all over this damn city!" got me a lot more fired up than "I'll be kicking your butt all over God's green earth!"!
My parents never swore around me, so that may contribute to why hearing that kind of language on TV made my giddy early teen aged self like "WHOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA"... but I also think it's because hearing language like that on TV wasn't something you heard very often! But, for your consideration... do you recall Chicago Hope? I sure do! There was one episode that was heavily promoted, and why?....
For the FIRST TIME EVER...
You won't BELIEVE what they say on TV!
Ok, the promo wasn't exactly like that, but they made DAMN sure you knew they were about to SWEAR in a way that's NEVER been heard before! It was a spectacle! So much so, it even led to an episode of South Park dedicated to this exact thing, except with a fake show called "Cop Drama". It was hilarious! A brief recap... the whole town knew about this happening and were gathered at the bar, watching intently as the show started to wind down. They kept looking at each other like "when's he gonna say it? Oh man.. here it comes!" and then, finally, at the very end of the episode...
"....by the way, you have some shit on your face".
They all stared wide eyed, jaws agape a few seconds..... then all of a sudden yelled out and lost their... well.. shit! The episode ran with the idea of shit being an acceptable word now and had CRAZY fun with it, to the point of 162 shits in a 20 minute show. They even had a rolling counter on screen throughout the episode! Observe!
It all came to an end when using the word so much brought down a group of supernatural knights that were aimed to destroy the world. HA!
But that opened the door - shit was now ok! As long as it was after 10 o'clock... then, as time went on, it became perfectly fine any time in the evening on cable networks! I'm not sure if it slips by during daytime TV nowadays... but wouldn't be surprised if that was the case!
So I figured that's it - we're done! All the swearing that will be allowed on TV was... because.. surely.. they'd NEVER let the F bomb pass on TV! I'll steal a quote from A Christmas Story. I'm talking about..
"...THE word... the big one... the queen-mother of dirty words!... the 'F-dash-dash-dash' word!"
Well.... my avid readers.... it happened! I don't know the actual first time it was used on cable TV, but, the first time I heard it was in FX's Tyrant. In a heated moment, the antihero looks at his captured victim and finishes his statement with "...you fucked me."
I looked at my wife, confused.
Rewind.... it sure sounded like it. No way - rewind..... Wait.. let's consult the interweb....... it WAS! They said the F word on cable! IT HAPPENED! THAT'S IT! THE PINNACLE OF PROFANITY HAS BEEN REACHED!
I think this was another watershed moment. I only heard it MAYBE twice in that season of Tyrant, but then I watched Taboo, and a whole new level of cable swearing was achieved, with at least 5 f bombs in each episode!
TV isn't the only medium that has changed throughout the years. Video games have evolved from the innocent, kiddy silliness of Nintendo to extremely dark, violent, gory, profanity laced, sex filled experiences!
The very first game that I recall crossing the language barrier was, no surprise, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. They not only dropped f bombs, but they even crossed over into racial slurs! WHATTTTTT?! That's like going from a Smart car to an F-350!! Baby steps man! I remember one of my friends got it a few weeks before I did, and as we were talking about it, he casually mentioned "they say fuck in it." No. Way. In a video game?! No. Fucking. Way. I had to hear it for myself. I bought the game, played it, and the first time I heard it, there I was striking the same wide eyed, jaw agape shock as in South Park! THEY DID IT! WOOHOO! OH MAN! NO WAY! CRAZY! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!
Another watershed moment! Now swearing is so common, but as I understand it, if they drop the F bomb, that pretty much guarantees an M rating.
Violence and gore is another great case study. When Mortal Kombat came out, it seemed like every adult in the world was in an uproar, condeming it for it's graphic depictions of violence. "OMG! He ripped his head off! NOOOOOOO!"
"OH MY GOD! He ripped his head off! NOOOOOOO!"
...apparently ignoring the absurdity of it. But that was still in the days when video games were for kids, so seeing something like that in a market targeted towards kids was, understandably, upsetting. This led to a home release of the game for Super Nintendo that was watered down to not show blood nor the depictions of violence/gore in the arcade version.
"OH MY GOD! HE!...... kicked him in his chest? Oh, ok. there's no blood or gore so that's fine."
They also did the same for the Genesis version....unless you knew THE code.... DULLARD! Then, you had access to all the same wonderful gory finishers as the arcade! That made me, having an SNES, an angry little kid. "NO FAIR! I WANT VIOLENCE TOO!"
Apparently our little kid voices were heard, because when MK2 came out for SNES, they left the full gore version in. And it's just gotten more vivid since then! From heads attached to spines in 16 bit glory to...
What if they'd started off with fatalities like that? Can you imagine how parents would've reacted? Phew!
I'd mentioned sex too, and while that's still not that prevalent, it IS out there. In Conan Exiles, you can choose to play as a completely naked, anatomically correct woman...OR man! Complete with bouncing boobs and swinging peni (is that plural for penis? It works for octopus...)! The only actual sex that I've seen in video games was unlocked via a glitch in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. There's plenty of off screen sex in games these days, but I think we may still have a ways to go before that's front and center in games and TV shows.
I think movies are probably the one media format that has remained the same throughout the years, and we likely have the ratings system to thank for that. Parents knew that if a movie was rated R, it had all manner of language, violence, sex, and other non-kid-friendly aspects to it. I think there has been a big swing from what was allowed in PG and PG-13 movies between the 80s and today, and definitely in the more conservative direction.
For your consideration...
Beetlejuice! After a discussion in the cemetery model, a frustrated Beetlejuice kicks a tree and it falls over. He looks at it, then back.. "NICE FUCKIN MODEL!" The rating? PG!
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And another one off the top of my head: Weekend At Bernie's 2 (one of my complete guilty pleasure movies by the way)! Towards the end, a dead but mobile Bernie (compliments of a botched voodoo ritual) is dragged down the beach after his foot gets caught in a parasail, and he proceeds to pull two women's bikini tops off, and we see BOOBS! Granted, it's only for a second or two, but still! I feel like I've seen other movies with bared boobs in them with a PG13 rating... but can't recall any exactly.
Thanks for checking out my article! I was driving down the road yesterday from work and somehow got to thinking about this and thought it would be an interesting article, hopefully you all think so too!
So what do you think this is about? Are we desensitizing our children? Are we just becoming more mature as a civilization to the point where we have so many other things to worry about that we don't care about swearing and violence like we used to? What's the cause for this shift of tolerance? Would love to hear your thoughts!