I watched Evil Dead II
recently, which reminded me of an old SNL sketch, "The Night of the Masturbating Zombies."
For those who don't remember the sketch, it was a pretty funny piece emerging from the insight that the monster in horror movies always seems to show up where good-looking teenagers are going at it. Best line: "Folks, it looks like we've got a bunch of zombies stumping the munchkin."
The sketch was pretty racy for network TV when it ran (late 80s? early 90s?), so SNL had to be pretty careful what it showed. I was thinking about that and realized, yet again, how dumb our obscenity laws are and how childish our priorities are as a nation.
Here's a question with a depressingly hilarious answer. Which one are you more likely to see in TV-13 or PG-13 entertainment: a masturbating zombie actually blowing a load on the rear windshield of a car with kids making out in the back seat or a non-masturbating zombie ripping one of those kid's heads open and splattering that kid's blood on the rear windshield? The blood, of course. Because, you know, the semen would be gross and depraved.
Think about that. The non-masturbating, murderous zombie is a pretty obvious euphemism for the masturbating, voyeuristic zombie, which means that our censors--both official and industry-appointed--feel that exposing adolescents to images of wanking is far worse than exposing them to images of vivisection and brain-munching. (I assume the censors believe that adolescents all whack off with their eyes closed.)
Too often, our ridiculous puritanism knows neither logic nor bounds. Pity poor John McCardell, Jr., who's lobbying to get the drinking age lowered to 18. In a recent Newsweek
interview with Samantha Henig, McCardell (a former president of Middlebury College) points out that he keeps having to insist that he's not "a wacko or someone who's tilting at windmills." Henig makes it sound like McCardell is a lone voice in the wilderness because she fails to point out that America is pretty much alone in the world in having a drinking age of 21 (the rest are 18 or even earlier). Given that our college grads' test results lag way behind those of students in countries with lower drinking ages, we should probably stop kidding ourselves that our older drinking age somehow protects the delicate, developing brains of 19-year-olds.
If we really believe that 19-year-olds have biologically or psychologically different minds that need special protection, we should act like it. For example, even more important than saving kids from the demon rum would be saving them from combat stress, PTSD, and brain trauma from IEDs. Only in a ridiculously confused society in which bodily pleasure is a bigger problem than bodily mutilation would we protect 19-year-olds from beer while exposing them to Iraqi insurgents.
In a mildly heartening recent ruling
, a NY federal circuit court sided with various broadcast networks and struck down recent FCC guidelines that had broadened the definition of obscene utterances to include "fleeting" vulgarities. But even that ruling is disheartening at its core because it's at least partially based on the notion that some obscenities aren't really sexual or scatological and therefore aren't really obscene. The judges noted that Dick Cheney and George Bush had both been caught swearing publicly and denied that Americans would have found those vulgarities to be truly obscene according to FCC standards: “In recent times even the top leaders of our government have used variants of these expletives in a manner that no reasonable person would believe referenced sexual or excretory organs or activities.”
In other words, Cheney's "go fuck yourself" and Bush's "asshole" weren't obscene because they didn't really refer to sex or shit. Because, of course, sex and shit are the real problem this country faces. Not war, not violence. Doody and humpy are our greatest perils.
Remember when the FCC decided it was okay to air Saving Private Ryan
with the curse words intact? In that case, the FCC said that cutting the naughty words “would have altered the nature of the artistic work and diminished the power, realism and immediacy of the film experience for viewers.” So naughty words are okay if they intensify our experience of the organized slaughter depicted in the movie. Saving Private Ryan
is actually a good movie that handles violence in a relative thoughtful way, so I'm glad they broadcast it without moronic ADR replacements like "motherhater" and "gosh darnit," but I think it's hilarious that the FCC decided that the film's obscenities were okay because they gave Americans a more vivid experience of violence.
Since 85% of American households now get their TV from somewhere other than the airwaves that the FCC can regulate, it's growing increasingly moot what the FCC wants to call obscene. Moot but still pathetic and offensive.
First, it's a waste of my taxes. Second, it's an embarrassing comment on American society that we're okay with watching acts of mass violence so long as nobody curses during their commission. Third, it's a shameful comment on our society that we're okay with sending our 19-year-olds to foreign countries to kill and be killed but we'll do everything we can to stop them from drinking at home and that we'd try to find a way to fine them if, from the combat zone, they were to use their access to a news camera to say, "Fuck you, come fight your own fucking war, you lazy, protected power-addled neocon fuckballs. We want to come home and have a beer on the front fucking porch."
Labels: FCC, McCardell (John M.), obscenity, zombies (masturbating)