One of my most treasured memories is watching the late Frank Zappa tearing into that foul scold Tipper Gore during Congressional hearings. Gore, you may remember, thought that rock music lyrics were eeeevil and caused kids to become mass murderers or Satanists or something, and Zappa just took her precious little thesis and trashed it with a wonderful mixture of scorn, opprobrium and educated analysis of her silly, nonsensical fears and creeping Puritanism.
I was taken back to those good times when reading this piece of utter bullshit:
Old favorites, outdated attitudes: Can entertainment expire?
They exist throughout society’s pop-culture canon, from movies to TV to music and beyond: pieces of work that have withstood time’s passage but that contain actions, words and depictions about race, gender and sexual orientation that we now find questionable at best.
Whether it’s blackface minstrel routines from Bing Crosby’s “Holiday Inn,” Apu’s accent in “The Simpsons,” bullying scenes in “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the arguably rapey coercion of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and “Sixteen Candles” or the simplistically clunky gender interactions of “Mr. Mom,” Americans have amassed a catalog of entertainment across the decades that now raises a series of contentious but never-more-relevant questions:
What, exactly, do we do with this stuff today? Do we simply discard it? Give it a free pass as the product of a less-enlightened age? Or is there some way to both acknowledge its value yet still view it with a more critical eye?
I have a better idea. Treat it all as entertainment. And in the manner of Tipper Gore and her ilk, feel free to pepper the covers with all sorts of “parental advisories” or better still, my favorite all-purpose warning that one’s childish sensibilities may be offended by the contents thereof (number to increase with the frightfulness of the content):
At least a “10-” warning will announce that I’m about to really enjoy myself.
But for the love of Jupiter’s throbbing headache, leave the classics alone for us grownups to enjoy for the fabulous bits of entertainment they are. Frankly, there’s absolutely fuck-all about the classics which should frighten anyone, whether it’s Mark Twain using the word “nigger” so freely in Huckleberry Finn (which novel, lest we forget, did more to change attitudes about race than a dozen Jesse Jacksons) or Gary Cooper taking Claudette Colbert in hand in Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938):
At the end of the brilliant movie Thank You For Smoking (2006), there’s a scene where the foul Senator protagonist talks about going back into all the classic movies and digitally removing all traces of smoking, thereby “improving” them. The man’s unctuous smugness coupled with his utter conviction is so creepy it makes your skin crawl.
And that’s what these pricks are talking about now. And make no mistake, there’s absolutely no end to it. If a treasured classic like Baby, It’s Cold Outside can be interpreted to containing “rapey coercion”, then let me assure you all of one thing: nothing is safe.
I have a simple solution to this nonsense: every time some asshole indulges in some censorship dream like the above, the nearest person should horsewhip them. Literally. They get “triggered” by the suggestion of stalking in The Police’s Every Breath You Take ? Well, I get triggered by their wanting to change the whole fucking world to accommodate their tender sensibilities.
Just remember: this wonderful, sexy scene in Tom Jones is one day going to disappear forever because some fucking vegan got triggered.
I am getting so sick of people trying to tell me what I should or should not do, or what I may or may not eat, or what entertainment I may or may not enjoy, that there may well come a time when you’ll read about some snowflake getting flogged for trying to bowdlerize the lyrics of Run For Your Life.
And the flogger’s name will be mine. Which reminds me: I need to oil the old sjambok, just in case.