“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 14—Censor This
When Katy was eight years old, she sat down on the kitchen floor while I washed dishes and innocently wondered: “Daddy, why can’t I say ‘ass?’”
I sighed and stared out the window, looking for some wisdom to give her a good answer, and thought I found it.
“You can,” I said, brilliantly. “So long as you’re referring to a donkey.” Satisfied with that, I went back to washing dishes, wondering if she knew what ‘referring to’ meant. She thought about it with all the depth it deserved, then used it in a sentence.
“Okay,” she said. “That donkey over there has a fat ass…”
With shoulders slumped, I capitulated. “Perfect”
By the time she was sixteen, Katy had full control of her vocabulary—that is, her slang. She uses the word ‘ass’ in all its glory now; picking and choosing its location with verbal acuity, the appropriate amount of inflection, and the timing of an adult. She is comfortable with ass, and I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t even notice, in fact, when it slips out in context with where (or who) ‘ass’ fits.
In our household, Profanity is defined simply as: Abusive. Some would have you take it on faith that Vulgar and Irreverent should belong in the definition of Profanity. Using the word ‘Ass’ as example, which is hardly profane any more but used to be, though it didn’t start out that way, let’s put it in the context of Vulgar (which is, out of the two words above, its common association; although in the case of ‘mooning’ someone I would put it under Irreverent). Is it vulgar because doody comes out there? Notice I didn’t say shit, that would be vulgar. Yet to apply either of those words to offend someone’s character means two different things. It’s one thing to be an Ass, but quite another to be a Shit—and neither have to involve vulgarity.
You may think that doesn’t make sense; someone along the way has decided for us all that one body part is painfully more profane than another—notwithstanding what comes out of it. I guess that’s fine in a household that never ‘takes a shit,’ but in my castle it doesn’t fly. If a donkey can be an ass, then so can, for example, George W. Bush, but I wouldn’t say that as a matter of Free Speech because it’s Irreverent, see?
If I said Bush was a ‘Fuck,’ my daughter, at eight, would have asked: “What’s a Fuck, Daddy?” I would have had to reply with an incorrect definition of Fuck; that is, I would have said: “That means he’s an Asshole, honey,” (which is, admittedly, more specific than an ‘Ass’). As I understand the generally accepted concept, ‘Fuck’ mostly refers to making love, or Sex, and it wouldn’t have made any sense to her at all because I would have had to cast ‘fucking’ or ‘sex’ in a bad light and then it all starts to get too complicated for an eight-year-old (especially if Bush is in the mix). However, I can explain to her, as a teenager, the difference between ‘making love’ and ‘fucking,’ and that if she does it right, there is none.
None of this is very confusing, I know, but here’s how it grows up…
Soon my sweet sixteen-year-old was asking me different questions, which always led to the same end: “Daddy, can I have some money for the movies?” You’ve heard of the terrible two’s? At sixteen you are in the Broke Teen Years, or the Pre-Job era of their life. Movies provide the escape from reality most normal teens want. Who can blame them?
Parents start by sticking the young ones down on potty trainers in front of TVs so they can learn to understand that watching TV is as natural as taking a shit, so long as you don’t show someone taking an actual shit on TV.
Before you know it, they are being weaned through a system of movie Ratings. Starting with a ‘G’ rating, for parents who want to drop their kids off at the movies to get away from them for awhile, and perhaps go see an R movie while they’re there. Then ‘PG,’ because theaters realized that, at young teen ages, kids are too dangerous to let loose in empty, dark theaters without supervision, so someone old enough to go to an ‘R’ movie must chaperone. After that there’s ‘PG-13,’ which includes kids already beyond the control of parents and way beyond chaperones that the theaters employ extra clean-up crews for. Up the ladder to an ‘R’ Rating, which allows kids who are old enough to join the armed services and kill people or be killed who can’t legally drink alcohol but can at least smoke as long as someone old enough for an ‘NC-17’ Rated movie buys the cigarettes because, once they are already bought, it’s okay to smoke, outside. Ultimately, we succumb to the final Rating that excludes almost everyone except the truly Profane: The ‘XXX’ Rating—a Rating conjuring up in most people unnerving feelings not unlike the X in ‘ex-spouse’ might.
I’m no expert about the Ratings, but as I see it basically any movie that shows a penis is automatically rated NC-17 (I can say Penis, of course, so long as I don’t say Cock). Should the owner of the aforeskinned mentioned Penis be doing anything with it, then it’s definitely XXX, or actually three times as Vulgar as NC-17 (yet they still let you in at the same age and price as an NC-17-rated movie so it’s a better deal). It doesn’t matter if that Penis is peeing or in a can of ham, it’s XXX-rated and only if you’re old enough to kill someone and not have a stiff drink afterwards can you enter.
On the other hand, should your preferences lie in the Horror Movie genre, you are free to watch all manner of creative torture, horror, maiming, and terror for your $8.00 student-reduced ticket price. (Later, oh Broke Teen, you’ll be able to invest only two hours of your work life to be able to pay for that ticket at minimum wage, which, after the time invested watching The House of Incredibly Imaginative Terrors nets out to around four hours of your thoughtful, stimulating and otherwise productive day). For that modest (and reduced!) fee you are treated to Abuse, if you will, to use a mild term for the heinous acts of fantasy produced on film for the general consumption of our mind-molding teens. That is essentially what it is, unless you want to tack on adjectives like Hellish and Sick to it.
So at this point I ask myself (I could ‘ass-k’ myself, but that would be Profane), “Would I rather send my daughter to an X-rated movie or an R-rated horror pic?” I ask in reply, “Which one?”
Not all X-Rated movies are the same. Most are abusive and definitely not about ‘making love’ as much as they are about ‘gratuitous fucking’ (defined as: pre-marital). If you were to ask the industry why most movies are made with this attitude of domination and abuse you will likely hear a similar cry to that of the car industry, who insists on making over-powerful vehicles that are abusive to our ecosphere and all peoples within it “Because that’s what the consumer is buying!”
Anyone researching X-Rated sites on the internet these days will tell you that many sites don’t show full length motion pictures, but rather select scenes made specifically to show what subscribers are going there to see. There is no story plot anymore, as much as there is pure fetishness, per se’, or genre’s from which to choose your interests. Now you can watch the fetish without the abuse, horrific dialogue and trainwreck soundtrack. It’s more honest, if you will. When it comes to the Arts and Free Speech, moral responsibility lies squarely on the creator of content.
I do not have to go see these Horror movies, to be sure, but apparently my kid and lots of other people do because you know what, they’re out there! Am I promoting Censorship? No, but rather Responsibility by the producers of such horror when my kid could just as happily be absorbing fine stories of Art, Love, Science and Metaphysics if they were showing in its place. They only watch what is being shown, after all.
In concept, I would have to say to my daughter Yes! Go see Last Tango in Paris in favor of House of Wax! Teach my kid how to communicate with a loved one (or what to avoid!) and then how some people may make love; all within a medium she trusts.
Some movies she watches do teach her worthy ideas about communicating and love and other important lessons. Many times they are corroborating notions I have already told her that she may not have been able to put into a context she could relate to at the time. Sometimes just the fact that a notion or an idea (or even wisdom!) has come from me alone renders it suspect. Basically, she needs a second opinion, and Movies are something she listens to and tries to follow.
It took a couple generations to decide that armpits can be shown on TV without offense. How many generations must live and die before How to Make Love supplants The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as a way of celluloid life? Which is the Profane? What, exactly, do I tell my kid? ‘Sex is nasty. Don’t have intercourse with anyone before signing a life-long commitment, but chainsaws in the forehead… fun stuff. You’ll get used to it. You should try it sometime! Ha-ha! You can plead ‘chemical imbalance’ in your defense! Ha-ha! You can have that library upstairs of yours filled with traumatic nightmares for decades to come! Sleep with Raisinettes and popcorn on your night table…’
All I know for sure is whichever donkey of a censor put this system in place has a fat ass.