Whatever happened to the notion of washing a child's mouth out with soap -- or, if in the case of an adult, just smacking him in the chops if he insults someone with obscene or racist language? All that's out the window in Hollywood, where there's an entire regimented 12-step process of rehabilitation and "healing."
Last October, gossips chattered about a scrap between two male stars on the set of the hip ABC medical show "Grey's Anatomy." Actor Isaiah Washington reportedly called a fellow cast-member a "faggot." The rumors spurred cast-member T.R. Knight to openly declare he is gay.
But the controversy blew wide open after "Grey's Anatomy" won at the Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 15 and Washington blurted out at a post-show press conference that he never called Knight a "faggot." In Hollywood terms, he'd compounded the original rumored offense tenfold, and alarm bells sounded everywhere. Hollywood was horrified, and ABC was mortified, issuing a statement that, "We have a longstanding policy to create and maintain respectful workplaces for all our employees."
The irony was rich and inescapable for Robert Peters, the president of Morality in Media. While insisting he had no intention to defend Washington's babbling, he nonetheless asked, "How do we explain the phenomena of TV executives and their high-priced actors being so deeply concerned about the sensibilities of adults in the workplace but so totally unconcerned about the well-being of children in their audiences?"
The networks fill the public airwaves with cursing and sexually charged conversation and simulated sex while countless children are watching, he said, and there are no apologies. (One need go no further than watching "Grey's Anatomy.")
In fact, the networks are in federal court at this very moment, suing for the "right" to drop F-bombs on children whenever they'd like. That F-bomb is OK for national television, but it's not OK for the new F-bomb to be uttered anywhere, even on the privacy of the set, even when it's between adults.
Once again, Hollywood looks hypocritical, so high and mighty about their vaunted right to shock and offend, to push every envelope and melt every taboo, and it doesn't matter how many they offend. But in their neighborhood there are rules, they have their own list of Seven Dirty Words you can't say, their own system of censorship and their own secular sacraments of penance.
We saw this in November, when comedian Michael Richards screamed the N-word at a comedy club, recorded on a cell phone. No one would rebroadcast the offending word, even as Richards was denounced in every venue. We can applaud that and ask: So why not the same standard for the other obscenities?
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