Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sometimes A Crude Word Is The Right Word

A few days ago I got two comments on an older article that I wrote. Normally any comment about an older article indicates Comment Spam. The two comments I received on the older article were exactly the same and from the same person, which is usually a bad sign, however when I get a Blogger notification on something like that I at least read the notification before I delete the comment as Spam. But then I read the comment.

It came from a woman with the username Cindybin (and since I’m using her comment I think it’s only fair that I link to her site) and here’s what she had to say about the title of my Dick van Dyke Show Blogathon entry, In Praise Of Laura Petrie’s Ass:
It is terrible you used the a-word in the title of your article! how crude and offensive. I won't even read it now. And what gets me is that people are PRAISING you?? They don't even chastise you for using this crude language

Now normally I’d run the comment and because it is an older article no one would acknowledge its existence. But it’s been a bit quiet around here; my current Flash game obsession is getting a little stale, and I finally got that pesky leaky tub faucet in my bathroom fixed, so I was in the right place to take on something. And the topic of crude language is one I’ve been thinking about for a while.

I will grant that “the a-word” is a crude term, though I hesitate to say that it is an offensive one to the bulk of my readers. “Ass” has certainly ceased to be regarded as offensive by TV writers and producers, and indeed TV censors. The word is used in both contexts; as a reference to a person’s buttocks and as a contraction of the word that you can’t use on TV, which is created with the addition of the word “hole.” Oh yes, and as a contraction of Jackass, although that has nothing to do with what we're discussing.

Here’s the thing though. In this case “ass” is the right word to use, and probably the only appropriate one. I am writing an article on the (apparently unintended) sexual attractiveness of a TV character – and I make it clear in the article that Cindybin refused to read that I don’t feel the same way about the actress who played the character. The key to Laura Petrie’s sexual attractiveness was Mary Tyler Moore’s body shape, which I describe as a dancer’s body, lean and tautly muscular. Her body shape was emphasised by the snugly fitted clothing she wore, and in particular the Capri Pants that became her trademark in the role, as well as the dancer’s tights she occasionally wore when the character was dancing “professionally.” And guess what part of the body those clothes emphasized.

Yes, to be sure there are words that could have been used instead of “ass;” buttocks, butt, bum, booty, tush, fanny (though that one can get you into trouble in Britain; its a slang term for a woman’s vulva). They’re all “good” words (well I’m actually not that fond of “booty” but that’s just me) but they just don’t carry the same sort of sexual connotation that “ass” does. And since my post was about what I find to be sexually attractive about Laura Petrie – something that I was also emphasizing by deliberately adapting the title of Stephen Vizincey’s novel In Praise of Older Women for what I think should be fairly obvious reasons given what I was writing – a word with sexual connotations is the right word.

Words have value. It’s something that Robert Heinlein pointed out in his short novel If This Goes On---. The character Zeb Jones is working on using language in a way that will inflame people to revolt. He gives an example to the lead character, John Lyle (about Lyle’s paternity) that has Lyle ready to throttle his friend even though it is entirely accurate. It’s literally not just what you say, it’s the way that you say it. In this case the word “ass” has the right value for what I wanted to say. It’s the right word because it is vaguely crude without being truly indecent. I stand by my quite deliberate choice of that word and wouldn’t change it to satisfy anyone even if I could.

Update: Cindybin has responded:
Oh it figures. Instead of feeling guilty and embarrassed that you used crude language, you write a BLOG about it and make me out to be the one in the wrong, and then you say that you wouldn't even change a word of it. This only makes me angrier and more determined to speak up. I plan to write a ton of blogs about how people use profanity online. 

Right. First of all, I don`t think that I made her out to be the one in the wrong, except maybe for the part where I mentioned "the article that she refused to read." I feel that I defended my position on why I used the word I did. I stand by that defense. I would have been happy if Cindybin had offered a well thought out defense of her position that would have been the basis for a debate. She didn't. Instead she sent me something that was the equivalent of "you didn't repent; I intend to speak out against you and your kind."

Let me just reiterate. I chose the word I used quite deliberately because I felt and still feel that it was the best word to express what I wanted to put across. I did not use it off-handedly or gratuitously. Therefore I do not have any feelings of guilt or embarrassment over using it. I didn't even use it to shock; titilate maybe but not to shock or provoke in the way that a site like the Parents Television Council routinely does. And if that provokes Cindybin to write "a ton of blogs about how people use profanity online," well that's fine. I'll defend to the death her right to do so. Just don't expect me to agree or publicize it.

With that I am finished responding to Cindybin publicly.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

New Polls–Which Shows Will Be Cancelled Quickest

These two polls are pretty simple. All you have to do is vote for the show which you think will be cancelled quickest. The shows are split into two categories: Drama and Comedy. To be considered in this poll the shows have to debut before the end of December 2012 and have been announced at the May Upfronts.

Now for the purposes of these polls “quickest” will be defined as the fewest number of episodes aired regardless of when the show starts. So, if a show that starts in September airs four episodes and a show that debuts in October airs three episodes, the October show is the one that was cancelled quickest. This actually happened last year when Free Agents was cancelled after four episodes but was cancelled before How To Be A Gentleman was cancelled. How To Be A Gentleman “won” because it ended up airing only three episodes.

It is also important to note that what counts is the number of episodes that air, even if the episodes air on Saturdays or some other “parking” time slot. How To Be A Gentleman was effectively cancelled after two episodes in its original Thursday night time slot, but had shot nine episodes. CBS planned to burn off the remaining seven episodes of the show on Saturdays but ended up showing only one for a total of three episodes aired. Had CBS aired three episodes on Saturday night Free Agents would have been the “winner.”

Officially – because Blogger’s polling system requires a deadline – the deadline for these polls will be the end of November 2012. The actual deadline will be the day that the first new show in a particular category is cancelled.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Poll Results-Outstanding Drama Series

HOMELAND2Last of our Emmy polls, and this one had a really small turnout. That May very well have been because I was late in putting up the announcement. I really thought I had put it up when I finished typing it up, but I was tired that night.


Anyway, there were five votes cast. Boardwalk Empire, Game Of Thrones, and Mad Men received no votes. Breaking Bad received one vote (20%). Tied for the win are Downton Abbey and Homeland with two votes each (40%).


The low voter turnout for this one was a surprise for me, but beyond that I’m still trying to process the votes that were cast in my own mind. The two HBO shows in the list didn’t get any votes. Given the focus of this blog that’s not overly surprising. And if what I’ve heard about Mad Men having an off season is correct then that one also seems logical; great performances – and no one is disputing the performances turned in by the Mad Men cast, particularly Christina Hendricks – do not necessarily add up to a great whole.


DowntonWhich leaves us with the shows that received votes.I haven’t seen any of the three shows that got votes but I’ve heard a lot of critical support for all three. Breaking Bad is always a contender and in its penultimate season (which in AMC terms means it will be around for two more Emmy cycles) it apparently delivered a heavy dramatic punch. I certainly understand the love for Homeland which seems to me to have boosted the standard for the year (and in my opinion is the nominee most likely to dethrone Mad Men as Outstanding Drama Series). But I don’t get the adoration for Downton Abbey. Okay, I know it’s a BBC produced “family saga” of the sort that the Emmys have loved since The Forsythe Saga about 40 years ago (40 years? Suddenly I feel downright elderly because I watched and enjoyed The Forsythe Saga when it was on CBC; I even tried reading the books). But is it as good as the other shows in the category or is it the best show that the Emmy voters could find on Broadcast TV? I’m just not sure.


The new polls for the new shows most likely to be cancelled quickest will be up later today, after I go form my optometrist appointment.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

New Poll-Outstanding Drama Series

Yeah, that took a bit longer than I expected. So the deadline will be pushed later as well.

For the final time this Emmy season, please vote for the series that you believe should win the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. Please feel free to explain why you feel the way that you do by posting a comment under this topic. It will make a change from dealing with Comment Spam.

Deadline for this poll is 12:01 a.m. on September 14th.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Poll Results-Outstanding Comedy Series

This poll had one of the most unexpected, and I dare say unusual results I’ve seen in the time that I’ve been doing these polls.

Eight votes were cast. Girls and Veep received no votes. Last year’s winner in the actual Emmys, Modern Family, received one vote (13%). Tied with two votes each (25%) were Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Big Bang Theory. But the winner, with three votes (38%) was ….. 30 Rock!?

That was the unexpected part. Here’s the unusual part. If I had run these poll results twenty-four hours earlier, 30 Rock would have been in a tie…with Girls and Veep with no votes. If I had run the poll results eight hours ago, the show would have been in a tie with Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Big Bang Theory. The last three votes received (according to the email sent by the software that I use to do the polls) were all for 30 Rock, and all came in in a twelve hour period – two of them at the same time! And this is not the first poll this has happened in.

Now not to throw cold water on the people who voted in my poll, but 30 Rock isn’t going to win as Outstanding Comedy Series, nor, in my not so humble opinion should it win as Outstanding Comedy Series. A great comedy series? Undoubtedly. Deserving of being nominated? Indubitably. But the Outstanding Comedy Series of the 2011-12 season? No.

Now admittedly – because I admit it just about every time I write about comedy series – I don’t watch a lot of the comedies on TV. Of the nominees I only watch The Big Bang Theory on a regular basis and I usually manage to catch about an episode a year of Modern Family. But everything that I’ve heard tells me that 30 Rock‘s best days are behind it (though there is something inspired about having Margaret Cho not only play Kim Jong-il but bringing her back after the real Kim Jong-il died). Frankly I don’t know who should win, although I will be cheering for The Big Bang Theory on Emmy night. Maybe Todd Mason is right in the comment he wrote for the blog: “This is the kind of spavined list I expect from awards-show folks, and they don't disappoint...though I haven't yet looked up the Emmy that a more deserving candidate, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, is up for.” Oh well, at least it gave me an excuse for running a picture of Tina Fey.

The next – and final – Emmy post of this season will be up in a few hours.