First off, apologies if your office firewall blocked today’s post. I tried to keep the word “fuck” out of the title, but I really mean it when I say that you’re invited to fuck off. No hard feelings, no malice. I’ll even buy you an ice cream someday if we meet up on a sunny June afternoon. But really – what I need you to do is consider fucking off. Straight off. Hear me out…
Like many internet destinations, this site has images, thoughts and words that not everyone will like and I own that – lock, stock and barrel. What I hope I’ve built is a place where people who love what I do and pick up what I’m putting down can air their feelings and thoughts and do so without feeling like their comments will be deleted and I’m only looking for a herd of sycophants carrying redheaded Barbies parading in a line behind me like some fucked up centipede, undulating in and out of a digital mushroom maze in 80s video game fashion.
*Announcement: that is possibly the longest sentence I’ve ever typed. W00t.*
It’s called branding. It’s called free speech. I invite you to enjoy what I’ve prepared to share and I open the doors for your feedback. If you would rather be pelted by thousands of angry bees than read what I write, you can block my website, unsubscribe and vow to never partake in my musings again. I’ll call that the Off Button. It’s yours for the turning or pushing. You can also use the Off Button on the TV, your radio, your local or national newspapers, books and any business of your choice.
Today’s Bitch Slap was prompted by an article I stumbled across yesterday.
Their argument (according to the article): “Citing statistics that 200,000 Americans are “porn addicts,” and 56 percent of divorce cases can be blamed not on lack of love but on “one person” having “obsessive interest” in pornography, the PTC blames Playboy, and NBC for supporting it, for the demise of the American family.”
Their argument (according to their “file a complaint with the FCC” call to action about the series): ”
The Playboy Club is the latest and most obvious example of the way the entertainment industry is mainstreaming and even glamorizing pornography. While episodes of the program have not yet been screened, the mere fact that the show uses the word “Playboy” in the title, and that its stories take place in an exploitative, sexist setting demonstrate that the show’s creative staff – and the NBC network – are eager to push a pornography-based show into every home in America.
This isn’t a pay-per-view program available only to HBO or Showtime subscribers. The Playboy Club will be beamed into every living room in the nation, in prime time, over the publicly-owned airwaves. Do YOU want to explain to YOUR channel-surfing children what a “Playboy Club” is?
If you want to learn more about the Parents Television Council, yeah…just click. You might also find amusing that on their Current Campaigns page where they encourage parents to take action against programs that aired (gulp) in 2003. (I can’t make this up.) When they catch wind of this post in their Google Alerts, I’ll be written off as a foul-mouthed hussy that their children need protecting from as well. Esssokay. I’ve been called worse. You can also learn more about The Playboy Club from NBC.
So, here’s where I’ll begin with a few concepts I use in my own daily media consumption. Yours might differ, and hey – that’s the beauty of the American media, right? We consume by choice.
ARGUMENT #1: I might not agree with your point of view, but I defend your right to have it and express it…unless your simply being an asshat and jumping to conclusions based on your own erroneous assumptions. The episodes haven’t been screened, but you’re jumping to conclusions, calling the show pornography-based? I’m going to help you out here and offer to rephrase your argument so that sheepish and educated parents alike can follow your argument with some sense of intelligence: “We are reticent to believe that there can be value in our children viewing a program based on a brand empire built on the distribution of ‘pornography’. While Hugh Hefner and Playboy were at the forefront of the civil rights movement, ignoring racial segregation and offering multiracial bands a performance venue along with offering black standup comics their first venue to perform alongside caucasians during segregation, we choose to ignore those points (and many others in the vein of civil rights) in favor of playing the “pornography-based show” card. Nudity preempts all reasonable arguments and we can’t condone it under any circumstances, even though the network broadcast program is highly unlikely to broadcast any sort of nudity at any point in the programs (the ones we haven’t seen). Oh, and we won’t be viewing any of the programs once they air, either, out of fear of breaking up our American Family via porn.”
ARGUMENT #2: “…the mere fact that the show uses the word “Playboy” in the title, and that its stories take place in an exploitative, sexist setting demonstrate that the show’s creative staff – and the NBC network – are eager to push a pornography-based show into every home in America.” This is ignorant on so many levels that I’ll have to begin on the first and work my way further down the stairs until I arrive in Dipshit Alley. The use of a brand name like Playboy elicits different responses from different people. For me, it elicits thoughts of wondering what it was like to be a struggling writer like Ray Bradbury, sitting around with a story no one wanted to buy, only to have it published by Playboy Magazine. That little story? Fahrenheit 451. You might have read it (but you probably burned it). For others, especially during the time the magazine was up and coming in the 50s and 60s, it meant access to musical acts (like jazz) that could be seen and heard nowhere else if it weren’t for the magazine and events it recorded and promoted. And I can assure you – the creative folk at NBC aren’t looking to push a “pornography-based show” into every home in America. They took an icon from American history – the Playboy clubs and their requisite bunnies – and shaped a storyline around it. It’s not a 13-episode documentary.
ARGUMENT #3: “Do YOU want to explain to YOUR channel-surfing children what a “Playboy Club” is?” I would venture to guess that many parents wouldn’t want to be burdened with this task, while others would handle it begrudgingly. Others, I’ll bet, would take to the task with fervent honesty. Here’s an idea: be a fucking PARENT and stop asking the networks and public schools to do it for you. If there’s one thing I know, there was NOTHING on that TV in my house while growing up of which my parents did not approve. And guess what: they’re divorced. Why? Not because of pornography. They just didn’t get along. And that’s fine. Dear god, I WISH porn had broken up my parents. At least I would know they’re sexual beings and I wouldn’t have had to spend my adolescent years wondering if I was the product of immaculate conception.
Maybe if we lived in a culture that didn’t treat everything with an inkling of sexual undertone as taboo, we’d have fewer fucked up kids who felt the need to hide their diddly-doos from their parents. If you don’t want your kids to watch something on television, be a parent. Tell them no. Set up parental controls. Take the TV out of their bedroom. And while you’re at it, you should probably take away their computer access because they’re just going to stream it online. And when the computer’s gone, they’ll go stream it at a friend’s house. Or watch it on their friend’s DVR. The more we treat things as taboo, the more desirable and tempting they become. And what’s so bad about explaining what a Playboy club is? Here’s the simple answer: In the 50s and 60s, these were clubs where men and women alike went to listen to jazz and standup comedians. They were entertainment clubs and the waitresses wore costumes to make them look like bunnies. (And if you want to get a little deeper with your middle and high school aged kiddos) These clubs were the some of the first during the segregation era to allow black musicians to appear onstage beside white ones and also were the first place that let black standup comics perform for white audiences. Membership was a status symbol and it’s reported that only 21% of members actually ever visited the clubs.
There. That wasn’t so hard, was it?
ARGUMENT #4: “…its stories take place in an exploitative, sexist setting…” Subjective at best. Do you want to know what I find exploitative and sexist? Corporate America. Recent reports from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that female executives earn 29% less than their male counterparts. I sit around and watch Mad Men and think – wow…a secretarial pool…such subservience…few women in positions of power. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. It means I can be proud of where our country has come in the past 60 years. The TV show you’re complaining about is set in the 1960s. That was an era where women were still new fixtures in the workplace and generally took service-oriented roles: secretary, waitress, receptionist, counter clerks, sales girls at department stores. I’m pretty sure that no one ever put on a little bunny outfit and felt it was their last resort. And here’s the thing: women continue to do it today, and by choice. Who are you to insult their choices? Your parameters above and current labor statistics indicate that we should also be protesting all legal and corporate-themed shows and any one in which both parents work (because the wife is almost certainly earning less than her husband). Be a parent. You’re entitled to your ideas of how your daughters and sons should grow up. Use them. Be honest with them. If you raise kids to be afraid of certain words and actions, you’re priming them for a life of fear. The more they know about the world, the more they’ll come to appreciate your honesty with them about it. It’s big when they walk past your front doors – prepare them. It’s a pretty rude awakening.
So you’re kindly invited to fuck off. Exercise the Off Button.
I’m not a parent, though I do hope to be one someday. I’m the person who looks around a restaurant and shuts down my mouth when kids are around. I’m also the person who walked up to three loudmouthed teens in the San Francisco airport not so long ago, introduced myself, and asked them to keep the f-bombs dialed back. WAY back. Especially since there was an entire junior high school basketball team sitting at the gate with us. While I might get paid (and well) to brandish certain terms, it doesn’t mean I use them all the time and in every situation. It means we should all be adults, use our heads and respect a few things:
- Parenting (not unlike friendship) is an active role, not one that you can delegate to other people.
- It’s up to us what we consume, from whom we consume such, and the frequency.
- You’re not going to like everything you see. (Believe me – failure to understand THIS concept destroys more marriages than porn.)
- And as the late George Carlin said – there are two knobs: one to change the channel, and one (d’oh) to turn it off.
It’s Branding 101: the consumers choose. If you don’t want your kids to eat Frosted Flakes, you simply don’t buy them. You don’t go on a whole letter writing campaign to tell Kellogg to stop production because they’re poisoning our youth with high fructose corn syrup and fantasies of talking tigers (which we all know lead to porn addictions). If you don’t like what’s on the TV for your kids, set up parental controls and play an active role in their viewing habits. Don’t subscribe to cable TV. Hell – get rid of the TV altogether (I lived without one for the past two years – it was lovely). When you’re angry by choice, it’s difficult to gain sympathy or even empathy. And that’s why I’m inviting you to fuck off. Stop the yelling and start the parenting. And if you’re not a parent, put your own boundaries into place. Start owning your roles and responsibilities. It’s not up to everyone else to stop doing what you don’t like. It’s up to you to figure out how to coexist with those things, beliefs and decisions.
We don’t live in the United States of You.
We consume by choice – and just because it’s on doesn’t mean you have to tune in. That goes for parents and non alike. You know what’s on your kids’ bookshelves. You see their cell phone bills. You get their report cards. You check their homework. At least, I hope you do those things, because I’d love to have such opportunities. It’s not everyone else’s responsibility to be parents to your children. It’s yours. And one day, I hope it’ll be mine, too. We are an economy that votes with our wallets. If viewership sucks, ads get pulled and those things you hate die on the vine. And if it goes on for another season, well, you’re just going to have to find something to do at 10pm EST/9pm CST…when your kids should probably be in bed anyways. I’m old – I’m usually in bed by 9:30pm, but that’s what DVRs are for.
You’ve been slapped.
PS: When that parenting day comes for me, I think I’ll dedicate a whole day to Hugh Hefner, bunnies in various forms, and American History. What kids learn in school is sanitized and they deserve to know the truth so that the bad shit has less of a chance to repeat.
PPS: And I’d love to hear from the parents – how do YOU manage the wilds of the interwebz, movies, literature and whatnot in today’s society? My parents had a cable TV lockbox but the good sense to let me wander the bookstores of the world in an unleashed fashion. Lay it on me.
PPPS: Damn, this was a long post. Thanks for hanging in there!