"You know, FOX turned into a hardcore sex channel so gradually, I didn't even notice. Yeesh!" -Marge Simpson commenting in a 1995 Simpson's Episode set in 2010.
I can identify with Marge - (and that was 1995!) I'm amazed at what they broadcast on TV during prime family time these days! Apparently, some New York judges don't agree with Marge and me - and, I'm sure, many of you.
They just ruled that profanity on TV is okay, not just during the late hours when the young minds are in bed asleep, but at any time. I'm sure their decision will provoke many more "can they do that on TV?" exclamations from America's living rooms.
Imagine, its 7 p.m. on a Sunday night. The popcorn bowl is full, the sodas are ready. You sit down with your two kids; one 6, the other 10, and flip on the television in search of a program suitable for the whole group.
As you scan the channels, your 6-year-old girl catches a glance of her favorite pop-princess star Britney Spears dancing around the stage and begs you to return to the program - a music awards show. You think, "what harm could an awards show filled with singing, dancing and acceptance speeches do?"
You return to that show so your daughter can watch her idol, you lean back and relax. Suddenly, you stiffen. You hear one of the announcers utter a word, very distinctly, that you would expect to hear on an episode of "The Sopranos" - not on a broadcast network airing early in the evening. It's the four-letter "f-word" loud and clear - and it's on Fox. Not HBO. Not Showtime.
You quickly change the channel. Your two kids stare at you - waiting for an explanation. You've told them many times that mature, intelligent and classy people do not use this inappropriate word. And since they've never heard any of your friends use that word, they believe you. Yet they just heard it from famous people in your living room.
While you figure out what to say, you stare in disbelief because you trusted the public airwaves to provide fun, family-friendly viewing - not obscenities and inappropriateness.
Is this how it really should be? Are people, especially families, expected to be okay with constant exposure to unfiltered content on television without warning? Well, that's the implication of the New York federal court's ruling - that broadcasters can't be penalized for expletives that are considered impromptu.
This decision came after the multiple occurrences of curse words spoken by celebrities on air that reached millions of viewers during the 2002 and then again on the 2003 Billboard Music Awards shows. Celebrities Cher and Nicole Richie deliberately inserted certain expletives into their speeches, including the "f-word" and "s-word." Of note is that these celebrities did not have steaming hot coffee spilled on them eliciting unplanned expletives; these were preventable smacks in the face to families everywhere.
We assumed justice was served in March 2006 when the FCC ruled that so-called "fleeting" uses of expletives are indecent. FOX sued, along with NBC and CBS, for the right to curse on TV. So now it's June 2007 and New York Circuit Court judges overturned the FCC's decision.
The FCC was just doing its job - what it was created to do - by calling for broadcast decency. But the all-wise New York judges, who believe they know what is best for the impressionable young minds sitting in our living rooms, claimed that the FCC's actions were "arbitrary and capricious."
"Arbitrary" and "capricious?" Interesting. Following the 2004 Janet Jackson Super Bowl bare-busted flash, the network broadcasters apologized profusely for the "accidental" nudity. But then they turned around and sued saying it wasn't indecent. That case is still pending. Wait until these out-of-touch federal judges get a hold of that one.
So it now appears that at any given time, night or day, the public must keep its finger poised over the "mute" button and have earmuffs nearby for the kids. Meanwhile, society gives yet more ground to the classless, who if the networks are to be believed, are so literarily challenged that they can't possibly be expected to come up with language that could be printed in this paper.
We need to stand up now or accept a future where Marge Simpson is the only voice of reason left.