The Parents Television Council website continues to be a valuable tool for pre-teens looking for raunchy TV. PTC helpfully charts the upcoming week’s TV shows with special tags warning (or guiding) viewers about where they can find “gratuitous sex,” (what about artistically necessary sex?) “explicit dialogue” (Hey Mabel, how about some gratuitous sex?), and “obscene language” (words that no one ever hears at home, like “bitch”).
And of course, “violence” (wanting to shrink the government smaller and smaller until its only function is censoring speech).
This week, PTC helpfully let me know that Comedy Central had scheduled a roast of Roseanne Barr, featuring “unbelievably graphic sex talk.” To help me decide whether or not I wanted to watch it, they actually ran a very brief transcript of it. In fact, they even added a 45-second clip—filled with the expletives that they don’t want you to have the privilege of watching on your TV.
A few samples:
Amy Schumer: “Roseanne bought a nut farm, which is also the nickname for Ellen Barkin’s mouth at an audition.”
Jeff Ross: “Roseanne was molested as a child. That poor molester.”
Roseanne: “Gilbert Gottfried. You know the difference between Gilbert’s voice and a sandpaper dildo? After 20 minutes, you might start enjoying the dildo.”
OK, not exactly “Who’s on First” or The Soup Nazi or Woody Allen’s finest. Steve Martin won’t lose any sleep over the competition.
But the whole PTC thing is transparently juvenile: laying out in meticulous detail something so awful that we should all avoid it—after we enjoy it. Comedy Central Roasts are self-consciously stupid, and because they don’t take themselves seriously, we can laugh at them. But the PTC is unintentionally stupid, and takes itself ultra-seriously, so we can’t laugh at it. We shouldn’t laugh at it. It’s too dangerous.
The PTC are the people who also said the Republic would fall when children saw Janet Jackson’s nipple for a half-second during the Superbowl halftime show. They warned that the Republic would fall when Cher said “fuck ‘em” on an awards show (actually, Cher getting a singing award at this point may, in fact, signal the upcoming end of civilization as we know it).
What PTC doesn’t get is that censorship threatens the American way of life far more than any sexual words or pictures. Bill O’Reilly said it all when he claimed that “the word uterus destroys children’s innocence.” He’s superstitious, fearing magic syllables the way our ancestors feared witches. What he doesn’t fear is limiting others’ self-expression and creativity, or his own exposure to ideas other than his own.
The PTC takes its mission of scrubbing the airwaves so seriously that it doesn’t realize that scrubbing the airwaves is a dangerous mission. They’re willing to burn down the house to roast the pig.
That's the definition of a zealot.
Reducing TV to what’s fit for children—as Mark Twain said, “that's like saying a man can’t have a steak because a baby can’t chew it.”