Monday, September 17, 2007

Sally Field and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Word

As the entire world probably knows by now, Fox "News" cut off the last part of Sally Field's acceptance speech at the Emmy Awards last night:

At tonight’s Emmy Awards show, the audience cheered Sally Field’s acceptance speech, which recognized the mothers of U.S. troops. “Surely this [award] belongs to all the mothers of the world,” she stated. “May they be seen, may their work be valued and raised. Especially to the mothers who stand with an open heart and wait. Wait for their children to come home from danger, from harm’s way, and from war. I am proud to be one of those women.”

Field then continued, “If mothers ruled the world, there would be no –” But the Fox Emmycast cut off her sound and pointed the camera away from the stage, silencing the rest of her sentence: “god-damned wars in the first place.”

Here is the video:

Of course, no surprise that liberal bloggers object to the censorship and right-wing bloggers are fine with it. Now, I know that it's probably impossible, or at least darn difficult, to come up with a compelling or convincing defense of what Fox did. Intelligent might be a reasonable expectation, though.

Forget about it. Here is the rundown:

She used a curse word: that's a violation of FCC regulations.

She used the word "god-damn." That word is not subject to FCC on-air profanity regulations, according to a recent FCC ruling
(h/t Comments From Left Field). Steve Benen makes the additional, excellent point that even if Fox was concerned that some audience members would be offended by the word "god-damned," why did they bleep out the entire last part of her sentence, "...god-damned wars in the first place," instead of just that one word? Why did they remove the antiwar statement along with the profanity?

Fox's action had nothing to do with politics, because Ray Romano and Katherine Heigl were also cut off when they used obscene language.

Don Surber quotes the following from Tom Shales' Washington Post column in support of this claim:
Early in the program, comic actor Ray Romano and actress Katherine Heigl were both cut off when they apparently used four-letter words in remarks. The performers suddenly vanished for a few seconds and were replaced by static shots from elsewhere in Los Angeles’s Shrine Auditorium, where the telecast originated. The program was on time-delay, which gives networks the opportunity to edit live shows.

Surber then takes Shales to task for saying, in the next paragraph but one, that in Fields' case, the censorship may have been politically motivated:
Shales said the Fields cutoff may have been political — and then failed to print the word she used. Um, yeah. Right. Whatever.

Surber is being less than honest here. Shales did not print the exact word Fields used, but he made it clear what that word was:
The third instance of censorship may have been political. Sally Field, making one of her long and rambling acceptance speeches (winning for best actress in a drama on "Brothers & Sisters"), was interrupted by silence when she used a God-related swear word in voicing antiwar sentiments. According to the Associated Press, she said, "If the mothers ruled the world, there would be no [expletive] wars in the first place."

If Fox censored Field for political reason, it would be an ugly first in the history of the Emmys.

Clearly, the reason Shales brings up the possibility that Sally Field may have been censored for political reasons is because she used that swear word in the context of making an antiwar statement. And as both Steve Benen and I have noted, that entire antiwar sentiment was cut, not just the swear word. And the swear word she used -- while undeniably offensive to some -- is not prohibited under FCC regulations.

And what did Ray Romano and Katherine Heigl say to get their words bleeped out?

Well, Romano told the audience that Patricia Heaton, his tv wife on "Everybody Loves Raymond," was "fucking" Kelsey Grammer, her co-star on the new series, "Back To You":
The Emmy censors were bleeping busy on Sunday night as three actors slipped in expletives during the live broadcast.

Ray Romano joked about his former "Everybody Loves Raymond" wife, Patricia Heaton, sleeping with her new "Back to You" co-star Kelsey Grammer. But he used a stronger word than "sleeping," which prompted Fox to cut away for a few seconds.

"Shame on you. We have TV children!" Romano said to Heaton, who was sitting in the audience.

And Katherine Heigl cried out, "Shit!" when her name was announced as the Emmy Award winner for her work in "Grey's Anatomy." And then blamed her mother for her lapse in self-control:
“She’s the biggest supporter of mine in the universe so if she was like, ‘You know what? I love you, I think you deserve it but I don’t think you’re going to get it this year,’ I was like ‘You are right!’ and I totally calmed down and relaxed,” Heigl recounted to Access. “I was like ‘Cool’ and ‘Everything’s fine!’ My heart rate slowed down [then] they said my name and I nearly just sh** myself. So that’s where that came from.”

Back to that FCC ruling [emphasis mine]:
6. The Commission defines indecent speech as language that, in context, depicts or describes sexual or excretory activities or organs in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcastmedium. ...
Indecency findings involve at least two fundamental determinations. First, the material alleged to be indecent must fall within the subject matter scope of our indecency definition -- that is, the material must describe or depict sexual or excretory organs or activities. . . . Second, the broadcast must be patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium. ...

What is it about the right that they just cannot do research, or even minimal fact-checking?

1 comment:

rangeragainstwar said...

Sally Field's sentiment--those of a thinking person who does not toe the party line--was heretical. Sssshhh...someone eating chips and dip might wake up...

Though heresy is not technically disallowed, we live in age of censorship. Which is why the Limbaughs of the world who cry liberal bias in the media are so full of it.