Morality and the Media: The Problem With TV Vulgarity

This is the world we live in now. A world where people write bile-filled letters to the Daily Express whenever someone says the word ‘arse’ on TV, and old ladies tut judgmentally to each other while saying “I knew it!” every time the police find an XBOX in the home of a serial killer. You’d think it might be easy to ignore them, especially the Express readers. All you have to do is show them a picture of Princess Diana and they’ll completely forget what it was they were doing. But the fact is those of us who realise that swearing in TV and games is no more harmful to the British public than some of the shit printed in the Sun are being swamped by concerned parents and government officials demanding that Squidward Tentacles puts trousers on, or whatever it is they moan about. These moral crusades change nothing, and just provide further proof of how futile it is to try and fix something that isn’t broken.

Ok, ok, a bit of fairness at this point. I’m obviously not suggesting anything like putting Father Jack Hackett from Father Ted on CBBC. That would be ludicrous (although possibly weirdly entertaining). All I’m saying is that the restrictions already in place on screen and game vulgarity is enough. In Britain 9pm is currently the earliest swearing and gore and violence can be shown. So do shows keep to it? South Park never gets shown before 10:30 on British TV. Same with Family Guy. Ultra-sweary The Thick Of It? The earliest that’s been on is 9:30. Or fantastic death-fest The Walking Dead. 10pm on both FX and its reruns on Channel 5.

Compare that with Casualty (prime-time Saturday viewing) or any of the soaps. There’s blood and violence in those, but do we pursue them with anywhere near the level of ferocity? No. There’s no difference between these shows and the media’s favourite hate-figures, but the way you hear people going on about them you’d think each game and show and movie was preaching the ideals of a teenage girl trying to decide whether necrophilia or bestiality is her preferred fetish. Actually, that’s a point. Why aren’t we investigating Twilight? That shit’s insane…

Still, if all you ‘concerned’ parents want a scapegoat, and judging by some of the stuff I’ve heard you most certainly are, then how about, well… yourselves? You, the mother who buys her 7-year-old son a copy of Grand Theft Auto (clearly rated 18) and then gets all upset when he says “fuck” around the house. Or you, the father who sits with his toddlers and watches a complete series of South Park. You can’t have this both ways. These things are rated for a reason.

Grand Theft Auto has huge amounts of un-necessary vulgarity and violence, but if you’re buying it for a child who’s under-age then who else is there to logically blame but yourselves? In fact, the entire premise of South Park: The Movie was based around the point of parents refusing to believe they could be blamed for letting their young children see an inappropriate movie. The fact is, no-one will take anything you say remotely seriously until you admit that this is at least 70% your fault. And once you’ve done that we’ll still ignore you because you’re a fucking moron with a stupid cause and an axe to grind.

Take the terrible killing of James Bulger back in the early 90s. A horribly tragic incident, yes. But where did people lay the blame (apart from with the kids who did it, obviously)? Video games. Yes, apparently these two boys were re-enacting moves they’d seen while playing Hitman. So how did they get their hands on this 18-rated game in the first place? Look, most of the time all it needs is for a parent to say “no, I’m not buying you a Family Guy DVD because I don’t think it’s appropriate for you.” No-one will blame you for that. That’s just you doing what you think is right as a parent. But to buy it for your 10-year-old and then embark on a personal vendetta against FOX and Seth Macfarlane when your kid starts repeating the rude bits makes you come across as a bit insane.

Reading back I realise that this has started to sound more like a rally than a light analysis article. But this is the sort of thing that makes me genuinely angry, rather than just humorously angry. I know

this is the society that actually paid attention to Mary Whitehouse when she single-handedly tried to ruin everything for everyone in the 60s, but surely we’ve come further than that? It’s 2012, guys! Why are we going after this when religion still exists? That’s a far more worthwhile use of our collective anger. Come on, we can do it! Video game loving atheists in 2013. That’s the dream…

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