Expletive Deleted

She kneed him in the guts and called him braggart in front of everyone.

The first part seems physically difficult. The latter part lacks punch.

Of course, this isn’t the original line. The original line, from Weird Science, was “She kneed him in the nuts and called him faggot in front of everyone.” The first part is a much more natural assault and the latter half was an insult used often in the mid-eighties despite being out of vogue these days. Although I teach at a high school, and it’s not quite as taboo as polite society would have you believe.

But the line about the guts and the braggart comes from the censored version, the “edited for content” television broadcast, of Weird Science. And I love me some edited for television shit.

Sorry, “some edited for television [shucks.]”

Why do I love them so? Because they do shit like changing shit to “shucks” instead of “crap,” a word that means the same thing but is substantially less offensive. Crap would probably fit the context of shit about ninety percent of the time. But who gives a flying [fruit] about context? Not those TV censors! Instead, they find a word that sounds similar. Grammar be [dimed.] Because lip-readers are the only ones who deserve to understand a character’s motivation.

So motherfucker becomes mother trucker, which I don’t mind. Or mother father, as in, “You tell that mother father what’s going to happen if he tries to pull that shucks again!” Which makes no [mango friday] sense.

The most famous editing was probably Smokey and the Bandit, where the cop often mutters “Son of a bitch” under his breath. It was turned into “Scumbum.” So then people started calling people “Scumbum,” because let’s face it, that’s a pretty [fruitin’] cool pseudo-insult. Heck, it’s probably a better putdown than son of a bitch. Who the hell cares if they’re called a son of a bitch? It’s an insult against your mother, not you.

I remember when “Devil Went Down to Georgia” came out, it was a big deal which radio stations would broadcast the actual lyric, son of a bitch, and which ones would sanitize it to son of a gun. Most took the latter. Nowadays I can’t imagine bitch being an issue. If anything, gun is the more offensive word these days.

But scumbum? Them’s some fighting words, mother trucker.

I think mother trucker should be used more often. It rolls off the tongue. And if you think about it long enough, it is a bit of an insult. It brings to mind Large Marge from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. As opposed to mother fucker, which is an accurate describer of every father in the world, as well as a large swath of the fatherless set.

One time in the late 1990s, I saw that Pulp Fiction was going to be playing on broadcast television on a Saturday afternoon. Needless to say, I cleared out my entire weekend for that Must-See event. Think about it. How many words in Pulp Fiction WON’T be bleeped out? Half?

My favorite part of the edited version is when Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta are debating religion. Jules, Samuel L. Jackson’s character, has just “seen the light” after surviving being shot at and, while he’s sitting there eating his non-pork breakfast, he has what alcoholics refer to as a “moment of clarity.”

Vincent, played by John Travolta, is not impressed, to which Jules responds, “Look, if you want to play blind man, go walk with the shepherds. But me? My eyes are wide-fucking-open.”

Except on Channel 8, his eyes were “wide, focused open.”

Not bad. The cadence works and I’ll give an extra point to the bureaucrat in charge. It almost makes sense. Odd context, a natural speech might reverse those two adjectives. And really, wouldn’t you narrow your eyes to focus? But I’m nitpicking. A solid effort on that one.

The next few make a little less sense. Here’s what it sounds like in the real movie:

“Jesus Christ.”

“Don’t blaspheme.”

“God damn it!”

“I said don’t blaspheme. Don’t do that!”

Totally works. It’s a strong indication of Jules’s newfound faith that he’s offended by two phrases that are so commonplace as to be far removed from their blasphemous roots. In fact, these phrases seem so tame that I’m surprised they felt the need to edit them out in the late 1990s. Heck, Mr. Furley was saying “Damn” on Three’s Company as early as fifteen years prior. Sure, putting the “God” in front adds some extra gravity, but this is Pulp Fiction we’re talking about. Is there some 90-year-old sufferin’ from the vapors tuning in to this broadcast?

Well, if they are, they aren’t going to hear “Jesus Christ” or “God Damn it.” Instead, they’re going to hear “Jeez, oh mighty!” and “Gosh dang it.”

But Jules is still going to respond to each with “Don’t blaspheme.”

Of course, both of those phrases have their origins in blasphemy. Jeez is short for Jesus, and throwing in the “Oh, mighty” probably just makes it moreso. And we all know “gosh darn it” is just a poor man’s curse. Kinda makes me wonder about “Gee” and “Gosh” by themselves. Am I breaking one of the commandments and taking my savior’s name in vain when I say, “Gosh, I never thought of that? Golly gee!” Because if so, then the next time a student or my daughter asks a question I don’t know the answer to, I might as well answer, “Fuck a cunt-bubble with a shit-stained twat cock if I know.” At least then I’ve kept the religion out of it.

Now that I think about it, what about the word “good?” The etymology of that word’s gotta be God. As in, God is good. Ergo good must come from God. So if someone asks how I’m doing and I say good, am I breaking more than just grammatical rules? Thou shalt have no gods before me and thou shalt not modify a verb with an adjective! Although to all the grammar nazis out there who try to correct people who respond, “I’m good,” you’re the one who’s wrong, not the utterer. “To be” is a transitive verb, not an action verb. Meaning what follows it pertains to the subject. So the “good” in “I am good” is modifying I, a noun, not am, a verb. So quit trying to sound smart when you’re not, scumbum.

But unlike good, which is so far from its roots that even Mormons don’t find it offensive, most people know what they mean when they say “Jeez” and “Gosh.” And what they mean to do is to AVOID being blasphemous. And if you then jump down their throat about it, then you’re kinda being a prick. Even as a very new born again, Jules’s reaction is a tad excessive. He could just politely explain to Vincent the origin of those two phrases. To just scream “Don’t blaspheme!” makes me think he wasn’t really paying attention to what his close accomplice was actually saying. How rude! The mother trucker.

One other edited movie jumps out at me for all the wrong reasons. Not so much for the words they used as a replacement, but because of which words they chose to replace in the first place. And by extension, which words were perfectly fine.

One of the best movies of the late 1970s, or really of all time, is The Jerk. If you haven’t seen it (shame on you!), it stars Steve Martin as Navin Johnson, who was born a poor black child. Trust me, it makes sense.

Large swaths of the film needed to be edited. For instance, he names his dog “Shithead,” which the TV version changes to “Stupid.” It works either way, as the dog got his name as a result of Navin waking up an entire hotel because he thought the dog was warning him of a fire. So props to the censors for picking a word that sounds similar but also fills the original purpose of the dialogue. If the guy at the hotel told him he should name the dog Simon, the joke would’ve been lost.

Later on in the movie, however, they make a choice that is not quite as laudable. Did you know that the n-word was perfectly fine for broadcast television in the early 1980s?

In a scene near the end, after Navin’s become a multi-millionaire (don’t ask), he’s approached by a businessman about keeping his product from the riff-raff. Only he doesn’t use the word riff-raff. The word he uses starts with an n. To which Navin responds, “Did you say [riff-raff]? You are talking to a [riff-raff].” GEt it? Because he was born a poor black child. He then tries to kick the guy in the nuts, but there’s a clanging sound, causing Navin to pass out.

On the TV version of that scene, there were no edits. Every time the n-word was used in the movie, it was said on the screen. Because who could possibly be offended by it?

But in the following scene, it is revealed that the reason Navin passed out after kicking the dude in the nuts was because the guy was “Iron Balls” McGinty. There was no explanation as to how or why Mr. McGinty had come by his metallic testicles. I’m sure there was an extensive backstory that got cut in the post-edit. Perhaps there were plans for a spinoff Iron Balls trilogy, if only The Jerk hadn’t been such a flop. It was only the… holy crap! The Jerk was the eighth-highest grossing movie of 1979? Wow. Y’all didn’t have much going for you in the late 1970s, did you? Don’t get me wrong, I love the movie. But its sophomoric humor is far from cinematic gold. Last week, I wrote about UHF, a sophomoric film that came out precisely one decade later, and it came in at #113 for the year. Behind such masterpieces as Coccoon: The Return and Halloween 5 and Police Academy 6 and Friday the 13th, Part VIII. (And people think it’s only recently that Hollywood lost its ability to come up with anything new). It was even two spots behind Die Hard, which had already been in the theaters for six months before 1989 even started.

Clearly, Weird Al needed to put more n-bombs and testicle jokes in his movie. Or he needed a time machine to get back to 1979.

Not that the TV version made any testicle jokes. Like the dog, whose name changed to Stupid, Iron Balls was christened Iron Bill for the masses. Not sure why there was a clanging sound when Iron Bill got kicked in the nuts. Two totally unrelated items. Like Samuel L. Jackson screaming “Don’t blaspheme!” at someone who had done no such thing.

But “balls,” you must understand, is vulgar. It might be considered offensive. Some parent might have to turn to their child and engage in an awkward conversation about biology and anatomy and what or what is not appropriate nomenclature for the complexities of human nature and society. Balls aren’t some easy, diminutive word with a straight-forward history of hierarchy in society like… like… Hoo boy, how many times did they drop the n-bomb in the scene right before?

That wasn’t the only film with questionable censoring decisions. Blazing Saddles  was famous for cutting the farting scene. Well, they didn’t cut the scene, they just cut the audio on all the farts. So what viewers saw was a bunch of guys eating beans around a campfire with a substantial lack of ambient background noise.

But, once again, Blazing Saddles says the n-word a lot. Seventeen times, in fact. And each one made it past the censors, who must’ve just been too exhausted after silencing all the flatulence to turn their attention to a minor racial epithet.

Of course, we see a lot less creative censoring than we used to. Most media outlets don’t face the same restrictions they did in the twentieth century. There’s a good chance you’re watching something on YouTube or Hulu or even TBS, none of which are required to bleep out anything. I’m always shocked when I’m listening to Sirius/XM and a song from college comes on. Whoa, so that’s what the lyrics are? It flows do much better than blank air every other word.

Did you know that Alannis Morisette was not,  in fact, asking if you think of her while you flick someone else?

And holy crap, “Semi-Charmed Life” has this whole other verse about… um… what rhymes with safety word?

We’ve also become more lenient as a society about what does and what does not constitute a word of curse. Hence, balls.

When we do bleep things out, we don’t even bleep them anymore. Thanks to some of those 1990s alternative and hip hop artists, we’ve become accustomed to blank air replacing cuss words. If The Jerk came out today, we wouldn’t hear about Iron Balls or Iron Bill. He’d just be Iron (Dead Air) McGinty. And the dog would be named ”      .”

And if Pulp Fiction came out today, I wouldn’t have to devote a full afternoon to the viewing. With all the dead air, the edited version that aired on broadcast tv would be about twenty minutes long.

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