television

Thoughts on that Mandalorian Finale

Everybody’s been gushing about the second season finale for The Mandalorian.  After all, it’s got CGI! Behold, a tick to make Hollywood actors more attractive than they are in real life! What more could one want as a going-away present to get us through the long, dark offseason that before it is filled with WandaVision and seven other temporary fulfillments of the vacant holes in our souls. Character agency? Pshaw.

So, y’know, spoiler warnings and whatnot. But you clicked through on something that clearly referenced what I was reviewing. If you didn’t want to know about the menage-a-trois between Mando and Captain Kirk and Harry Potter, it’s kinda your own fault now.

And honestly, I’m at least a year behind the times on this, but Mando the Mandalorian? Really? Maybe it’s a good thing they waited a year and a half to name Baby Yoda. It gave us time to name it Baby Yoda instead of, I don’t know, Bob, which is probably the name they would’ve given it if they’d been forced to come up with one. Fighting alongside Humo the Human.

And yeah, I know Baby Yoda has a real name now. But sorry, producers, ya done waited too long and he’s forever gonna be Baby Yoda now.

I’m probably not the best person to review the second season finale of The Mandalorian, considering I’ve been a whole lotta meh on the series as a whole. One of the reasons this is coming a month after the series ended is because I wasn’t planning to watch season two at all, until I heard about the ending. 

Some of my friends incessantly gush about the show. They’ll note that the red hat in the background of one scene was an homage to an outtake from Episode II wherein Jar Jar Binks shoved a red hat up his hoo-ha only to find out that he was color blind. Meanwhile I fixated on asinine things like there’s no way the little kid Boba Fett in Episode II could grow up to be the old dude Bob Fett in this show. I feel like he switched ethnicities. Maybe being pooped out by the Sarlacc changes your accent. Or maybe he’s a character that never shoulda taken the helmet off. Or, you know, returned at all. 

Cue Poe Dameron. Somehow, Boba Fett returned. If the answers disappoint you, perhaps you should stop asking questions. About anything.

“It’s like a Western,” my friends say. “Like Kung Fu.”

People called the Han Solo movie a western, too. Amazing how many westerns take place in space. Ironically, I really liked the Han Solo movie. I don’t know if it was because of any Outlaw Josie Wales motifs. The best part of the movie was Donald Glover doing a spot-on impression of Billy Dee Williams, circa 1979.

I’m not a huge Western fan, but I’ve seen my fair share of Bonanza episodes. I even visited the Ponderosa up at Lake Tahoe when it was a kinda, sorta amusement park/homage to the show. You could get there early and have a pancake – sorry “flapjack” – breakfast, complete with whiskey in your coffee and I was only 22 and shit, howdy, while I loved me some Baileys and coffee, I don’t know that I was quite ready for whatever rotgut they were throwing in there.

Regardless, I never once say the Mandalorian call for Hop Sing, nor ride his horse into Carson City, so I don’t quite think it’s a western.

But fine, let’s pretend that both Solo and The Mandalorian are westerns. Let’s pretend they’re both Kung Fu. You know what was great about Kung Fu? You didn’t have to watch every episode.

Back in the 1970s, we didn’t have every Disney movie and show, except for Song of the South, available whenever we wanted. Your options for “children’s programming” were Saturday mornings or afternoon syndications or PBS mid-mornings. 

And if you wanted Star Wars content on TV, good fucking luck. Far too valuable of a commodity to sell TV rights for. Your only option was the now infamous Holiday Special with Bea Arthur, who played a hideous tentacled alien species who reside with their Sicilian mothers in Miami retirement communities.

What’s that? Bea Arthur’s character was a human bartender? If you say so. 

But we can all agree that Golden Girls was thinly-veiled tentacle porn, right?

We also didn’t have Netflix dropping an entire season of a new tv show all at once in the 1970s. “Binge Watching” meant not getting our asses off the couch to change to one of the other five channels. Because we had no remote control, so might as well keep the TV tuned to this station and see what’s on next. The Jeffersons? Sold!

Heck, most homes didn’t even have VCRs until well into the 1980s. So if you weren’t going to be home for your favorite show, you were more or less fucked. There was a chance said episode might rerun during the summer, but not every episode did. A typical season might have 20-some episodes, but only about ten weeks of reruns. And really, who wants to be inside during summer evenings? Nobody. That’s why TV networks ran reruns.

The first serials, like Dynasty and Dallas, didn’t hit the market until after VCRs were around. So if, say, wife was going into labor, they didn’t have to decide between calling in a midwife or never finding out who shot J.R.

Then again, waiting till your wife is in labor to figure out how to set the clock on the VCR was a really bad idea.

Obviously, TV has come a long way since then. Most shows are designed to be watched back-to-back. Season-long storylines are now the norm. There’s no reason to ever “miss” an episode. Even more so with subscription services. 

So I was a little disappointed with the utter lack of continuity in the first season of The Mandalorian. I spent the first few episodes trying to follow every little plot thread, keeping track of all of the hints at what had happened in the five years between Return of the Jedi and the start of this show. But I was hard pressed to find any through-lines. 

After a few episodes, I saw someone refer to The Mandalorian as a video game. Each episode was a different level, with a boss fight at the end, after which he leveled up with a fancy new weapon. That explanation crystalized my nagging, unfulfilled feeling while watching it. 

During season two, I saw a much funnier explanation of the same thing.

Again, it wasn’t that I thought The Mandalorian was bad. It was fine. It just didn’t give me a reason to want to tune in. It’s Kung Fu and I’ve got a whole slew of Falcon Crests on my plate. I’m talking The Boys  and Witcher. WandaVision was on the horizon and I still hadn’t finished Daredevil. Hell, even sitcoms like The Good Place and Schitt’s Creek have continuing plotlines now. How can a Star Wars property be so episodic?

I resolved not to watch season two. Maybe “resolved” is a bad word. It wasn’t a boycott. It was asking myself if I cared enough to tune in. and answering with a resounding. “meh.”

I heard about Boba Fett. I shrugged. Never cared too much for a character with a whopping ten minutes of screen time in the first trilogy. The Mos Eisley saxophone player showing up wouldn’t have me running either.

Then came the announcement about the finale.

God damn it. 

Fine.

So again, if you haven’t heard about the ending now, approach with caution.

A de-aged Mark Hamill shows up.

Which ruined everything.

Let me back up.

I’m not opposed to the idea. We were all hoodwinked into thinking there was no way any of the original characters would show up, other than those in masks, although we probably shoulda seen it coming. After all, they had already done that with Carrie Fisher in Rogue One. Then, to one up themselves, they put her in Rise of Skywalker after she was dead. 

My problem with the Luke Skywalker cameo wasn’t the obvious “gotcha” quality of it, nor that I was duped into watching the entire second season for it. And yeah, it was dramatic as hell. Impressive. Even knowing what to expect, my heart raced when that lone X-Wing came out of hyperspace to board the ship.

But from a storytelling motif, it’s totally bullshit. Deus ex machina, anyone?

The second half of season two was actually fixing a lot of the problems I had with season one. There was a cohesive plot, a through-line of getting Baby Yoda to “the jedi.” And after Baby Yoda got kidnapped by Gus the Los Pollos Hermanos dude, there was actually momentum building toward the finale. Even a wee bit of character development, if I dare say.

Seriously though, Giancarlo Esposito has been sorely underused in this show. Anybody who can steal scenes in a show like Breaking Bad should be running circles around an MMA fighter and a dude in a mask. Dude can play cold-blooded sociopath, and y’all got him playing Dr. Evil.

Unfortunately, Gus the Chicke Dude and the MMA fighter and the dude in a mask who the fucking show is named after, those characters I finally got to know over the episodes leading up to the finale, were thrown to the sideline  in the culminating scenes, so Luke could come in with his fancy lightsaber. Like whoever the old Tampa Bay quarterback was when Tom Brady decided he wanted to move south for the winter. Maybe they need to change the title of The Mandalorian to include the character we’re actually supposed to care about. Season three’s working title: Hey maybe they can get a Han Solo cameo, too.

Okay, so they set the scene in the finale by showing us the Terminator. They called them Dark Troopers or Storm Shadows or something, but they were basically the Terminator. Or Ultron. Basically, half storm trooper, half robot, so we shouldn’t worry about the moral qualms about murdering them. Not that we’ve ever had any issue of mass slaughter of bad guys before. Weren’t the stormtroopers understood to be clones, anyway? Although, let’s be honest, that wasn’t established until the fifth movie. We went at least the entire original trilogy assuming those were real people.

Speaking of which, why did they clone a guy that was such a shitty shot with a blaster?

In typical superhero stuff, they show us that one fight with one of these fuckers was almost too much for the hero. Mando the Madalorian used up all of his weapons to no avail. He was finally able to defeat dude using a one-time weapon that he wouldn’t be able to use again. And now they’re showing Mando and his friemds, trapped in the bridge of an imperial cruiser, about to face twenty of them. How ever shall our hero make it out of this quandary?

It’s a standard motif in the fantasy/sci-fi/superhero genres. Our hero is shown being totally outmatched by his opponent only to finally discover the way to beat them later. Sometimes said hero discovers a weakness and exploits it. The James Bond route. Other times, a la Rocky III, the hero realizes he wasn’t taking the fight seriously the first time. More often, it’s done lazily. I guess all Superman had to do to beat Zod was level half of Metropolis. Too bad he didn’t try that the first time.

Even when it’s done poorly, though, there’s still some payoff. Some conclusion. Ultron could beat all of the Avengers with barely a thought, but once you’ve got a city flying in the air and the Avengers are simultaneously saving civilians AND fighting Ultron, well then, that’s how they win. Divided attention always makes us stronger. 

So how did Mando and his pals finally overcome this threat? One took everything he had, and now he’s facing an army! Perhaps the three episodes they’ve been together will culminate into working together as a team, each member intuiting the others movements. Perhaps the imminent threat on his only father figure will finally push Baby Yoda beyond the threshold, resulting in a focused blast of force power he’s never manifested before. Perhaps Mando goes all MacGyver and creates twenty of those spear things he used earlier.

Or maybe they’ll all just stand there and watch it play out on a fucking screen.

Really?

Look, I know Jon Favreau is a better plotter than I’ll ever be. He’s as much to credit as Robert Downey, Jr. for the entire MCU existing. But that was utter bullshit. Would we have been happy if, in the final battle against Obediah Stane in the first Iron Man movie, the Hulk randomly showed up and beat the shit out of the bad guy, with Tony Stark unconscious on the sidelines? 

But if it’s Luke Skywalker instead of Bruce Banner, all bets are off. As the “debate” over The Last Jedi proved, Skywalkers are the only beings in the entire Star Wars universe who are EVER allowed to resolve ANY conflict. Or maybe the Emperor.

There were ways to bring Luke back without being the deus ex machina, without stealing all agency from the main character. They could’ve gotten out of the situation then delivered Baby Yoda to Luke, similar to the Rogue One Princess Leia scene. I even would’ve been fine with Luke showing up to help Mando, who was already fighting back on his own. But the title fucking character should not be a fucking bystander for the ultimate battle. 

How’s season three gonna go? Is he just going to stop trying to get out of situations? I mean, the more dire the situation, the more likely Zeus will fly in to save the day, right? Just tell Baby Yoda (who we all know will still be prominently featured in season 3 despite “leaving” with Luke) to call for Papa. 

Or maybe they’ll just wait for Han Solo this time.

Passing on a Passion

I’ve been teaching Daughter some of the finer parts of sports recently. Y’know, “beyond the box score” stuff that gives you a deeper understanding of what it’s like to lace up them cleats and face the world like men.

But before I could get to the intricacies of ideal down and distance for a screen pass, I had to start with more basic fundamentals. Like “this is called football.”

Not that we’ve avoided exposing her to those various American pastimes, altogether. Wife and I met at a baseball game, so Daughter attended her first minor league baseball day (on Jimmy Buffett Night, no less) at about six weeks old. She’s been to three of the five major league stadiums in California. If we’re ever allowed to travel out of state again, she should finish the AL and NL West in no time. One trip to Seattle, one trip to Colorado, two places I love to visit!

What’s that? Arizona? Texas, too? During the summer?!?

But I don’t inundate her with many televised sports. Wife and I both grew up in the 1970s and 1980s when every television in America was required to be turned on whenever anybody was inside the house or else the Russians were going to win. Nowadays we prefer to have music on instead of TV. With SiriusXM and Pandora and Amazon Music all streaming on our Alexa, it’s a variety that would’ve given me carpal tunnel system with that behemoth of a five-CD changer I spent a month’s salary on my senior year of high school. 

When we do watch TV, it doesn’t follow the same pattern as when my father only knew of two types of programming – news and sports. By contrast, our TV is tuned to Disney, Jr about ninety percent of the time. 

The times I absolutely need to watch a baseball or football game, I’ll go to another room or, since this is the 21st century, watch it on my laptop or phone on the couch right next to my daughter watching Bluey. Daughter actually thinks curling is as prominent as football, since it’s only on devices, never the TV, so I watch it more often. Use that for your 21st century communications thesis!

Ha-ha, just kidding. Communications majors never write papers longer than a paragraph. 

Sometimes I wonder if my relationship with my own father would’ve been improved if he could’ve watched his sports by himself. Or, more realistically with my dad, if he could’ve sent me to the other room to watch my cartoons because, goddammit, he worked hard to pay for that roof over my head and, goddammit, he only gets to watch sports on weekends and every evening, but not Sunday evening because that’s 60 Minutes time and…

Sorry, where was I? Oh right, if I hadn’t interrupted my dad’s sport-watching so much, he might not’ve hated me so much? Or vice versa? 

But due to a confluence of events over the past month or so, she’s had to cede a little bit of her television dominance to some live sports instead of the same episode of Vampirina for the sixth time in a row. And since I’ve commandeered the tele, the least I could do was explain what’s going on. It makes me feel less guilty about asserting my manorial rights. Plus if I don’t engage Daughter and she jumps all over Mommy, then Daddy’s sports-viewing time is going by the wayside regardless of the fact that they’re going for it on 4th-and-one.

The first sport to grace our television screen was the baseball playoffs. I couldn’t watch them on mlb.tv subscription, which I use during the regular season because I root for an out-of-town team. But somehow the 150 hard-earned dollars I spent for their product doesn’t extend to the postseason. Sheesh, talk about a rip-off! I only get to watch 162 games from my favorite team for that $150? Why, back in my dad’s day, he was able to watch something like seventy WHOLE games. But only for the local team. And only if they weren’t opposite Belle and Sebastian, which my dad referred to as “What’s-his-face and his dog.”

At least he knew there was a dog in it. During the Latchkey 1980s, that might’ve won him a nomination for Parent of the Year.

So, sitting next to Daughter for an opening-round Padres game,  I started trying to explain baseball to Daughter. And herein the problems began. Because, in case I haven’t made it clear, my relationship with my father wasn’t great, and it was even worse when it came to sports.  If you need more proof, his favorite teams were the Dodgers and the Raiders. I grew up (yes, even when he was in the house) an Angels fan. When I finally got around to noticing the football, I opted for the Broncos, probably because I’d heard my dad curse John Elway’s name many a time.

I wasn’t entirely a self-taught sports fan. My grandparents were in the Angels booster’s club and I’ve been going to games in Anaheim my whole life. But I was in my teens before I learned how to throw a baseball. I used a VCR to tape a Braves relief pitcher’s delivery on TBS, then played it back in slow-motion to copy the mechanics. To this day, I still can’t throw a football. I throw it like a baseball, which countless people tell me isn’t possible until they see me throw a football, then remark, “Holy shit, you throw that just like a baseball!” 

It’s a good thing Daughter’s name isn’t Son.

Most of my sports viewing came about in college, primarily so I’d have something to talk to “normal” people about. My interests revolved around history and classic rock and penis/fart jokes. Meatloaf says two out of three ain’t bad, but I was, at best, batting .333, and unless I could pick and choose my audience, most of the time it was a hat-trick of strikeouts. So I expanded my understanding of baseball, including the fact that there were, at the time, 23 OTHER teams not named the Angels. I also partook in the weekly dorm-floor football viewing on Sunday mornings. Sprinkle in a dabbling of hockey and basketball and, voila!, I don’t have to leave the room when my anecdote about Catherine the Great falls flat.

I’ve taught plenty of girlfriends and other nerd-friends about how to follow sports, but seeing as my own appreciation for sports occurred beyond the age of reason, I don’t know if those experiences translate to fathering. When explaining the game to a six-year old hoping for guidance and discovery, the differences between a two-seam and a four-seam fastball probably ain’t gonna cut it.

The only thing my mom ever told me about how she raised me to like baseball was that, when we went to a game, we couldn’t go get food until there was a number under the “4” on the scoreboard, meaning top of the 4th if the away team scores a run, otherwise we had to wait until the middle of the inning when the “0” pops up. In retrospect, that seems to predicate one toward rooting for the away team, but I guess she was more concerned with her wallet than my blooming sports interest. Perhaps that helps explain my disparate, heterodox sports fandom these days. I live in northern California and the short list of teams I root for include the Anaheim Angels, Tennessee Titans, Colorado Buffaloes, and Calgary Flames. Don’t ask. It’s probably worthy of blog post of its own.

And no, they’re not the Los Angeles Angels. California Angels is okay, but Anaheim Angels is ideal. It’s alliterative and appears first in the alphabet. You’re never going to win over L.A., Arte Moreno. People in Orange County hate L.A. Lean into it!

My dad is no longer alive, so I can’t consult him about how he tried (and failed) to pique my interest, or at the very least, how he explained sports to me. I assume it was something along the lines of, “Fuck off, kid, the game is on.” Not in so many words, but the message would’ve been clear.

So I started with the basics. Pitcher versus batter, the most pure faceoff in all of sports. Equal parts strategy and execution. Two warriors trying to out-think each other before resorting to natural talent honed by thousands of repetitions.

How did I translate this into Daughter-speak?

“The guy with the ball is trying to throw it through the little square on the TV screen.”

One thing is certain. I can guarantee that isn’t how my father explained it to me. 

The “little square on the TV screen” is, of course, the strike zone, which is digitally imprinted on most baseball broadcasts over the past decade. I’m usually not too big of a fan of it. It’s not the official strike zone, of course, because that’s only in the eye of the umpire. But if nothing else, it gives us verifiable proof of what we’ve all been yelling since “Damn Yankees” – “You’re blind, Ump. You’re blind, Ump. You must be outta your mind, Ump!”

As an aside, who the hell decided that Broadway musical and 1950s baseball was a good mix? Throw in the devil, too. I’d be curious to watch the “Mad Men” episode that analyzed exactly which cross-section of society they were aiming for with that one. And why, when they revived it in the 1990s, did they stick with the Washington Senators, a team which hadn’t existed in 25 years? It’s gotta be even more confusing now, with the new Washington team playing in the national league and, ergo, never losing a playoff spot to those Damn Yankees. Baltimore Orioles is the same number of syllables. Just sayin’.

So I managed to get a few basics through to Daughter. Four pitches thrown outside the little box means a walk. Unless the batter swings and misses. Until I told her, on a 3-2 count, that the next pitch was the one where it would all be decided, only to see it fouled off. Then again. Then again. 

And she was done. Maybe next season she’ll learn what a base hit looks like.

Since the World Series, we’ve been doing some mandated COVID home-improvement projects. At least I assume they are mandated, because everybody I know is building house additions and buying new couches and converting the kid’s bedroom into a dry sauna room even though the kid is still living in the house. 

Our particular project was getting new carpets. This necessitated moving a bunch of furniture around, and for about a week, we only had (shudder…) one TV plugged in. In the whole house! What is this, 1947?

To make matters worse, my Titans were on TV. Since they made the AFC Championship last year and have the best running back in the game, they’re showing up as the game of the week a little more often. This is difficult for me because I’m used to the years when they only show up on my TV once or twice a year, so I’ve attuned myself to watching every time they’re on. This year, I’ve already seen them four times and we’re only halfway through the season. Although one of those was a Tuesday game that was delayed due to COVID, so maybe it’s less about Derrick Henry and more about 2020 just being fucked up in general.

Anyway, the Titans were going to be on TV and we only have one TV in the house. Sorry, Daughter, but I’m going to do an impression of the grandfather you never met. Now pull my finger.

So Daughter plopped herself next to me and asked me what was going on in the game, what the teams were trying to accomplish.

And what did I tell her?

They’re trying to get to the yellow line. 

That’s right, the magical first-down marker which I mocked and reviled when it was first added to football games. I considered it the greatest dumbing-down in the history of sports. How the hell hard is it to figure out how far they have to go if it’s listed as third-and-four and, by the way, they’ve got a giant fucking orange stick glaring at you from the sideline. 

Yeah, THAT magical yellow line.

You see, Daughter, they have three chances to get past the yellow line, and if they’re successful, they’ll get a new yellow line. If they don’t make it, they have to kick it away to the other team, who will get a yellow line of their own. 

Fortunately, she didn’t watch long enough to see somebody go for it on 4th down.

So let’s chalk “teaching sports” up as one more thing I can’t conceive of doing before technology existed. I don’t know how we found random businesses before Google Maps. Nor how we coordinated schedules with friends. How the hell did teachers teach without googling “Russian Revolution lesson plan.” How did authors write without cut-and-paste functions? Did they really have to retype the whole fucking page to fix one typo? What happens if there’s a typo on the retype?

And now, sports. The pitcher is trying to throw the ball through the little square. A football team is trying to get to the yellow line. If I ever turn on a hockey game, I’ll have to tell her they all want possession of the glowing thing.

Well, at the very least, I can be sure of one thing. 

I’m certainly not approaching sports with my daughter the same way my dad did with me.

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.