We can say that now?

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Pa­tri­aKaye Aarons Pa­tria-Kaye Aarons is a tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter and con­fec­tioner. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and find­pa­tria@ya­hoo.com, or tweet @find­pa­tria.

THANKS TO the res­ur­rected ut­ter­ances of Don­ald Trump from just over a decade ago, the world has been treated to more fe­line ref­er­ences than its prud­ish liv­ing rooms can take. I don’t even know if it’s a word I can type here in this ar­ti­cle, but tele­vi­sion news net­works went to town lib­er­ally drop­ping the P-bomb in nearly every in­ter­view this past week. Some­where in his wit­tle cage, Tweety Bird blushed.

Curse words you can and can’t say on TV, specif­i­cally Amer­i­can TV, have changed dras­ti­cally in the last five years. There was a time when some words were just un­ac­cept­able. They were con­sid­ered filthy and not fit for air­play, be­fore or af­ter the 9 p.m. wa­ter­shed.

Oh, how times have changed! I re­mem­ber about five years ago when soap op­eras flew the gate on the B-word. It’s as if a memo got cir­cu­lated to all the writ­ers in Hol­ly­wood and every wo­man was scripted to have an on-cam­era show­down. They all ended with one char­ac­ter calling an­other one Queen B and ei­ther slap­ping her across the face or throw­ing a glass of cham­pagne between her eyes. That be­came a sta­ple Fri­day evening cliffhanger.

The much cruder three-let­ter word for ‘butt’ was also once out­lawed. Not any­more. ‘Damn’ and ‘god­damn’ are now reg­u­lar oc­cur­rences. So are ‘crap’, ‘boobs’, ‘balls’ and ‘screw’. I also see some net­works slip­ping in the nick­name for Richard in ref­er­ence to a man’s mem­ber as if it’s just an­other word. If you read the di­a­logue for some sit­coms, they ac­tu­ally script the beeps.

Re­search done by the US watch­dog Par­ents Tele­vi­sion Coun­cil showed some sig­nif­i­cant in­creases in the use of cuss words be­fore 9 p.m. on net­works 20052010. ABC went up 74 per cent; NBC, 34 per cent; and Fox, a whop­ping 269 per cent.

To be fair to our lo­cal gate­keep­ers, most of these words can­not fly on TVJ or CVM. But the Broad­cast­ing Com­mis­sion reg­u­lates lo­cal ter­res­trial TV, not ca­ble. The chal­lenge is, for­eign TV pro­gram­ming makes up the vast ma­jor­ity of what we watch on lo­cal sta­tions (heav­ily edited in some in­stances). And with fast-grow­ing ca­ble pen­e­tra­tion in Ja­maica, and a third li­censee about to roll out, once-con­sid­ered lewd lan­guage in­vari­ably reaches the ears of our chil­dren. And they think them fine to re­peat.

It raises ques­tions about the shift­ing bar on what’s al­lowed not just on TV, but at home. Par­ents are let­ting more slide. When I was a kid, I couldn’t say H– E – Dou­ble Hockey Sticks in front of my Aun­tie Jackie. It would be swiftly fol­lowed by a shrill “Pick­ney!” and a stern look.


I find my­self lis­ten­ing to the un­der-10 kids in my life speak and I get un­com­fort­able. I’m cool Aun­tie Patti. Never be­lieved in shel­ter­ing chil­dren or cur­tail­ing their ex­pres­sion, but the way some speak make me writhe. And I blame TV.

Watched Dis­ney lately? I don’t know how age-ap­pro­pri­ate those shows are. There is sex­ual in­nu­endo, ca­sual curs­ing, and kiss­ing. A lot of kiss­ing. The in­fringe­ments are more preva­lent in the live ac­tion shows than in the car­toons, but the be­hav­iours and speech kids to­day find nor­mal – and funny. Se­ri­ously, my seven-year-old nephew doesn’t need to be walk­ing around calling peo­ple ‘sucker’. And he learnt that from Dis­ney.

I’m on the verge of in­sist­ing that the kids in my life have to watch both Dis­ney and Nick­elodeon su­per­vised. I’ve al­ready cut off Car­toon Net­work af­ter 9 p.m. Noth­ing that comes af­ter that is kid-wor­thy.

I feel a lit­tle like my grandma writ­ing this ar­ti­cle and warn­ing par­ents about the dangers of ‘force ripe’, but it’s nec­es­sary. Sure, kids should be pre­co­cious and full of sass. But they should still be kids. They should still have bound­aries, and the in­flu­ences we ex­pose them to should still be age ap­pro­pri­ate. And they should have man­ners.

If we get to a place where we al­low Amer­i­can prin­ci­ples to di­lute our own, we will be in worse trou­ble. I love how ar­tic­u­late chil­dren from the United States are, but I don’t like that it some­times comes with an adult sense that any­thing goes.

There is a del­i­cate bal­ance we must strike. The mo­ral of the story: Watch TV with your chil­dren and let them know that not ev­ery­thing Mer­ica pick­ney do they can do, too.

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