S.G. Browne

What Would George Carlin Think?

I have to admit, I don’t watch a lot of television.  I used to.  As a kid, that was all I would do.

My friends playing outside?
My mom going to the toy store?
Ice cream man coming down the street?

Now, I don’t even have basic cable.  I have basic LIMITED cable, which means I don’t get TNT, TBS, USA, ESPN, ESPN2, Comedy Central, a surplus of 24-hour news channels regurgitating the same crap, or the option to do Pay-Per-View.  However, I do get F/X, TV Land, the Travel Channel, the Discovery Channel, and all of the major networks, which is important since the only program I regularly watch is LOST.  And all for the low, low monthly price of $21 and change.

Why is this important?  I don’t know.  But I do know that if I had ESPN, I’d be watching SportsCenter right now instead of writing this blog.

However, I watch enough television to realize how much more you can get away with today than you could when I was a kid.  In addition to the increase in sex and violence, you can call someone a bitch, a whore, an asshole, and a butt pirate, among other names.  You can say someone has balls, has big balls, or needs to grow some balls.  You can even call someone a dick.

“He’s a dick.”
“Don’t be a dick.”
“You’re such a dickwad.”

This never would have made it on network television in the 1970’s.  Probably not in the 1980’s, either.  Maybe the 1990’s, but I think South Park has helped with that.  And just to be clear, I Iove South Park, though I don’t get to watch it on TV anymore because I don’t get Comedy Central.  I think it’s on the WB, but edited, and that’s like watching Goodfellas on TBS.

Anyway, apparently “dick” and “balls” are okay now, though neither one is on the list of seven dirty words George Carlin mentioned in his famous bit about what you can’t say on television, which he originally mentioned in 1972.  Of course, this list doesn’t hold up for pay television.  But for the most part, the words Carlin listed remain taboo today for broadcast television, even if they aren’t officially listed by the FCC, which takes context into account when determining whether use of a word is vulgar or inappropriate.

What I’ve found interesting, however, is that while “dick” and “balls” have appeared with more regularity and acceptance over the past few years, “pussy” and “tits” aren’t given the same leeway. I’ve even seen numerous instances where the words have been bleeped out.

“Don’t be a pussy.”
“He’s such a pussy.”
And pretty much any instance where the word “tits” is used instead of “breasts” or “bosom” or “mammary glands.” (Of course, “tits” is one of Carlin’s seven words.)

In most cases, these words aren’t used in conversations with overtly sexual connotations, so the censorship seems unwarranted.  After all, why is it okay to call someone a dick on network television but not a pussy?  Or to say that someone needs to grow some balls but not that they’re planning to get a new set of tits?  And really, what’s so wrong with saying “tits?” If you can say “ass” instead of “butt,” then why can’t you say “tits” instead of “breasts?”

I don’t know.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe I don’t watch enough television to comment on the FCC’s apparent acceptance of the pejorative use of male genitalia in network television conversation while prohibiting the same usage of the female anatomy.

No big deal?  A double standard?  Female sexuality being made taboo?  Do I need to watch more television?

What do you think?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — S.G. Browne @ 8:09 am


  1. Another oddity of the FCC is how you can call someone an ass, or an a-hole, or even an asshat, but not asshole. A-hole is ok, even though everyone knows what it stands for. All the time, on the radio, I hear people say “S” for shit (as in, “such and such football team is playing like S”) but they can’t actually say “shit” even though everyone knows that’s what they’re saying. They just can’t say it. Strange.

    Comment by fft5305 — October 15, 2009 @ 11:56 am

  2. These words are BAD and they need to go sit in the corner and not get to play with the other words!

    I’m twenty three and I grew up mostly the same way when everyone else was outside or driving their parents up the wall I was sat in front of the TV with my hand in shoved far inside a cereal box eating Corn Pops while watching such programs as The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Garfield or Skeleton Warriors, along with various movies. So I am also among the generation that grew up by the hand of the talk box aka the boob tube. And when I wasn’t doing this I was sticking a blank table to to the player to record the weekend top forty. Though from the radio perspective lately I have found they have cracked down even more on what can and can’t be said on the radio, for a long time Bitch was never censored especially when the Meredith Brooks famous hit song came on the air waves, but lately I’ve heard Bitch censored in songs from Christina Aguilera to rock bands who sneak it in and others who use the word, yet dick is still heard on the airwaves. Maybe there is some double standard here from male euphemisms to female. However terms like Fag and Homo and that’s gay have been said on both mediums without any form of censorship what so ever.

    I honestly think after so many years of changing the rules on what can and cannot be said on television and the radio that the FCC and other censorship bureau has gotten lazy, not to mention bored, there for they change the rules whenever someone sees something they don’t like becoming offended and once again things are changed to try and make everyone happy. The whole issue with this in the first place is that what people find offensive in the first place is going to be an individual decision and will change from person to person, you can’t always please everyone and I think they need to really stop trying before they work themselves out of a job. Honestly keep the warnings before the shows with questionable material and leave it up to the viewer to decided if they want to watch or listen to something that may contain questionable content. That funny looking round button on the radio and the small, also round, normally red button on the remote are there for a reason, if you don’t like something turn it off, change the station or turn the dial. I think we honestly have the right to know what’s good for us without being hounded by corporate media control hounds to do it for us.

    I also firmly believe that words are not bad, it’s the use and intentions people put behind words that makes all the difference, but still I’d hope most people would have enough common sense to change the channel instead of writing a letter, e-mail, memo or fax of complaint (which is much more time consuming), at least I’d like to hope so. Can’t a girl dream?

    I say leave me the heck alone, I want to watch television in peace, and if I get offended I’ll go read a book instead.

    Comment by Mel — October 15, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

  3. I’ll have to agree with you on the “tits” bit. I really don’t think that’s any worse than saying ass. Possibly even not as bad. Hmm… Going to have to think about that one… But other than that I think it’s just that long term exposure to the words “dick” and “balls” has made us desensitized. “Pussy” however, seems like a bit of a newer word. I don’t really remember hearing it ever in the 90’s but then I’m still a baby as far as most people are concerned so I probably wouldn’t have.
    Personally, I have absolutely no problem talking about balls while the word “pussy” still makes me cringe. Another one that has always bothered me is “cunt” too, though I’m not sure why. But, hey, I’m a chick so there you are.

    Sorry about the Essay here.

    -Sarah Malone

    Comment by Sarah Malone — October 15, 2009 @ 5:08 pm

  4. I’m not seeing my comment, so overly large bits of input are not welcome?

    Comment by Mel — October 15, 2009 @ 10:59 pm

  5. No problem with the input. Just hadn’t been around a computer to approve comments from new users. Thanks.

    Comment by admin — October 16, 2009 @ 12:13 am

  6. I have recently discovered that one cannot say vagina on the air or in a film. If it is in a film, automatic PG-13. So anything vag related is TABOO. and I say BOO. Penis and balls are still okay. hmmph.

    Comment by clementine — May 6, 2010 @ 4:17 pm

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