11 January, 2007

See These, McNulty? These Are For You!

I love The Wire. I love it so much, I'd marry it--once my divorce from chocolate ice cream came through. That was the first thing I was told to "why don't you marry it?" back around first grade or so, and I'm nothing if not a fan of long-term commitment.

Sorry. Off-topic. Back to The Wire. It's a grand show, the best television has to offer. It takes you into the closest approximation of real-world environments possible. It tells an epic story of Biblical proportion on a grand scale. It features cops, criminals, politicians. Many characters are all three of those rolled into one. It's a gritty story about a gritty world.

That means there's swearing. Not a word here or there, like when you or I hit our thumbs with a hammer. No. In The Wire, they have raised the use of four-letter words to an art form. It's part of the cadence of their speech in the world of Baltimore crime and punishment. I don't doubt for an instance that the real-world hoppers and shorties and knockos have a language so woven with expletives that it would make a sailor blush. The show is created by a former reporter who lived in that world for most of a year and a former police officer-turned-teacher who lived in many facets of that world for upwards of seventeen years. That's why I don't mind the cursing. It's part of that world, to which I have bought a ticket.

Last night they started showing The Wire on BET. These episodes are sanitised for your protection. And they're AWFUL. Just horrible. Or at least the 4 minutes I sat through were excruciating. The censors seem to have this extremely wierd idea of what constitutes 'ok for tv' and what doesn't. This means that F---- is bleeped, but S--- isn't. Large portions of dialogue--crucial to setting up character relationships and personalities--are either bleeped heavily or chopped into non-existence. The most ridiculous part was the confrontation between Rawls and McNulty where Rawls delivers most of the speech while saluting McNulty with Tall Man.

They blurred Rawls' fingers. And the fingers only--not the whole hand.

Because obviously no one watching has ANY idea that he was holding up his middle fingers.

I've already told my parents not to watch The Wire, because I don't think they could get past the language to find the story. I'm upfront about it. This is a rough story about rough lives and rough people.

After last night I'm convinced that it has no place on basic cable.


At 11:16 AM, January 11, 2007, Anonymous nm said...

I watched that ep last night -- the only one I never saw. I started watching with Episode 2, tried to tape a repeat of 1, and the VCR went funny. Then a year or so later they re-ran it, and I was moving house. So I'm glad finally to have had the opportunity to see it. The scene you mention was hysterical as, uh, bleeped. I also noticed that although they cut f--- they didn't cut n-----. Now, I know which one I consider more offensive, and it has two syllables. I was watching a different show a few months back, this one moved from cable (a station I don't get) to network, and they bleeped n----- but showed someone cutting someone else's ear off. The censors are insane, you know?

At 12:20 PM, January 11, 2007, Blogger dolphin said...

Because obviously no one watching has ANY idea that he was holding up his middle fingers.

I've seen the censors blur ONLY the actual middle finger.

"Hmm... Whatever is that narrow, flesh-toned object extending from the middle of that characters clenched fist? Thanks to the censors we'll never know..."

At 12:25 PM, January 11, 2007, Blogger Les Jones said...

I can't imagine watching Six Feet Under on Bravo. Way too much would have to disappear for it to be FCC kosher.

At 3:23 PM, January 11, 2007, Blogger Lee said...

The thing is, cable is (or shouldn't be) under any FCC regulation. They do not use any community airwaves, and anybody watching is paying to watch.

The only restriction they have is that which is inherent in a system where commercials are bought and sold for particular shows, and on what those sponsors want their product to be associated with.

However, if a sponsor is going to sponsor a bowderlized version of a show on cable, with blurred finger and all, they will most likely sponsor the real thing, I think.

At 9:41 PM, January 11, 2007, Blogger dolphin said...

I know the FCC has some jurisdiction over cable, I'm not sure how much anymore. They used to have almost total control of it thanks to the Supreme Court, but I know that legislation has been (properly) hacking away at it.

At 7:22 PM, January 12, 2007, Blogger Mari said...

Do you recall the scene in season one where they investigate the murder scene of Avon's girlfriend from across town? The censors will have fun with that one. Somehow I don't think the repeated mumblings of "fine. forget. fruitcake. fudge." will have the same impact as the original.


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