Friday

AMC - Amercian Movie Classics

You know I hate, detest, and can't bear a lie, not because I am straighter than the rest of us, but simply because it appalls me.
There is a taint of death, a flavor of mortality in lies,--which is
exactly what I hate and detest in the world--what I want to forget.

Joseph Conrad, "Heart of Darkness"


A few days ago I sat down to watch a documentary I had pvr'd off of AMC. The documentary was called 'Hollywood Vietnam' and was about the Vietnam War and the change in Hollywood to the kind of war films they were making. There was a significant shift from the glorious heroic war picture to the brooding and introspective pictures.

The documentary was pretty good, full of clips and interviews and a fairly comprehensive overview of the politics and attitudes of the day. Yet, in a strange irony, AMC had decided to play the documentary with all the vulgar language censored. They silenced all the swear words. What was ironic was that all the violence was left intact. There were scenes shown that had people taking a bullet in the head at point blank range. It was bloody but it wasn't fucking bloody...

Of course, this leaves me somewhat bewildered. Is someone getting their heads blown off less offensive than the F word? It reminded me, oddly enough, of Apocalypse Now. Kurtz, a moment before his assassination, is reading his propaganda into a radio microphone:

KURTZ
We train young men to drop fire on
people, but their commanders won't
allow them to write "fuck" on their
airplanes because it's obscene.



It's all lies.


I worked on a season of 'Celebrity Deathmatch' and one of the
rules of the show was no sex. I suspect this comes from the
religious right but it seems ass backwards to me. They felt it
was fine to disembowel someone but sexuality was disgusting.
For me, the end result of violence is death. The end result
of sex is creation. What kind of age are we in living here?

3 comments:

Alan Bacchus said...

Hi Mark,

Great commentary. Indeed the AMC censoring is bewildering. I wonder if anyone at AMC even picked up on the irony of their actions. You should write them directly. I wonder what kind of response you'd get.

Alan

Robbo said...

It's not just AMC. The broadcasters are being fined by the FCC for every utterance of the word "fuck" regardless of the context. Ken Burns' latest documentary on World War II, entitled "The War" will air on PBS affiliates in two separate versions to accomodate those broadcasters who are too chickenshit to face up to a regulatory agency that uses excessive fines as a means of cultural censorship.

And it's not just broadcast either. You see this lopsided puritanical knee-jerk reaction in cinema courtesy of the MPAA. Just watch "This Film Not Yet Rated" for a more detailed exposé on how that group operates to shape culture.

The arguments which swirled around Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers" when it was released were myriad and not all without merit but certainly most were two-faced and hypocritical. Their biggest complaints were political but in the end they saved their most public bitch slapping over scenes like the one where Robert Downey Jr. got a hole blown in his hand. Like that was a huge shocker. Meanwhile you have full studio sanctioned flicks like "The Quick & The Dead" (which I loved) where Keith David gets a hole blown through his head and the more recent evisceration flicks "Kill Bill (Vol. 1 & 2)" and "300". We won't even get into the torture porn of "Hostel" and "Saw". Of course, none of this is new - just look back to John Huston's "Life & Times Of Judge Roy Bean" where Paul Newman used a shot gun to blast a hole in the chest of Stacy Keach (in one of the most bizaree performances as "Bad Bob") and Huston then pulled a rapid zoom up to the gaping hole to showcase the beautiful frontier landscape in the distance before Bad Bob collapsed to the ground. And it was funny.

America is caught in a cultural war with itself that has been going on since the end of WWII. Everything clamped down in the morals department while the country wrestled with itself as a new world power that could resolve conflict through violence - although this was hardly new to cinema who had the Hayes code limiting the length of screen kisses whilst allowing gangsters and outlaws to be gunned down left and right.

It's interesting to see the challenges being offered up in cable programming that not only use language as it is used in reality (fuck, shit, etc.) but also embraces (pardon the pun) sexuality as an obvious element of character. Duchovney's "Californication" currently heads the pack on this.

I guess as a society America has a lot of growing up to do and needs to resolve it's own conflicts with itself (hopefully with minimal violence) and cease being a poster child for tortured Freudian repression.

I guess all that is just another way of saying: "Oh come on! Get a fucking life."

Mark said...

Well put Rob. Your own use of the language is teetering on the poetic. I imagine that would the be the context point!