Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Protecting the children? Or the adults?
I was watching an episode of the hilarious Comedy Central show Important Things With Demetri Martin the other night, and in a rare instance of failing to fast-forward through the ads, caught one for She's Out of My League. Of course, I'd seen numerous ads for the film, but this one stood out.
In this ad, the character played by T.J. Miller, dressed in his luggage handler outfit, tells the character played by Jay Baruchel, dressed similarly: "I was really excited for my shift today. So I came early. Does that ever happen to you?" Baruchel, embarrassed, hangs his head and shakes it.
And I thought "Hey! They can't say that."
But why can't they? Clearly, this is a double entendre, meant to tease Baruchel's character for an episode of premature ejaculation. But it doesn't actually say anything about premature ejaculation, so should it really fall under the guidelines of censorship?
The verb "to come," that poor bastard. It's so innocuous. We use it every day, multiple times a day. Yet it's been so vulgarized by its pornographic secondary meaning that many of us can't hear it without registering that secondary meaning, even just for a moment. A simple exchange like "Are you coming?" "Yes, I'm coming!" might make anyone from age 15 to age 50 burst into giggles.
But people under age 15 generally won't hear the second meaning, because they haven't been introduced to it yet. Which is why it should be perfectly acceptable to include it in the advertisement of a movie. However, I couldn't help but notice that I saw this ad during a program that comes on Thursdays at 12:30 a.m. That's long after most young viewers are asleep, and a full two-and-a-half hours later than South Park is doing things ten times worse on the same network.
Okay, so the premature ejaculation joke goes over the heads of the kids. They won't even ask their parents about it, because the joke has a completely logical primary meaning, albeit not a very funny one.
But what about the adults who know what it means, and are offended by that? It makes me wonder: Is the role of censorship to protect impressionable minds, or to soothe minds that already have all their impressions solidified?
It could be argued that anyone who understands the double meaning of the word "come" doesn't have anything to lose by being exposed to it again. When we don't want our kids to hear words like "fuck" and "shit," it's because we want to prolong their innocence as long as possible. We want to delay the inevitable learning of those words, on some vague theory that it will keep our children from becoming violent criminals or sexual deviants for just a few days longer.
But the people who already know those words? Who cares if they hear them again? Are we just trying to convince them the world is a slightly more genteel and pure place than it actually is? And if so, isn't that just lying to them?
Of course, it ultimately doesn't matter whether the reaction of offended adults is logical or not. All that matter is whether they threaten to boycott the network that aired that commercial. The world of politics is all about catering to the irrational few who threaten to make their voices heard.
And really, the ad gets through to those it intends to get through to: men between 18-32 who still haven't seen the movie. And if they consider premature ejaculation jokes to be the very definition of cutting-edge, risque humor, it may make them all the more likely to buy a ticket.
At the very least, its risque advertising.