A few weeks ago, me, my wife, and my 9-year-old sat down to watch Forrest Gump on ABC Family. As this was not just a network version of the show, but the Family version of the show, I felt assured that all objectionable words would be removed. Boy was I ever wrong! Oh, they took out most of them – Shit, Fuck, even “God Dammit” and “Jesus H. Christ!” Yes, in the scene where Gump assembles his weapon in record time in the boot camp scenes, they took those expressions out of the movie, replaced them with some awkwardly re-spliced previous dialogue from the drill sergeant, and considered it family friendly. But there were two words left in, two words that in my opinion are far worse than any of the words they took out. The two words they left in were “nigger,” and “coon.”
For real, ABC Family? You take out “Jesus H. Christ” but those words you leave in? In what way are those two words family friendly? Why do some television programs continue to put those words in? See The Daily Show’s “The Hurt Talker” where the N-bomb was used uncensored like a hundred times, yet they still bleeped shit and fuck. In similar fashion, the part where Forrest got kicked out of the “Black Panther Party,” on a big sign in hugely visible letters it said, “No Vietnamese ever called us a Nigger.” Later in that same movie, they changed the slogan inventor’s idea for “shit happens” to “It happens,” and even made the bumper sticker say “it” instead of “shit.” But what are we saying here? It is okay to say nigger all we want and still stay family friendly, but god forbid we say shit or even God dammit and it’s all downhill? Are we afraid to offend the religious people but screw the Black people? Fuck this bullshit! And don’t give me any crap how that word needed to be left in to show how prevalent racial tensions in southern states like Alabama were in those days. I think the coaches’ reactions to Gump picking up the black student’s book for her showed that quite nicely, as did the head of the Black Panthers’ rant – which contained no swearing save for the word, “ass” – which I am pretty sure was censored.
Aside from the fact that I think it is wrong that you have completely devalued an entire race of people by leaving those words in when you thought enough of the religious to censor the taking of the Lord’s name in vain, I have very personal reasons for thinking this attitude where racial and ethnic slurs are acceptable on Family/Network TV needs to change NOW:
1) I have Tourettes. My son has Tourette’s. The way tourette’s has affected me all my life has been fairly steady. But because of tourette’s there were times when I couldn’t stop using words, many of which were objectionable and yes, some of those words had racial and ethnic overtones. My son’s tourettes has been transient, however. That means the way it affects him changes over time. He has gone from having motor to vocal tics and back. God forbid he hears that word, and his tics transition to the type that I had. I doubt anyone would be forgiving of him should he blurt out these or other epithets. I understand he’ll learn these words eventually, but the longer it takes the better. I’d rather he said shit, fuck, Goddammit, and cocksucker than nigger. He says this word in front of a person who is fixin’ to instill a beatin’, I don’t think pleas of understanding of his tourettes are going to help him.
2) If I say “God dammit” in front of my class, the principal will say “You can’t say Goddammit in front of kids” and that will be the end of it unless I do it again. If I say “shit” or “fuck” I may get a verbal or even a written warning, but I’ll probably still have a job at least for the time being. But if I say nigger, that’s the end of my teaching career, not just at that school but any school. In fact, I don’t even have to say it front of a class. If I just TWEET nigger it’s all over. So why do racial slurs have such dire consequences for my career yet the networks find them perfectly acceptable for family-friendly TV?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in favor of censorship, but as my son’s guardian, as the one who has to bear the consequences of what he says, I am the one who chooses what he should and should not hear on TV. If you want to hear all of the bad shit, go to cable or buy the DVD or download the movie from Amazon or iTunes. On a network called ABC Family, racial and ethnic slurs DO NOT BELONG, not even if only to show how things were “in the south back then.” And if you really think that Jesus H. Christ is worse than nigger, then I defy you to walk into any predominantly Black neighborhood and shout each phrase out, and see which one gets your ass beat first.