Mike\'s Soapbox: Pilot Episode!!!

Sunday Mornings. Gotta love em. Actually I hate Sundays. Nothing ever happens on Sundays(except the Simpsons), and they droll on making you almost wish it was Monday again. If Sunday’s were a band they’d be Steely Dan. Just absolutely depressing and meandering. If you’re not into football or Jesus, Sundays really don’t have much to offer. But hey, not to worry, I’m here, you’re here, so lets enjoy ourselves with this, the inaugural column of Mike’s Soapbox. And just what is Mike’s Soapbox? My own personal ranting space. I started doing reviews of The Simpsons and the Surreal Life for this here site about a month ago, and found myself wanting to discuss other issues as well. I felt it better to give the issues their own column than to tack them on to a review, so if you just want to read about The Simpsons and The Surreal Life that’s there for you, and if you just want to here some guy from Florida complain about what’s happening in television, it’s here for you. Big thanks go to Murtz for allowing me to do both, and to give me both artistic freedom, and his trust which I greatly appreciate.

Also, I’ll be featuring various panelists every so often who will join me in discussing an issue. These panelists are people who showed an interest in wanting to express themselves, and I figured I might as well be the guy to give them exposure. I’d like to build up a cast of 10-15 panelists that I can switch between at any time, ala Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, so if you want to be a panelist, or have a specific topic you want me to address please send me an e-mail. If the discussions become too homogenous and you don’t feel your opinion is being voiced, take a chance, and raise it. No topic will be off limits, and all panelists will be treated with respect. This will be true audience interaction, unlike the debacle that is Taboo Tuesday.

This isn’t my first time doing something entertainment related on Sunday mornings. I used to host my own radio show called “Al Roke’s Magic Rainbow”, which aired from 11:00 A.M. until 1:00 P.M. Granted, it was on a college station in a Podunk town with a maximum broadcast reach of twenty-five miles, I’m still rather fond of my radio experience. I played sad white-boy indie rock and waxed poetic. Twas rather fun indeed. The authoritative heads at the station didn’t seem to care much about what I was doing, though they did always warn me about the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). I never worried too much, since the only way to be caught by the FCC is if someone’s actually listening to your program

I remembered hearing about the FCC years ago from my mother. My mother, a former stand-up comedian(her best joke took nine months to deliver, ZING!) had a radio show on an NPR affiliate for awhile until she was yanked off for making a joke about Elvis’ penis at the behest of the”¦you guessed it, the FCC. So yeah, as many action heroes before me have said, “This is personal”.

I’m against censorship of any kind. Can’t stand it. As a writer, I’m threatened by it and as an observer I’m restricted by it. If someone has a voice they want to share with the world, whatever that voice might be, it has the right to be heard. I’m against the KKK for example, but will be the first to support their right to assemble peaceably. As the brilliant linguist Noam Chomsky puts it: “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”

So when I was surfing the news boards and came across the story involving the FCC charging Fox with the largest obscenity fine in broadcasting history I was appalled. I was outraged in January over Nipplegate, and was disgusted when Clear Channel chose South Florida to be one of the six affiliates to lose Howard Stern’s program. I never listen to it, but to know it’s not there when it should be doesn’t seem right.

Each affiliate that aired the special “Married by America” has to shell out $7,000.00 due to lewd content. And that content in question has to do with bachelor and bachelorette parties which contained the following, as Zap2it puts it:

“The parties featured topless female dancers (although their breasts were blurred) and one of the female contestants licking whipped cream off the chest of a male stripper “in a sexually suggestive manner,” as the FCC’s notice of liability puts it.”

They blurred the breasts and they’re still getting fined? How the heck does that work? The article also states that this was done at the behest of the PTC (Parents Television Council). You might remember them from the final segment of Mick Foley’s second book, Foley Is Good. They want to sanitize television and keep it from being corrupted by all the filth and indecency we enjoy so much. I’m okay with their being family shows, but to force networks into airing them, and to cajole them relentlessly when they’re not seems wrong. There must be a balance. Viewers and industry professionals alike are clamoring for edgier, more creative material, that will probably cause the PTC to bitch indefinitely, but they must go on and produce it. People want quality television, and if that quality comes with some sex and violence that’s relevant to the plot, than so be it.

There’s a reason why HBO gets more Emmy nominations than any other network. It’s because they’re not restricted by child censorship laws. But why should people have to pay extra for freedom? I want to watch movies on cable and regular T.V. without worrying about them being heavily edited. Spike T.V.’s “Uncut” series of movies? A crock of shit. They do not show you every frame of every scene. Your not watching the movie as it’s meant to be seen, your watching it as they tailored it for you.

It is childish to see cops and gangsters say “freakin” instead of “f*cking”, or to allow a dead body to be shown on the news but not allow a bare breast to be shown in public. People need to be challenged intellectually, and godamn it, every once in awhile that includes being offended. People need to watch things that make them uncomfortable because it might allow them to learn something.

Every year the ALA (American Library Association) has an annual banned book week, the last week in September. Even though we just missed it, check out a list of some of the books that have been banned, listed here- http://www.adlerbooks.com/banned.html. Take a look at that. I was baffled by some of the choices included. I can’t even see how some of the books could be considered indecent in the least. This bodes badly for television. If a tame book like Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary(!!!) can get banned, just imagine what they’ll go after on a television, a medium that has been given the same legitimacy as books.

I’m not saying that “Married By America” is literary or classy in any respect. It probably was trashy, but so what? It’s Fox, can you expect any less from the network that brought you Quintuplets. I still think Fox had the right to air it. What it represents to the PTC and the FCC is an easy target. The PTC and FCC may go after easy targets like “Married By America” at first, but once they get going, there wont be any stopping them. This further proof of how puritanical this country actually is. A few curse words and some mild sex are not going to ruin the country and send us all on a one way ticket to hell. I don’t believe in God personally, but I’ like to think that he’d want us to expand ourselves mentally. If all else fails, I’d like to at least make this pact with the PTC and other censorship hungry organizations: I’ll stay out of your church if you stop messing with my media!

Here’s what one of my panelists, Ratboy(his choice of name, not mine.) has to say about the issue. Take it away Ratboy:

“Clearly, the FCC has some major rethinking to do on the larger issue of obscene content. Consistency is needed here, immediately if at all possible. I also get the feeling that some of the decisions made and being considered are too political in nature–the true test of that will come in the next Presidential administration, regardless of November’s victor.

Now, compared to the Super Bowl incident, is this programming any worse? Perhaps. Did it deserve a heavier fine? I’m not certain. I’d be in favor of a fixed fine, levied at the network on the whole, and not the affiliate. By continuing to issue fines to affiliates, it may send the message that it’s “safer” to break from network coverage and/or possibly display more personal ownership bias in the presentation of programming, as if there’s already not enough of that.
Keep the focus aimed at the networks and creative departments. I’m not encouraging an FCC takeover of creative control, just a more creative way to present the programming that the network wants to get across. Hype and marketing can go a long way to securing the
same effect in the 10:00 hour that just throwing it out in the 8:00 hour would, if not more. Both the networks and the FCC could approach this issue from a smarter angle, though, certainly”.

Thanks Ratboy. I agree in charging the networks and not the affiliates. They’re just doing what they’re told, and airing the programming that the network sends them. My ideal, that in which censorship is completely obliterated is merely that, an ideal. Ratboy, you are a better voice of reason than I am on this topic.

Here’s what another of our esteemed panelists, Brian had to say:

First off I want to thank Mike for giving me a spot here, I appreciate it and I hope I’ll write the shit out of this topic for you. Second I want to say to anybody reading this that if at any time you get offended by what I say or don’t particularly like what your reading to stop reading. Scroll down till my nonsense is finished, hit the back button on your browser, close the window or hell even turn off your computer. This seems simple enough, you don’t like something you see you turn whatever it is off, end of story, right? Not for many people, they feel the need to complain about what they saw and how terrible it made them feel and how they want something done. Censorship folks, it sucks!

Censorship seems to be covering our televisions now more than ever but its not exactly a new thing. The censors didn’t want Barbara Eden showing her little belly button, they baulked when Mary Tyler Moore wore pants, Lucille Ball couldn’t show up pregnant, controversial topics have been censored or toned down throughout the years. But nowadays television is racier, has more violence, sexual content and swearing. And you know what, I don’t think any of it should be censored at all! No matter how many bodies get mutilated or how hard two people f*ck each other (opposite and same sex) or how many F bombs are dropped, no censorship is needed.

Like I said, if a person doesn’t like it they can change the channel to something they find more suitable, like 7th Heaven or whatever crap makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Or maybe the person could *gasp* turn off the television and go outside or read a book. But that’s not how it is, a person (usually a housewife with nothing better to do) will see something they think is “naughty” on TV so they’ll call up anybody that will listen to complain. The person could have just picked up the controller and changed the channel and never thought of the show again but why do they feel the need to complain? Children, somebody must think of the children!

Yes, children must be saved from the horrors of television because they might see something they aren’t supposed to. So now it feels right to trample on our freedom of speech if its to keep our children from polluting their minds. And yes, censorship is helping to kill our freedom of speech especially when it comes to TV and radio. Please, don’t give me that garbage “our forefathers never meant for the first amendment to be used in this way”. Yes, this is exactly how they meant for it to be used, it gives people protection to say things that other people may find offensive. Now back to the children (damn, that sounded like something Michael Jackson would say).

If parents would be actual parents it shouldn’t matter what’s on the television screen, they would monitor what the kids watched. I understand that their are parents out there who can’t always see what the kiddies are watching so that’s why you have the V Chip to make sure little Timmy doesn’t watch “Drunken Cursing Zombie Whores 4″ while you’re at work. Hey you parents may actually want to take an interest in what your kids are doing with their time at home, novel concept. Also this may come as a shock but children may be better off if they didn’t watch TV all the time and actually got out in the world to experience the cursing, violence and sex first hand!

So why does our first amendment need to be f*cked around with by the censors? Because bored housewives have nothing better to do than complain and use their kids as reasons to be “active” in something. So for now if we want our swearing, sex and violence we must turn to pay cable where the censors haven’t gotten to it yet. There are talks though of the censors going after those channels as well, which would be a very interesting fight. Well hopefully I didn’t bore you too much with this little rant and maybe you learned a little something about yourself and society. Now I’m off to go masturbate to some gay porn, if that offends some of you, tough!”

Well said Brian, and it’s good to have you here. As we progress, the discussions will be in a chat form. I just wanted the panelists to be able to introduce themselves this time.

That’s that for this week. Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy the rest of the site. I know I will. If your not sick of me yet, I’m over in music, taking my turn on the Late Night Jukebox and if that’s not enough check out my Surreal Life review which should be up tomorrow, week 6 of the Simpson’s Countdown on Wednesday and send me some feedback on this debut. It certainly is a work in progress, so let me know what you’d like to see.