Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Real reality

“The question of ‘censorship’ … arose with respect to the Iraq documentary ‘A Company of Soldiers’ aired last week on PBS’s ‘Frontline.’ The language used by soldiers who had come under attack was not, as described by one commentator I heard, ‘profane.’ Any amount of profanity … disrespect for sacred or holy things … can be heard routinely on television. What this observer meant to say was ‘indecent’ or ‘obscene’ language — that is the formerly forbidden words for bodily functions and sexual acts about which the FCC and the ratings board both remain unaccountably fussy. But surely, these words are signifiers of authenticity? As Friday’s Wall Street Journal put it, ‘War is never pretty, and bad language is the least of it. In the documentary, the curses underline the alarm and fear among men literally fighting for their lives.’ Well, yes they do, but only because they were once forbidden. Now that they have become so common everywhere except for network television and in PG-13-rated movies they have lost much of their power to ‘underline.’ …

“The larger problem here, I think, is entertainment overload. We spend so much time watching TV, including what TV itself with considerable chutzpah calls ‘reality TV,’ that war itself and men in danger of their lives just looks to us like more TV.”

James Bowman, writing on “Common Indecencies,” Feb. 28 in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

NYPD nude

“When ‘NYPD Blue’ debuted on Sept. 21, 1993, 57 ABC affiliates declined to show the premiere episode, citing the show’s affection for nudity and lower-tier swear words. …

“As ‘NYPD Blue’ leaves the air … the 12-year-old cop show will be laureled with words like ‘gritty’ and ‘uncompromising.’ That feels half-right. ‘NYPD Blue’ was uncompromising, all right, but only when it came to love scenes. The brainchild of David Milch and Steven Bochco, ‘Blue’ was one of network television’s great erotic experiments. Its nudity will linger long after its gumshoeing fades. Such brazen sexuality takes a certain degree of skill when one of your romantic leads (Dennis Franz) looks like a lightly medicated version of Captain Kangaroo.

“For all its merits, ‘Blue’ never was much of an ‘authentic’ cop show.”

Bryan Curtis, writing on “NYPD Blue,” Feb. 23 in Slate at www.slate.com

Schiavo agonistes

“This past Christmas Eve day, I went to visit Terri Schiavo with her parents. … I had no idea what to expect. … The media and Mr. Schiavo clearly give the impression that Terri is in a coma or comatose state and engages only in non-purposeful and reflexive movements and responses. …

“Instead, I saw a very pretty woman with a peaches and cream complexion and a lovely smile, which she even politely extended to me as I introduced myself to her. … When her mother was close to her, Terri’s whole face lit up. She smiled. She looked directly at her mother and she made all sorts of happy sounds. When her mother talked to her, Terri was quiet and obviously listening. When she stopped, Terri started vocalizing. …

“When we were preparing to leave, … Terri was visibly upset [her family members] were leaving. She almost appeared to be trying to cling to them. … She was definitely not in a coma, not even close. This visit certainly shed more light for me on why the Schindlers are fighting so hard to protect her; to get her medical care and rehabilitative assistance, and to spend all they have to protect her life.”

Barbara Weller, writing on “A Visit With Terri Schiavo,” in the Winter 2005 issue of Lifeline

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