• What the [Bleep]?!?!

    by  • January 23, 2018 • Awards Shows, Profanity, Television • 2 Comments


    What to do when profanity takes you by surprise

    Though parents may take every precaution to limit their child’s exposure to foul language, it seems inevitable that occasionally profanity or lewd expletives will show up in the most unexpected places.  

    In recent weeks, NBC News, in reporting about offensive language the President is said to have used to describe certain countries, used the actual words, unedited (in stark contrast to its network news competitors, who reported the same story without using the actual words); and then the same network subsequently allowed an unedited F-word to air during “Saturday Night Live.”

    These are hardly isolated incidents. There have been numerous occasions in the past where someone was caught on a “hot mic” using foul language during a live broadcast; where a sports figure, caught on camera in a moment of excitement, dropped an expletive; a song performed live during an awards show employed a four-letter word and the network wasn’t quick enough in dumping the audio…

    If you live with children and watch any amount of television, the probability is that something like this is bound to happen sooner or later. So what do you do?

    1.       Minimize the risk by avoiding live broadcasts

    Certain types of programs carry greater risk of an unedited profanity sneaking past the network censors. Live sports events and awards shows are especially prone to such incidents. If these are TV events your family enjoys watching together; consider pre-recording, and watching with your family later after you’ve had an opportunity to vet the content.

    2.       Don’t make a big deal about it

    If your child is younger, there’s a good chance the word or words went right over their head, anyhow. An exaggerated reaction; or immediately and indignantly grabbing the remote and dramatically turning off the TV or changing the channel will likely only call attention to the offending word – and prompt more curiosity – than discreetly changing the channel or turning off the TV at a more natural break in the program.

    3.       If your child heard the word and asks about it…

    Every child goes through a stage where they are looking for ways to get a big reaction. The bigger your reaction to the offending word, the greater the likelihood that the child will repeat it to elicit that big reaction again. Be matter-of-fact, and then move on.

    4.       With older children…

    The likelihood is that they’ve probably heard it before. Here’s a good opportunity to share and reinforce your family’s values when it comes to how they express themselves and what words they choose.

    5.       Push-back against it

    You don’t have to just accept TV’s declining standards with respect to foul-language. Write to the network and to the sponsors of the program. The Parents Television Council provides resources to help you take action. If the networks and sponsors are put on notice, they will likely make more of an effort with future broadcasts to edit out the offending language. By contrast, if they hear from no one, they will likely only continue to loosen the reins.

    According to Geoffrey Hughes, author of Swearing: A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths and Profanity in English, “The influence of Hollywood has become a dominant factor [in the shift in attitudes towards swearing], initially for restraint, but subsequently for license.” If you care about the culture in which your children are growing-up, then you have an obligation to push back against those who are trying to corrode it.



    Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

    2 Responses to What the [Bleep]?!?!

    1. February 15, 2018 at 4:52 pm

      People can swear when ever and how ever they like, The days of Carlin’s 7 Bad Words have came and gone and the FCC Ratings were invented in 1997 and became more strict in 2004 which included SpongeBob now having a Y7. So stop it now and stop censoring these harmless words, i think ALL 13 BAD WORDS should be allowed on prime time un censored as long as they have a giant warning.

    2. SR91
      January 23, 2018 at 7:03 pm

      You are giving excellent advice that I agree with 1000000000%. Don’t ignore bad language, but don’t overreact either.

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