As most of my dear readers know, I love great theatre and don't shy away from much in the way of content.
In fact, my favorite show of the past year is the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tracy Letts, August: Osage County, which is not only littered with broken dreams, but sprinkled with plenty of prickly four letter words.
But I was struck a few weeks ago when watching one local New York City television critic tout the Latino-themed In The Heights as "family friendly." My curiosity was piqued because, quite ironically, I was about to see the musical that very evening. Given this critics' ringing endorsement for the whole family, I was more than a little surprised when I heard the F-bomb dropped during my performance.
Now, as regular readers also know, the F-word is not used on this site. I don't use it here, nor do I allow commenters to use it, because quite frankly, when it comes right down to it, I think it's ultimately a lazy word used too freely and gratuitously by poseurs afraid of being deemed unhip -- sort of analogous to teenagers who think that smoking makes them look cool. I also don't use it because I want this site to remain family-friendly, a place I wouldn't be embarrassed if my own mother checked it out (and lo and behold, after a google search, she has, all on her own).
Personally, while I have become inured to hearing this word uttered in almost every major new play or musical I've seen, as well as added to productions like the new revival of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, I still don't believe this, ahem, rutting word (thank you very much, Tennessee Williams!) is exactly family friendly.
It may come as a shock to some people in the entertainment industry that some parents would prefer to shield their children's tender young ears from the assault of the F-bomb. But those same parents would be forgiven for mistakenly thinking that a critic's declaration of "family-friendly" provides the all-clear sign, that they won't have to hear what is still ostensibly considered the English language's most vulgar word.
Within days of my seeing In The Heights, which by the way, I actually liked, I was struck by an editorial in USA Today on how technology has outpaced the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in its "crackdown on obscenity." I was struck by the following passage from that March 31 editorial:
For the record, here's what started the ruckus: Cher said critics had been predicting for 40 years that she was on her way out, adding, "So f—- 'em." At the Golden Globes, Bono called his award "really, really f——— brilliant!"So, dear readers, what do you think? Should critics and others be more prudent when recommending a show for the whole family? Or have we reached a point in our civilization where it no longer matters?
Not exactly family fare, obviously, and over time viewers complained, as did assorted members of Congress and a group called the Parents Television Council, which seeks to reduce indecency in the entertainment industry.
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(The FCC's crackdown on broadcasters) comes from good intentions. Network television has grown both cruder and more sexually explicit over the years, leaving many a family uncomfortably surprised.
I'll be curious to hear what you have to say -- but please avoid any obscenities!
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).