Bozell Column: MTV's Pinata of Profanity
It should tell you something that MTV is still highly valued by Hollywood as the televised center of the coolness universe. Why else would a top movie star like Tom Cruise dress up ridiculously as a fat, bald, bearded guy and embarrass himself in a profanity-littered skit on the MTV Movie Awards?
Cruise opened the show by saying he was going to take the program, put it up his posterior, and make it a diamond. He welcomed viewers to “Relax, and enjoy my two-hour giant s---.” And so it began, an apt description for the two hours that followed.
What is it about celebrities that they have to – absolutely must – be obscene in front of audiences with millions of impressionable children watching?
Broadcast networks have had repeated trouble at awards shows with celebrities cursing. But on cable television, which fears no fines or discipline from the Federal Communications Commission, MTV doesn't see profanity as a shocking accident. On this show, it was an intentional profanity barrage. If you love infantile cursing as dearly as MTV does, it was a stimulating profanity bath.
And it was staged. Actress Anna Kendrick asked, “Ready to make the censors' ears bleed?” A review of the 122-minute special by the Culture and Media Institute found more than 100 swear words. (Once you remove the incessant commercials, that was more than one a minute.) Network censors bleeped 70 curse words, including a remarkable 47 variations of “f---,” 11 uses of “s---,” two of “a--h---,” one slang expression for breasts, and nine even the watchdogs couldn’t identify.
But at least 30 profanities made it past the censors, including nine variations of “f----,” two of “s---” and one “goddamn.” The censors didn’t even try to cover a whole host of other curse words. It was like candy coming out of a pinata. MTV censors grabbed as many as they could.
One of the most egregious offenders was actor Peter Facinelli, who accepted the “Best Picture” award for the teen vampire drama “Twilight: New Moon.” He cooed “I’ve never heard the word ‘f---‘ used so many times in one evening.” He then went on to use it eight times himself, four of which made it past the censors. He only skipped cursing as he honored Stephenie Meyer, the author of the “Twilight” books, because he explained “she's a Mormon.”
That’s consideration, Hollywood-style.
MTV even worked the profanities into three award titles. One was the “Best Scared as S--- Performance.” This apparently required S-bombs in the introduction, as comedian Steve Carell declared “When I watched [the low-budget horror movie] 'Paranormal Activity,' I literally s--- myself.”
When predictable controversy erupted, MTV issued a plastic apology: “The MTV Movie Awards is a live televised event known for irreverent comedy and a party atmosphere where our guests speak more freely than they otherwise might. While we aired the live broadcast with a delay, we were unable to mute every word that some might find objectionable. All of these words will be muted in subsequent airings.”
That’s responsibility, Hollywood-style.
Left unaddressed: how MTV's “party atmosphere” was entirely their doing. All this cursing was about as unplanned as last year’s Movie Awards stunt, where Sacha Baron Cohen’s bare butt floated in the air just inches away from the face of the rapper Eminem, who feigned outrage and “stormed out.”
The idea that MTV execs would place any of the blame on the celebrities is simply laughable. They put cursing in their award titles, stuffed into their pre-recorded skit with Tom Cruise, and clearly expected a stream of it from their un-famous master of ceremonies, comedian Aziz Ansari. Many of these stars have no trouble appearing in other venues without cursing their faces off. Clearly, in this venue, they were bowing to what they felt MTV wanted.
If this spectacle wasn't enough, MTV heavily promoted throughout the Movie Awards show its new scripted comedy, “The Hard Times of R.J. Berger.” The show's main plot device? Young Berger loses his pants on the high-school basketball court, demonstrating to the entire school that he has an enormous penis.
That’s taste, Hollywood-style.
MTV promos during the Movie Awards showed a godly glow coming from R.J.'s crotch, and twisted the Bible to joke “The meek shall inherit the girth.” Before his indecent exposure, R.J. lamented “I'm God's urinal cake.”
One nerdy girl tells R.J. "Any time, any place, any orifice." She also refers to menstruation as "a vampire buffet." The Los Angeles Times it declared this raunchy “Berger” show was like the movie “Superbad,” only “minus the humor, warmth, and believability” – and then declared MTV had a hit on its hands with it.
Will MTV blame the actors on “Berger” for repeating the disgusting language of MTV's script?