George Carlin (and Lenny Bruce before him) fought the ingrained Puritanism in America in the best way they knew how. I consider both to be pioneers and patriots for the First Amendment. Now that Carlin is gone, someone else will be needed to pick up this torch and carry it onward.
Carlin's famous "seven words you can never say on television" pointed out how corporate America can be cowed by self-proclaimed defenders of family values into censoring themselves. You would think, with cable television and the internet, that we've come a long way since then. But we really haven't.
All throughout Clinton's impeachment, the word "blowjob" was taboo on broadcast television. Even on late night comedy shows. I remember watching Bill Maher (before his move to cable), and they had to dance around using the term, or else they were bleeped. This is on a show that aired after 11:00 P.M. -- assumably when all those impressionable children should have been in bed.
So, to honor George Carlin's memory, here are a few examples of America moving backwards, and being cowed once again by the wide Puritan streak that runs through America.
America has a serious case of nipplephobia ("fear of seeing a woman's nipple"). Look at what happened to Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl. You know what? I would be willing to bet my bottom dollar that any kid who saw a split-second glimpse of Janet's boob is just not going to become a raving pervert as a result. Ask pretty much anyone in Europe. Bare breasts are seen all the time in Europe, and their children don't seem scarred for life as a result. But in America, Janet's nipple was going to somehow destroy American civilization as we knew it.
Then there was Attorney General John Ashcroft, who spent eight thousand taxpayer dollars to buy a drape to cover up a statue in the Justice Department that showed a female "Spirit of Justice," who happened to have a naked breast. He could have just held his press conferences in another location, but instead chose to protect America from seeing a marble representation of a woman's breast. With $8,000 of our money.
Once again, sheesh..
Now Starbucks is getting some heat for re-creating their original logo for their 35th anniversary, in Washington and Oregon. Starbucks' original logo was taken from a 15th century drawing of a mermaid, and (gasp) it had bare nipples. Now some parents are up in arms over the old logo being used again for a limited time. Don't these people have anything better to do?
Then there's the case of the Republican who went to Washington, D.C. and was shocked to discover statues of nakedness right there in our nation's capital. This hayseed was actually shocked that there were representations of nudity in museums in Washington. Gasp! Artworks occasionally show the human form!! Who knew?
But the most ridiculous recent development is two companies who have apparently decided to redesign the human anatomy to remove the cleavage between butt cheeks.
The most recent of these is the futuristic mattress company Tempur-Pedic. They used to have, for their logo, a nude woman lying down (assumably on their wonderful product). It showed her from the back, and showed how their mattress conformed to the human form, therefore giving you better sleep. Only problem, it showed her rear end, complete with butt crack. The company used this logo for years, with ads in newspapers and on television, but somebody must have recently complained, because they have scrubbed their old logo from their site. Their new logo shows the woman's spine, but suddenly she has one massive cheek and no cleavage whatsoever. The old logo has disappeared from their company website.
The second example of this was changed a little further back, but is just as ridiculous. Coppertone has been using the same logo since the 1940s -- an artist's representation of her own three-year old daughter and a doggie who is amusingly pulling down her bathing suit bottoms with his teeth. This shows her tan lines, therefore showing the usefulness of the company's product.
This image has been plastered everywhere within 100 miles of any beach for over half a century, but now apparently it is too salacious for use any more. A blog posting from 2006 points out the changes in the logo. First, her bathing suit bottoms got a lot bigger, covering all but a tiny bit of butt cleavage -- less than your average plumber, say. But as the blogger points out, there's an even more sanitized version out there where, again, only one butt cheek exists. Their corporate website only has very very tiny images of their logo now, ones you'd need a magnifying glass to see (although their Canadian website still has the semi-sanitized logo prominently displayed).
One can only wonder what they'll do when they realize the little girl is also topless! Saints preserve us! Can American civilization stand such an anti-family values onslaught?
Such silliness abounds because Americans are taught (by Puritan "family values" folks) that any representation of any nudity, at any time is, of course, automatically harmful to children. QED. Nudity = permanently harmed children. Here is that yokel Republican, explaining why he's now on a personal mission to cleanse Washington, D.C. of nudity:
"I believe art affects a country indirectly. I have been studying the decline of morals in this country. It's sending the wrong message to children that nudity is fine, that nakedness is fine. . . . There are degrees of vulgarity, and it opens up the door for the other stuff."
Remember the outrage when the Taliban blew up a few religious artworks they didn't like? That is where this road leads. With thought police determining what is acceptible and what is not.
George Carlin fought this trend, and he will be sorely missed. He was one of the few who would take a statement like this, and reply "Other stuff? What other stuff? What the hell are you talking about? Hey, everybody, check this out -- this is funny! Look at what idiots some people are!!"
Rest In Peace, Mr. Carlin. You leave behind you a void that will be hard to fill. Because, unfortunately, silliness is still rampant in America.
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com