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new uses for fruitcake
august 9, 2003
Mary and I have been watching a lot of television lately, feeling lazy.
Maybe it's the heat, one hundred and seven earlier this week.
We tuned in to a talk show, the Maury Povich Show (I don't care for Povich, who seems like a fraud, proof of how lazy we were, that we left it on).
Talk shows can now apparently be on only one of three topics:
The particular Maury Povich show we tuned in to was the third variety, the transformed nerds confronting their tormenters. The show had a title, as all these shows do. I read the title as, "I Was Ugly In School…Now I'm Sexy And Goo."
Sexy and Goo? What the fuck? I'm thinking, they're going to have this green slime ooze out from behind the curtain, undulating bubbles across the stage. "So…what do you think of me now, Tony?" Then I realized the title actually read, "…Now I'm Sexy And Cool."
Mary and I rarely watch movies on Bravo, an American cable channel, because they censor them, and who wants to see a movie with holes poked in it. Bravo made a decision several years ago to delete any nudity from the films they air, and also bleeps swear words. Although they do allow "shit", as I noticed a few weeks ago while we were watching a Larry Sanders Show repeat. "Shit" can be a very useful word, the best let-off of steam or despair in a bad situation, and is, in fact, according to an article I read years ago, the most common final word spoken on the recordings recovered from black boxes at airplane crashes.
They still won't allow "fuck", though.
At one time, of course, there was no need to censor dialogue, because movies didn't have "bad" language in them, unless you counted Clark Gable's, "Frankly, my dear…". It's not like a black and white Bette Davis would burn a cigarette hole in her evening gown, lift up the pleated side of the gown, staring at the burn, and say, "Fuck me!"
When television started airing more modern movies, where you might get an occasional swear word, the usual response was to drown out the word with a loud beep (some talk shows still use the practice, and some, I notice, even place a blurring circle over the speaker's mouth during the enunciation, as if he or she were exhaling a ghost, I suppose so as not to offend lip-readers).
The beeps proved annoying to a lot of people, so stations began simply removing the sound from that portion of a speech with a curse word in it, to where you'd get snippets of words, silence, words while one male character was screaming at another.
The latest solution is to substitute a more acceptable word for the offending word, so that now you have angry actors smashing their fists into the wall, screaming, "I don't freakin' believe this!" (I've always been curious. Who is saying "freakin'"? Is it the actual actor who is in the scene, in an alternate dub the director made during post production, for the film's eventual sale to TV, or is it an impressionist? Is this what Rich Little is doing now, just saying "Freakin'", "Freak that", and "Freak you" in different voices into a microphone all day?)
The most demented substitution Mary and I ever heard for the word "fuck" was when we were watching a movie on one of the non-premium channels one day, meaning a channel that censors, and instead of variants of "freak", they used "fruitcake".
Al Pacino does a slow swivel of his head on his neck, until he's staring at the other actor. "Who the fruitcake do you think you are? Do you have any fruitcakin' idea what you're talking about? You hear me, you miserable piece of sludge? Fruitcake you."
So we don't watch a lot of Bravo, but we decided to tune in when we heard about a new series they were airing, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which is now the most popular show on that channel. (Bravo also debuted a second show about the same time, Boy Meets Boy, where a gay guy has to choose from twenty different men, some of whom actually are gay, some just pretending to be gay. We watched the first episode, but didn't really care for it. The idea of one person gradually eliminating, over the course of several weeks, a roomful of potential mates, has been so done to death we just couldn't muster any interest. NBC has a new show called Who Wants To Marry My Dad?, which means we're probably only one season away from Who Wants To Fuck My Mom?)
The premise of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is simple. Five gay guys invade a straight guy's apartment, make fun of everything in it, take him out on the town to buy him new clothes and window treatments, paw him a little with ties in their hands, then whisk him back to his made over place just in time for him to impress his girl.
On the debut show, towards the end, the straight guy, clearly overwhelmed at how his life had been transformed, said to the "Fab Five", "I just wish there was something I could do for you guys in return."
One of them clucked his tongue. "I can think of one thing you could do."
It's a great show. The show is so popular, in fact, it's being rebroadcast on NBC (NBC and Bravo are both owned by General Electric), but in a half hour version rather than the original full hour.
The religious right, of course, is scandalized, absolutely scandalized, there's a show on TV that shows gays in a favorable light.
Brent Bozell, a columnist for townsquare.com, a website devoted to the religious right, is appalled with Queer Eye.
"Sin Acceptance?" What the fruitcake does that mean?
A while after Mary had her stroke last year, once things started getting back to normal, I returned to fiction, writing a short story called Pushing Down the Tombstones. I'm pleased to say the great Irish speculative fiction magazine published in Dublin, Albedo One, which has won a number of European awards for excellence, has bought the story and will be featuring it in an upcoming issue.