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profanity and vulgarity in entertainment.

April 29, 2013

I don’t understand the fascination with vulgarity. Maybe for some people, it isn’t fascination, but just tolerance. Often though, I think it is more than just tolerance.

Donald Glover, rap “music.”

My favorite TV show is called “Community.” It has some raunchy jokes here and there, and one of the main characters is a gay cross-dresser, but overall, the show is pretty tame compared to many programs on TV.

One of the stars of the show is named Donald Glover. He plays an innocent character with a big heart, named Troy. Besides being part of the “Community” cast these past 4 years, Glover has written for “30 Rock,” and has an ongoing career as a rapper. His rapper name is “Childish Gambino.” The rapper character Glover plays is as foul as Troy is good.

I don’t like rap, except for some old school.. Public Enemy, Run-DMC, and some women who both sing and rap.. the late Left-Eye Lopez from TLC, and Lauryn Hill. Other than that, I pass on rap, because since the emergence of NWA in .. 1989 (?), rap has mostly been horribly vulgar, misogynistic, violent, materialistic.. hideous.

Even though I don’t like rap, my morbid curiosity became too strong, and I checked out a couple tracks by Donald Glover/Childish Gambino.

The first one I listened to mostly featured him singing. Not a good singing voice, not a good song. I didn’t listen to much of it.

The second track I listened to was one of the most obscene raps I’ve ever heard. Granted, I don’t make a habit of listening to obscene rap, but I have heard some albums that come with parental warning labels. I’ve heard a bit of Cypress Hill, NWA, Bone Thugz, Eminem, Tupac, a few others. But Donald’s rap.. beyond disgusting. Horrible. I will not describe it any further than that.

At the time I am writing this post, the youtube video for this particular rap, which I will not name, has had over 5 million views. Let that sink in. Even factoring in that some people have watched the video numerous times, and each viewing counts, at least several million people have watched this video.

Visually, the video is creative, but the lyrics don’t relate.. at all.. to what is going on in the video. What I heard was just.. filth.

I don’t have an appreciation for filth.. not a deep, long abiding appreciation for filth.

Movies.

Yes, I’ve seen the movie “Pulp Fiction” seven times.. and yes that movie is quite offensive. But much of “Pulp Fiction” is brilliant. Even most film critics say so. Something can be both disturbing and brilliant. There’s even a place in the arts for things to be disturbing. It’s important that some things be disturbing. Some of these things have cultural value.

Of course, most profanity and raunch has no cultural value. I occasionally put up with a certain about of gratuitous (fill in the blank here) if films are otherwise good.

I’ve seen the movie “Superbad” three times (but the language is so foul in that film I won’t watch it anymore) and the first Hangover movie (not so horrible except for a buck naked Ken Jeong. I’d rather watch Ken Jeong as Senior Chang in “Community.”) three times. These are both offensive, but both are also very creative comedies and incredibly funny.  I’ve seen “The 40 Year Old Virgin” twice. There’s some good laughs in that film, and even a solid moral message. However, there are so many disgusting jokes in that film that I don’t think I’ll see it again.

Yes, I have watched some very raunchy films, and even enjoyed some of them.. or at least parts of them. But I don’t continually seek this stuff. There are some movies I won’t bother with at all. Some I have tried to watch, but didn’t get very far.

It is possible to have a script full of profanity that is still a good script.. like the screenplay for “Pulp Fiction.” Some writers haven’t figured this out, and think that all a script has to have to be cool or edgy is a lot of terrible language. I can tell the difference. Some movies just have profanity, and no quality.. no redeeming values at all.

Stand-up Comedy.

Another thing I want to mention.. stand-up comedy.

Many decades ago, stand-up comedians were mostly clean. Yes.. even in the early days of stand-up comedy, there was Lenny Bruce, who was famously obscene. However, it was a more innocent time, in some ways.. many decades ago.

Think of Red Skelton, Flip Wilson, and Bill Cosby.

Then, along came Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, George Carlin.

I’ve only heard one Steve Martin album.. from the ’70’s. It wasn’t terribly offensive.. much worse content-wise than Bill Cosby’s material, but not horrible. I heard an old George Carlin album, from 1972, if I remember correctly. On that one, George didn’t get bad until the end.

But Richard Pryor.. all the stuff I heard by him.. very profane. Cosby stayed mostly clean, Martin did more movies than stand-up eventually, as far as I know, and Carlin got worse. The last time I watched a Carlin comedy video was probably at least 10 years ago. The first joke of the night was really offensive. And that’s how Carlin continued to be until his death.

Eddie Murphy kicked off the stand-up craze of the ’80’s. He set the trend for filth in comedy. His stand-up albums were immensely popular. Why? People having an innate need to be really really naughty? Taboo being irresistibly attractive to millions?

What seems like hundreds of stand-up comedians followed in Eddie Murphy’s wake. It seems there became a competition for who could be the most vulgar and shocking

Nowadays, it is pretty hard to find clean comedy. Maybe it just doesn’t sell. Back a few years ago, when I had satellite radio in my car, I occasionally listened to the channel called “clean comedy.” There were hardly any comedians on that channel.

Years ago I stopped bothering with stand-up. I would watch Comedy Central once in awhile, and hear comedy that at least had the worst of the language removed. But even so, even now, there’s a lot of raunchy jokes to be heard on Comedy Central. Sometimes even Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert really get nasty.

Why do people like this stuff?

I am wondering about people, and their appetite for disgusting material.

Are people so passive about what they watch, not at all caring about what they take in? Doesn’t anyone care?

I know what it is like to have a weakness for things I should not watch. I just finished watching 4 seasons of the incredibly violent TV show called “Justified.” I’ve also watched 4 seasons of “The Wire” twice, and the 5th season once. But those shows are in many ways rather good. There is much going on in these shows,  especially in episodes of “The Wire,” than just violence, language, and sex.

There isn’t much else at all in rap lyrics. Violence, sex, materialism.. And there doesn’t seem to be much at all in stand-up comedy either.

I watched a movie about stand-up comedians some years ago. It was fictional, not a documentary, but I think there was a lot of truth in it.. how it portrayed the world of stand-up comedians.

The movie was called “Funny People.”

It wasn’t funny.

It was terrible. Mostly phallic humor, grossly graphic sex jokes, and not much else.

The movie didn’t do all that well, but stand-up comedians with terribly foul mouths continue to be very very popular.

And so is rap music.. most of it ghastly..

And I don’t know why all this raunch and depravity are so popular.

Why is one of the most popular videos on Netflix a stand-up performance that features a comedian named Louis C.K. ? I read a little about the video. The description was bad enough. I didn’t watch it.

Why has the Childish Gambino track I heard.. once.. gotten over 5 million views?

The effects on society..

It seems terrible manners, deplorable mistreatment of sex, and awfully profane language dominate much of our culture.

If you don’t believe me, just check out a youtube video. Even comment sections on videos of amateur guitarists are filled with profanity. There is so much hatred, anger and bitterness to be found. So many people don’t have any sense of decency anymore.

There is an old saying regarding our minds.. our psyches.. our beings.. “put garbage in, get garbage out.”

That is proving to be true.

I don’t really see a remedy for all this..

Years ago HBO started making TV shows that are more graphic than most R-rated movies, and Showtime followed. Standards were greatly loosened for FX and A&E, and even on the big networks, sitcoms and other programs got worse and worse as time went on. I don’t even want to get started on the subject of hardcore pornography.

And here we are now.. large segments of the American population taking in an astonishing amount of filth into their homes, into their minds and hearts.

I don’t know how to fix the problem, so I will just do what I can.

I’m not a prude. I watch violent shows and movies sometimes. I watch raunchy comedies on rare occasions. Some of the novels I’ve read are pretty intense.. but I don’t constantly indulge in destructive things. I try to take in a lot of good things too, like the show “Community,” which, overall, is awesome.

I refuse to swear in public. I have good manners. I don’t talk in great detail about sexual matters. I write blogs with very little foul language, and when I write about sex, I have a good reason for doing so. I am not being gratuitous.

The youtube videos I put up are all clean. The vast majority of the over 100 videos I have uploaded thus far are of wildlife. I’ve also posted a few concert videos, some roller derby, a few book reviews.. nothing with foul language.

And, I don’t allow nasty comments to be displayed underneath my videos. All comments are subject to my approval. I’ll allow no one to spread poison in the comment sections of my videos.

I am hoping that somewhere out there are people who believe in decency and good manners.

I am not perfect, and neither are others like me.. but the difference between us and much of the populace is that we try.

What about you? What do you listen to? What do you value? Do you care what you put in your mind?

If, for whatever reason, you want to be a good human being.. consider this.. the more filth you take in.. the worse you will likely become.

Thanks for reading this post. I hope it has given you something to think about.

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