January 9, 2006

You can tell that you've been watching too much Battlestar Galactica when you actually use "frack" in conversation. (Frack is a word used on the show as an all-purpose expletive, which apparently is sufficiently weird that Sci-Fi Channel standards and practices doesn't bleep it.)

This is an example of how the law shapes creativity. In order to avoid broadcasting obscene or indecent language, networks would bleep over offending language. The super-cheesy original Battlestar Galactica series, with Lorne Greene, invented the fracking expletive (along with creative measures of time and currency.) As a result, though, dialogue on Galactica has its own particular tone and rhythm. If it used the normal English equivalents, the show might sound more like The Sopranos, just with the Jersey accents toned down a bit.'s Video Dog has a compilation of clips incorporating the word: Motherfracker!

In another way, writers can build on the fact that networks will bleep the worst language. In a first-season episode of Arrested Development, Bringing Up Buster, the writers sent Buster on a 10-second long tirade, where we hear "cause I'm an uptight…[bleeeeeeeeep]…Buster…[bleeeeeeeep]… you old horny slut!" The video shows only the other characters' (Michael, GOB and Lindsay) horrified reactions. The result is more offensive than anything the writers could think up, because those 10 seconds are filled with the foulest language each viewer can image, and that language may be different for each imagination.

Last year, the FCC ruled that bleeps which merely suggest the uttering of indecent speech do not violate the Commission's prohibition on broadcast indecency. Learn all about it in this IPtelligentsia video blog from last year.

Posted by Andrew Raff at January 9, 2006 05:41 PM
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