by Armando Simón (April 2021)
Patriarchy, Farley Aguilar, 2015
We are in a battle for the soul of this Nation.—Joe Biden
A couple of years back, I returned from a movie theater with my two kids, having walked out from watching Vacation a tenth of the way through. I had gone to see it because, like many others, I had fond memories of the original National Lampoon’s Vacation and this was supposed to be a sequel. But whereas the original had one brief, tasteful, nude scene, in this newer film, right from the get-go, the obscenities poured on and on, one after the other, nonstop. The vast majority were not even funny; few people in the audience laughed. It was as if some sewer-mouthed Mafioso with literary pretensions had written the script and directed it. I had no idea it was going to be so cringeworthy and, like I said, took my kids out with me. I asked the manager if we could switch to another, less obscene, movie and she heartedly agreed with my decision.
I hate ambush pornography. Mind you, I’m a guy and I like sex, and like all men, I have looked at porn (and any man who denies doing so is a liar). But when I do so, I do so consciously and of my free will and I know what to expect. My point is simply that there is a time and place for everything and—let’s be perfectly honest—porn can at times be very, very repulsive. Really repulsive. I don’t like sitting at a movie and unexpectedly have a penis jump out at me from the screen. It’s like “bait and switch.” It is jarring. And this is elevated exponentially if I have my kids with me.
Which brings me to the recent Grammy’s telecast. Though few people bothered to watch the show, it has by now become well known for the sexual performance of a ghetto trash skank by the name of Cardi B (or, as Candace Owens succinctly put it, “that degenerate”) that does rap. Cardi B is in competition with another ghetto trash skank known as Nicki Minaj for the title of Music Industry’s Most Disgusting Skank, now that Madonna reluctantly relinquished the title years ago. Putting aside the individuals involved, the telecast was another ratcheting up of obscene vulgarity shown on television (the reader may remember years ago that the Grammy’s had a naked 7-foot man on stage, just standing around). No doubt that in the near future we will be subjected to even worse than what was just shown.
Recently, I was hearing an American movie that I had seen before, except that it had been dubbed in Spanish and I was amused at the well-known actors speaking with different voices and in a different language and noting how an actor, in English speaking countries, is just as well known for his voice (think of Randy Quaid, Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, George C. Scott, Bob Hope, or Arnold Schwarzenegger) as for his appearance (for some reason, not with actresses—curious), whereas the dubbing voices always sound unremarkable, cloned. As I got involved in watching the film, something else dawned on me halfway through the film: it had no obscenities! Not only that, but the removal of the original obscenities in English had not affected the movie one bit.
Later, in reverse, I saw an old movie from Spain, starring a young, ultra-thin, Antonio Banderas. Although the movie contained not one obscenity, the (written) translation into English subtitles was laced with obscenities.
This finally crystallized in my mind something that had been bothering me in my subconscious, the fact that all of us are constantly being bombarded by vulgarity. In particular, many parents feel that they are in a state of siege inside their very homes, waging a war for the souls of their sons and daughters, ever vigilant, with the insidious assaults infiltrating the home through music, video games, the television, the computer. Parents feel like they should be like those British guards with the bearskin hats, flanking and guarding the family television or computer.
And the goal of these assaults seems to be our children, to mold them before they are mature enough to realize what is going on. And all the assaults have the same message: being trashy is cool, being vulgar is cool, speaking obscenities is cool. With girls, there is an additional message: be a slut, be a slut, be a slut. Our efforts at repelling these assaults are further undermined by another message: rebelling against one’s parents is normal, expected and healthy (incidentally, have you noticed just how many television shows portray the father/husband as a buffoon or a moron?). And should you think that I am exaggerating, just take a look at the vulgarity in some of the children’s movies, like the 2003 The Cat in the Hat, full of adult (non-humor), A Muppet Christmas wherein the actress opens her legs really wide as a deliberate attempt at seduction of a muppet who stares at her crotch, and The Grinch That Stole Christmas where a naked Grinch farts in the face of people (thank you, Ron Howard, and Jim Carrey, yes, thank you). And is there anyone who denies that “it sucks,” constantly voiced by both children and adults nowadays in shows refers to fellatio? When Negligee Barbie makes its debut, there is no indignation, not an eyebrow raised in the media (which is full of likeminded people). And no one gets fired. The next one may probably be Crack Whore Barbie. When fashion designers came out with crotchless panties and thongs for little girls, not one member of the chattering classes said anything and no one was fired. When Teen Vogue is not glorifying Karl Marx, the writers are laying the groundwork for pedophilia, with articles on the joys of anal sex (the satirical Babylon Bee came out with an article supposedly Teen Vogue for young teenagers to decide what kind of prostitute they want to me; the magazine might just do it in the future[*]). And if you see nothing wrong with any of the above, you are precisely the type of vulgarian of which I speak.
If you think that children are not being shaped by these forces, not too long ago a Colorado middle school received nationwide attention when it was discovered that many of the students had participated in sexting; decades ago, children taking naked pictures of themselves would have been unthinkable, much less passed them around. That alone illustrates how much our children have been brainwashed by the media perverts of Hollywood and New York City.
But it is not just children. It is a sign of our times that nowadays, partaking of perversions (threesomes, group sex, spouse swapping) is seen as a sign of sophistication, and not of being a degenerate. If you have not partaken in any of what used to be called perversions, then you are just not with it, man, you’re just not cool. And you’re missing out.
Simply put, the perverts want to turn all of us into them.
Perhaps the most obvious fact of the pervasive climate of vulgarity is that we, who object to it, have to justify ourselves to our listeners or readers, instead of the other way around, and to assure the public that we are neither religious fanatics nor sexually repressed nor a conservative who still thinks he is living in the 1800s (admit it, you were thinking of it of this author while you were reading this). Similarly, a pervert and third-rate photographer like Robert Maplethorpe was deemed a great artist once a cranky, old, conservative politician condemned him and his pornographic photographs. Indeed, our society has become so saturated with vulgarity that we have all become jaded, if not resigned to it, through fatalism. Just like voter fraud by Democrats.
When we see films from Grease to Pretty Women to Hustlers to Banger Sisters to Urban Cowboy ridiculing decent women and making heroines out of whores, we are no longer outraged, and of course, none of the chattering classes in the media say anything since they are cut from the same cloth as the creators of the vulgarity. On the silver screen, men urinating in front of urinals, though completely irrelevant to the plot of the movie, has become commonplace. In real life, trashy women invade men’s bathrooms to either use the toilet, or have sex, with only a resulting snicker. Football and basketball players commit crimes and they are welcomed back to their teams with open arms. Of two equally popular horror writers, the one who does not use an obscenity every fifth sentence, nor has masturbatory scenes, is the one who does not have his works filmed any more (and, yes, I am talking about Dean Koontz), compared to the one that does (and, yes, I am talking about Stephen King, the King of Crap). And, in our own personal lives, it is forgotten that, not too long ago, people communicated perfectly well, either in real life, or in books, or in movies, or on television, without the compulsion to use the rankest obscenities.
During the first half of my life, if a man was stupid enough to ever use the f-word in front of a lady, he would be taken out back by other men and beaten, beaten to a bloody pulp. And he would be thankful that he was not strung up at the nearest tree. Nowadays, not only has that obscenity become commonplace, but many women constantly use it.
Some may object to my observations on the basis that there is no right or wrong, only opinion. I disagree. Period. Rampant, overwhelming vulgarity, pornography, and obscenity are corrosive; they are corrosive to the individual and to society. There is a reason why obscenities are correctly referred to as dirty words: They’re offensive. And what’s curious is that the same people that are chronically offended by insignificant things and so-called cultural appropriation, will not grant the rest of us the courtesy of not being offended by drowning us in obscenities.
Others have said that constantly using obscenities is more “honest,” the same excuse that boorish people, particularly New Yorkers, use for their being rude. Yet, I have personally challenged these same people to go one day without using one obscenity, or being vulgar. They cannot not be obscene; it has become a compulsion. It is no longer an individual’s choice, though they think it is. Gresham’s Law (“bad money drives out good money”) applies here and we see it everywhere; for example, G-rated movies are nowadays as rare as rain in Death Valley and are even looked down upon (which means that every film made prior to circa 1975 was trivial); and what is true for movies is also true for music, clothes, books, conversation. It has gotten to the point that in cable, there are a few isolated channels wherein obscenities and vulgarities are not offered, but they are in the minority instead of the other way around.
When I wrote A Prison Mosaic, I deliberately did not include obscenities in the dialogue, yet the dialogue did not suffer from it. Unfortunately, fewer people read books these days.
Others say that vulgarity is appealing to the public. And in that I think that they may have a point to some degree and is, indeed, one of the traits of vulgarity. Come on, who has not flipped the channels and come upon The Jerry Springer Show, or Jackass, only to become mesmerized? I know I have, just as I have stopped to watch a train wreck, or the mangled bodies in a car accident. But that does not mean that vulgarity does not have a detrimental effect and is eroding the quality of our lives.
Mind you, I do not want to give the impression that everything should be sanitized, or, if you prefer, Bowdlerized. There are a great many films and books where the sex and/or the vulgarity is absolutely crucial to the plot (Basic Instinct, A Clockwork Orange, Eyes Wide Shut become meaningless rubbish if the sex is taken out, as was the case when they were exported to other countries and subjected to censorship; one of my own stage plays, Jail Bait, is replete with obscenities, which are absolutely vital to the plot). In other movies, it is the opposite. The Interview was one of those films which could have become a classic, right up there with Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. The constant, unnecessary, obscene dialogue and vulgarity took away what quality it had.
You see, it is the constant, inescapable, relentless, and, above all, irrelevant in-your-face vulgarity and obscenities that I am objecting to. One can write, for example, a great horror book without sinking to the level of a Stephen King. Read Dean Koontz, he has proven it.
I also do not want to give the impression that this trend is irreversible. If the herculean task of cleaning up Times Square of all the Mafioso scumbags proves anything, it is that there is hope. A Texas grand jury issued an indictment against Netflix for the film Cuties (it goes without saying that the film was defended—by attacking conservatives, which is irrelevant to the basic accusation) Some businesses have, interestingly, adopted a no-tolerance policy against obscenities at the workplace; time will tell if this catches on.
Personally, we can start simply by being consciously aware of the constant assault, how humor is used ever so effectively as a Trojan Horse by the vulgarians, how the “shock jocks” of the radio promote nihilism, how the philosophy of “If I don’t hire them, someone else will” perpetuates this state of affairs, how prostitution is glamorized. We can also sit down with our children in front of the TV, paper and pen in hand, and coolly, scientifically, analyze the strategies employed by each television show to put across the ideas that being trashy, being a slut, is cool, that language must be obscene and that girls should be sluts.
On a professional note, attorneys and judges can finally come to the realization that when the Founding Fathers in America were promoting complete Freedom of Speech, they had in mind views about social, political and religious issues and not—as the vulgarians would like us to think—screaming four letter words in parks, or a pictorial close-up of genitals, or the size of an idiot stripper’s thong. In this, the highly overrated American Civil Liberties Union (in my opinion, one of the most evil organizations in America) has been greatly instrumental in trivializing the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution in general.
Lastly, and much, much, much more importantly, we can ask the government to pass laws meting out hefty fines to businesses that sell violent and obscene music and videos to minors and to theaters that admit minors to see such movies. But, first, an independent agency, not open to bribes (like the present movie rating system), has to be formed to accurately rate movies, with enforcement powers. In one respect, we do not even have to ask to pass these laws; the television airwaves belong to the government which leases use of the airwaves to television networks; one of the provisions is that programs may not be obscene. As with so many, many good laws, this has not been enforced in decades because of brain-dead bureaucrats in the FCC. That is as good a place to start as any. In fact, it is an excellent place.
Enforce the rules? Enforce the laws? What a strange concept.
Armando Simón is a retired psychologist and author.
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