Profanity Spreads on the Small Screen ; A Movie on ESPN That Breaks the Barriers of Cussing on TV Is Reviving a Debate over Acceptable Standards

By Mary Wiltenburg writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, March 8, 2002 | Go to article overview

Profanity Spreads on the Small Screen ; A Movie on ESPN That Breaks the Barriers of Cussing on TV Is Reviving a Debate over Acceptable Standards


Mary Wiltenburg writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


When a TV movie about the life of basketball coach Bobby Knight airs Sunday, the most colorful aspect of the drama won't be his signature red sweater. It'll be the language.

Actor Brian Dennehey, who portrays the ex-Indiana University coach, will paint the air blue with 15 uses of the f-word in the first 15 minutes alone.

While the profanity in "A Season on the Brink" might not have made Tony Soprano blush if it had been shown on HBO, the debut of the expletive in ESPN's TV movie is a first for an advertiser- supported broadcast or cable network.

Since the 1970s, when Archie Bunker first broke an unwritten law of TV language by saying "hell" and "damn" on the air, the boundaries of what can be said on television have been loosening - particularly lately. From selective swearing on NBC's "The West Wing" to CBS's unedited use of the s-word during "On Golden Pond" last year, language once considered too obscene, indecent, or profane for broadcast into people's living rooms is reviving a debate over standards for the small screen.

Realism, some believe, demands that TV mirrors the language of life as it is actually lived. But critics - including religious groups and children's advocates - are concerned about the impact of coarse language in homes and on the culture in general. Stories on TV, they argue, ought to be told with thoughtfulness and reserve - especially since children may be watching.

"When you are a guest in a family home - which television is - you should show respect for the family you're visiting," says Parents Television Council president Brent Bozell, whose group monitors instances of offensive language on network and cable TV.

Though it is a violation of federal law to broadcast obscene programming according to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations, it can only investigate the content of a program in response to viewer complaints. Of late, the regulatory agency has exhibited a more laissez-faire attitude toward mainstream television's content.

In the "good old days" of TV, stories weren't about realism at all, says Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular TV at Syracuse University. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Profanity Spreads on the Small Screen ; A Movie on ESPN That Breaks the Barriers of Cussing on TV Is Reviving a Debate over Acceptable Standards
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.