"Fag" -- come on, say it with me
"Fag" is okay on TV! Sometimes.
Yes, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council
-- the busy body industry umbrella group that exists in order to deflect complaints filed to (and criticism placed by) the federal regulator that is the CRTC
-- has ruled that words must be understood in context.
This older decision
-- dating from January 20 (and brought to my attention here)
-- is about the use of the word "fag" on The Comedy Network
at 8:30 at night.
The show was Comedy Now,
a stand-up showcase that this time featured Gord Disley.
And here's buddy's shtick (as transcribed in the ruling):
"So Pride Day's coming up, huh? I'm not a fag myself; if I was, I'd tell ya. I can't, so I won't.
"I mean, really, homophobia in the year 2000 looks particularly stupid, doesn’t it? 'Cause it's the year 2000. And we're all in the same freaking boat, so just get over it. This is what I tell people that I come across that I don't want to bother with, who are homophobic."
There's still more "fag" talk: "Fags renovate like a [muted phrase: "son of a bitch"]. Me, I'm not good with tools. I mean, renovating for me is putting a candle in a bottle, you know. Am I in the right apartment? Homosexual men have projects around the house. You hand a fag a square foot and say "make it attractive", no problem. I mean I know men with bachelor apartments and sliding doors. Like French doors. Window boxes, hardy cacti. Man, you walk into a house full of straight boys and suggest a project, you know what you get? 'Uhh, you m'ean like take the empties back? I've got some popsicle sticks; you can build a birdhouse. What?"
The Comedy Channel responded to a viewer complaint by stating that its programming "tends to be more risqué and controversial" than that in the mainstream. Or at least, they hope to goodness it is. Cuz why would anyone pay extra for Comedy Channel otherwise, for the same-old, same-old?
The defence reads: "In this piece... Mr. Disley begins by condemning homophobia. Mr. Disley uses his comedy to push socially accepted boundaries and deal with touchy subject matter. Although it is not always dealt with in a politically correct fashion, it is his style of humour."
The final decision sides with The Comedy Network: "Much modern comedy has a discriminatory edge, taking advantage of the propensity of individuals to find humour in difference." And, quoting from a previous ruling, "It would be unreasonable to expect that the airwaves be pure, antiseptic and flawless. Society is not."
"The goal... is not to ensure purity on the airwaves; it is to protect against harmful speech.... In the matter at hand, the humour appeared to be aimed, if anywhere, at straight men, rather than gays, at the creatively-challenged rather than at the creatively adept."
Some argue that the word "fag" is always nasty (like the complainant, eh). Well, it is nasty. But are we to allow this word to control us? A straight guy who's trashing bigots on stage doesn't let it control him. That's got to be healthier than our reaction -- fear.
In the end, the broadcast council announced that the word was acceptable. Of course, adjudicators couldn't quite bring themselves to approve of a censorship-free television environment: "This is not to suggest that there might not be circumstances in which it might be presented in a sneering, derisive, nasty tone but that is not what the Panel considers the present usage to be. It is benign, light-hearted, distinctively tickling. The Panel finds no breach of the Human Rights Clause in any aspect of the broadcast under consideration."
I suppose this will have to do.