At my book club meeting yesterday some of my friends were discussing Lady Gaga's newest controversial video "Telephone" featuring Beyoncé, which has apparently been banned on MTV and has been widely discussed in the media lately. Check it out (fair warning, it's rather longish):
Yeah, it's somewhat racy and overtly sexual but I honestly can't say that it's all that shocking or even anything I haven't seen many times before in other venues. In fact, in addition to the obvious Tarantino and Ritchie directorial influences it borrows quite heavily from already established pop culture (MTV's site has a handy guide), whilst also including some not too subtle capitalistic product placement. Now I don't claim to be a Lady Gaga expert (truth be told, I might not even know who she was if not for Internet memes) so I honestly don't know if this is typical of her videos or a radical and tangentially newsworthy departure but regardless, anything deemed controversial by those who know better than you what you should be watching/reading/ingesting/inserting must of course be rightfully decried and destroyed for your own good.
One of my favorite (and I'm assuming somewhat typical of many on the political and social right in this country) reactions comes from Sandy Rios, a FOX News contributor and the president of Culture Campaign, an Illinois-based organization whose mission is "to engage Christians in actively living out and declaring biblical truth in a secular, humanistic American culture" commenting on Megyn Kelly's "news" program America Live today (transcribed by me):
It's the kind of thing we shouldn't even be discussing, much less thinking about from my perspective.Quite right. Who am I as a rational adult to decide for myself what I should be discussing or even thinking when there are religious folks like Sandy Rios around to tell me what to think? And I'm sure you all remember the clause in the First Amendment to the American Constitution that mentions how free speech that anyone else finds objectionable should be censored for everyone's protection by our nanny state government, right? Oh wait, that clause doesn't exist because that line of thought is total bullshit and just this side of fascist totalitarianism.
But Sandy Rios and her conservative Christian ilk think that it definitely should exist (apparently governmental overreach into the lives of American citizens only exists when it comes to taxes and health care). Here's her reaction to Megyn's incredibly obvious and frankly very patriotic statement that this is art and if you don't like it you should just change the channel and not watch it rather than trying to get it banned for everyone:
You know I'll tell you, I'll give a real simple answer to that: you know that our world is filled with sexual predators. You talk about this every day in the news, these girls that are molested and killed and I don't know if you know this or not Megyn but they've done surveys to find out the men who do these kinds of things to these young girls, something like 85% of them, are involved in some sort of porn. So you may not watch it, your kids may not watch it, but I'm telling you the man next door who's a sexual predator probably does watch it and it has an effect on all of us. This should be outlawed, it should be banned.What is the phrase "involved in some sort of porn" supposed to mean? Since it seems pretty unlikely that 85% of sexual predators have actually appeared in pornos (not a smart move if you're trying not to get arrested for molestation or rape) I'll assume that she means that 85% of those guys have merely used or seen pornography at some point. Now I have neither research nor polling numbers to back this up but I'd be pretty surprised if someone told me that less than 85% of all men had used or seen porn of some sort or another, much less those who are sexual predators. What kind of sheltered, wishful thinking version of reality is this woman living in where she's this ignorant of the fundamental underlying aspects of human nature and sexuality?
And I think I've heard this argument for why adults shouldn't be allowed to participate in adult behaviour and commit victimless "crimes" with other consenting adults somewhere before. Oh, yeah:
Be it tobacco, alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex I'm sick and tired of hearing the excuse that these things must be forever expunged from every facet of our society because someone else can't or won't be a responsible parent and teach their kids the difference between what's appropriate for children and what's appropriate for adults. Say it with me, soccer moms: "That's only for grown ups!" The problem of course is that for people like Sandy Rios that distinction just isn't enough; adults must also be protected from all things adult because we're just bigger children with the same intellectual and moral deficiencies as our smaller versions.
On that note, one of my favorite quotes/rants ever is by Denis Leary's character Edgar Friendly from the movie Demolition Man:
You see, according to Cocteau's plan, I'm the enemy, 'cause I like to think; I like to read. I'm into freedom of speech and freedom of choice. I'm the kind of guy who likes to sit in a greasy spoon and wonder, "Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbecued ribs with the side order of gravy fries?" I WANT high cholesterol. I wanna eat bacon and butter and BUCKETS of cheese, okay? I want to smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in the non-smoking section. I want to run through the streets naked with green Jell-o all over my body reading Playboy magazine. Why? Because I suddenly might feel the need to, okay, pal? I've SEEN the future. Do you know what it is? It's a 47-year-old virgin sitting around in his beige pajamas, drinking a banana-broccoli shake, singing "I'm an Oscar Meyer Wiener.Word. Keep your goddamn government hands off my Medicare and just do your job: telling me and other free adults what thoughts we can have in our heads and what substances/objects we can put into our bodies. That's the American way.
[Update: You can watch an edited clip of the FOX News interview here. And it appears that the reports of MTV banning the music video were false. Good on them for supporting free speech rights.]