An admission: I used to watch NCIS. I’m not proud of it. It was dark time in my life. I have to say, I didn’t enjoy it, it was mainly peer pressure at first but suddenly I was absorbed into the culture and I couldn’t stop myself. I hated it but I needed it. Fortunately I’m 2 season’s worth of sober. None of that is relevant.
This isn’t about the politics of NCIS…which are fairly deplorable. Honestly, it’s like an hour-long army recruitment ad. But it’s not about that. It could be about anything media-related. Any episode of pretty much any mainstream cop show. Any PG or 12 rated movie. Most computer games. It could be about anything, but it’s about NCIS. Just because.
Specifically it’s about an episode from season 2 called “The Meat Puzzle”. I’m about to spoil it for you, but tough. It was on 8 years ago you should have caught up by now. This episode has pretty much everything you want from NCIS. A pretty gruesome murder. Some pretty gruesome dialogue. A few “zany” characters (Guys she’s a goth AND a scientist! How hip are we, right?!). Mark Harmon playing everything on his vast acting spectrum from “keeping still” all the way up to “keeping really really still”.
And an autopsy. A pretty realistic looking autopsy. Bodies cut up, organs on scales, David McCallum in a blood-spattered visor wielding a bone-saw kind of realistic. They can’t show a nipple or say the word shit…but they can do autopsies.
At the end of Die Hard Bruce Willis famously says “Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker!” before shooting a man to death…the movie is rated 18. In Die Hard 4 “mother fucker” is inaudible (he still shoots a man to death though), it’s rated 12.
Isn’t that a bit weird?
Now, I should admit that I swear all the time. I swear when I hurt myself. I swear when I’m watching sport on television, and the bloody Patriots give you plenty of reason to. I swear when I bake, which is why I will never be a contestant on GBBO*. Poor Mary Berry would faint dead away at the disgusting language which pours out of me when my spongecake isn’t quite done in the middle. So yeah, I swear a lot, and I realize that some people don’t like it. Obviously it offends some, and I will admit perhaps portrays an inherent lack of imagination in the way I express my anger. That’s fine…I get it. But I reckon if the alternative was me gutting prostitutes or performing autopsies…then people would probably be OK with the swearing. I sure hope they would anyway.
And what about sex? Sex scenes. Nudity. Nakedness. Adult themes. However those annoying warnings on the movie channels phrase it. Why is HOUSE realistically depicting a man coughing up pieces of his own lungs or a woman’s skin peeling off deemed acceptable late afternoon viewing where as the most ridiculously staged, soft-focused, vaseline coated, saxophone-soundtracked sex scenes from movies with titles like “Forbidden Fruits” or “Secret Delights” are relegated to the early hours and considered “mature” when they are nothing of the sort?
Are people really more upset by breasts than by blood? I mean, in any real world scenario, and admittedly we’re playing fast and loose with the phrase “real world” here. But, given the option of watching two real, live people either have sex or bloodily hack each other to death…you’d probably choose the sex thing, right? I guess it might depend on the people.
Now I’m not being anti-violence. I love violence almost as much as I love swearing. I often manage to incorporate the two of them into both sport and baking. So I’m not being that guy. The violence on TV makes people violent guy. I hate that guy.
I don’t even have a theory…which is odd for me. I just think it’s weird where the line’s of acceptability have been drawn up. With the advent of the awesome Game of Thrones** and majestic Mad Men and other superior TV works on the none-free-to-air channels it’s possible the question is becoming moot…it’s still weird though.
*As I was writing this…I was watching the final of GBBO on BBC iPlayer. Kimberly’s pie was soggy and Ruby didn’t win. I swore, heavily, about both those things.
**I discovered today that typing “sex bad violence good” into Google Images gets you lots of references to GoT. I hope people don’t really think that about the show. Somehow I imagine this would make George RR Martin laugh. It made me laugh.