When I was in my early 20s it was during the mid 90s. Body piercing was the thing to do. I had a friend who wanted to get her brow pierced, so we took a drive all the way down to Venice Beach to some hole in the wall piercing place (why she couldn’t get it done where we lived, I don’t know) so she could get her brow done.
Now, Venice has a bit of a rep, and that’s good. There’s nothing worse than waiting around for someone to get a piece of metal rammed through their face and there’s nothing else around to look at. Good thing that Venice has a dynamic array of weirdos and freaks year-round. Plus, there’s the dudes working out, and there’s that big mural of Jim Morrison, which is pretty interesting to look at for about 38 seconds, mostly to wonder why someone chose to paint a picture of Jim Morrison on a wall in the first place. Another thing to do while at Venice is to look for all the locations that appear in the opening credits of Three’s Company.
Looking for such exciting locals as the bike path where Jack fell over on his bike while ogling some hot chick enevitably leads to humming, then outright singing the theme to the show. The theme song sounds like the guy singing is drunk.
But it’s not just the theme song, the show itself is a total mindf**k. Supposedly, it’s based on some Britcom called Man of the House. I’ve never seen the original show, but if it’s a trippy as the American version, I’m glad that I haven’t. Ok, the show is about 3 roomates: two chicks, the ultra-babe Chrissy, and the plain but feisty Janet (she has to bebecause she’s not as hot. She’s like Kate Jackson in Charlie’s Angels. Sabrina was the smart one. She’s the one who kicked ass because whe wasn’t so hot that a guy wouldn’t sock her in the face), and the one dude, a chef named Jack. Now, apparently the free love 60s had totally passed their landlord, Mr. Roper, by because he wouldn’t allow single opposite-sex people to live in the same unit, even if one of them is the pretty-in-a-plain-way Janet. So, in order to get Mr. Roper to allow Jack to stay, the 3 roomies had to convince Roper that there is ansolutely no possibility that Jack would ever bed either of his roomies premaritally. They tell their landlord that Jack is gay.
This is where, as they say, the hijinks ensue, but after watching the pilot episode, it’s not so much hijinks as it is let the gay-bashing begin. This show is terrible! I don’t mean that it’s terrible in the qualitative sense, although there is a reasonable argument to be made that the show is an exercize in crap. But, this show is totally offensive. Mr. Roper’s incessant anti-gay remarks (he calls Jack a “fairy” and “tinkerbell”) are nearly cringe-inducing. Not to mention there’s the total demeaning depiction of women in the show. Chrissy is really nothing more than some guy’s whack fantasy — blond and stupid.
Did you know that there’s an episode where you supposedly can see John Ritter’s balls?
Really. He’s wearing really short shorts and he raises his leg and there they are. I heard that the episode had aired for years before some kid watching the episode on Nick At Nite saw it and told her parents. I don’t know how a kid saw it and all those adults that saw it did not.
What I kept thinking while I was watching was how politically incorrect the show is. The show debuted in the 1970s, and watching 70s TV is an exercise in spot-the-stereotype. You can pick virtually any show, and there’s bound to be some character who would never make it to air these days. Sometimes, in the case of shows like What’s Happening? or Good Times it’s the entire show that’s offensive. I often hear people lament that back in the 70s you could get away with alot more than you can get away with now. Some people say that movies like Blazing Saddles could never be made in our politically correct climate or that characters like Archie Bunker would never make it to air. That’s probably true (it’s also not true that the 70s were some magical no-holds-barred era of entertainment, either. you might not see Archie Bunker on TV but I certainly saw Dennis Franz’s bare ass in primetime). There’s alot of complaining about political correctness. If one spends any sizable amount of time watching Fox News, you’ll hear quite a great deal of bitching and moaning about political correctness.
But is TV today more politically correct than TV 3 decades ago? And if it is, does it really matter? What’s so wrong with being politically correct?
Political correctness, according to Random House is, ” marked by or adhering to a typically progressive orthodoxy on issues involving esp. race, gender, sexual affinity, or ecology”. Ok, that’s the formal definition. Others say that political correctness simply means that you cant say anything about anyone that might hurt someone else’s feelings (and those people are always hypersensitive about everything). They say that people are forced to be polite at the expense of telling it like it is — at the expense of telling the truth. Some say that political correctness is a form of obfuscation, especially when we talk about issues like race or one’s national origin or legal status. For example, if I want to say something like, “a lot of Mexicans use up social services”, I might be accused of being a racist. I might say (then) that that accusation is an example of political correctness. I might say that calling me a “racist” is a way that some people attempt to obfuscate the fact that many illegal individuals of Mexican decent use a great deal of social services. I might say that I’m just telling it like it is, and if what I say offends people, that’s too bad. The truth needs to be told no matter who it offends.
That’s what I might say.
The idea is, is that being politically correct, some say, is the habit of focusing so much on not offending people that an issue never gets discussed fully. Being politically correct, when you get down to it, is a kind of lie. The truth is often unpleasant or offensive to some individual or group. If we hold back because we’re trying not to appear to be racist, homophobic, sexist, ageist, classist, or anthrocentric, we’re not being completely honest with each others or perhaps more importantly, we’re not being honest with ourselves. All lies are insidious, but self-deception is a particularly damaging lie. When we lie to ourselves we distort how the world truly is. If we don’t see the world how it is, we cannot navigate in it successfully. If we fail to see the truth, we are deprived of the Good life (for more on the harmful effects of deception and not living in reality, see Robert Nozick’s The Experience Machine).
But some people may argue that the aim of political correctness isn’t to deceive people. The aim is not that people are harmed by not calling a gay man “tinkerbell” or by not making blatantly racist comments. The goal of political correctness is being respectful of people and appreciating the fact that any person, no matter their gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, is entitled to respect. It isn’t a lie, it’s being polite. The old attitude, that it was morally acceptable to call a gay man a “fairy” or that it’s ok to act like an Archie Bunker, denies the intrinsic dignity of people. Those who say that they do not like or want to practice political correctness, are, at heart anti-Kantian. Kant wrote that each rational agent is entitled to respect (of his choices and autonomy). Do fail to respect the individual is a violation of his rights.
The point (initially) isn’t to impose some sort of Orwellian thought police-esque you-can’t-say-that attitude on everyone (especially when we disagree with others) or to stop anyone from saying what they want to say. We are well aware that no matter what is said there’s a chance that someone or some group may be offended by what is said. Being “politically correct” is nothing more than a reminder than other people are entitled to the same kind of respect that we would desire for ourselves. That it’s just not nice to call a gay man tinkerbell…. unless he shows you his balls.
Then it’s perfectly ok.