The SyFy Channel, Settting A New Low In Political Correctness Censorship

This is so incomprehensibly stupid that I hardly know how to react to it.

The SyFy Channel, as is its wont, was running a movie this morning that has nothing to do with science fiction, John Landis’s  odd horror/comedy “An American Werewolf in London,” from 1981. When the two doomed hikers visit a gloomy pub in the English countryside, one of the locals tells a joke:

“Here now, let me finish!  So halfway over the ocean the  engines run low on petrol so  they have to lighten the plane.  So they heave out all the baggage, but it’s still too heavy.  So they chuck out the seats, but it’s still too heavy!  Finally this Froggy steps up and shouts “Viva la France” and leaps out.  Then an Englishman steps up and shouts `God  save the Queen!’ and leaps out.  But the plane is still  too heavy.  So the Yank  delegate from Texas steps up,  shouts, `Remember the Alamo!’ and chucks out the Mexican!”

I’ve always liked that joke myself, but whether you like it or not, SyFy decided that your delicate ears shouldn’t be sullied by the punchline. In the edited version the channel showed, the last sentence could only be heard this way:

“So the Yank  delegate from Texas steps up,  shouts, `Remember the Alamo!’ and [ ?].”

And what? Why was everyone in the pub laughing? How does the joke end? “The damn hearing aid kicked out again, Margaret!”

All content editing of movies shown on TV is unethical in my opinion, because it spoils the creative product, robs viewers the chance to see and hear what moviegoers did, and substitutes the sensibilities of some hyper-sensitive TV editor for those of the screenwriter, the director, and most importantly, the viewer. It is paternalism, a violation of autonomy, artistically disrespectful, and obnoxious. In the case of words being cut out or replaced with bowdlerized replacements (“Forget you!”), the saving grace is that one can almost always figure out what the real word or words were, raising the question, “If we can see that ‘Forget you!” obviously replaces “Fuck you!’, why not just let the character say, ‘Fuck you!’?”

What Syfy did is even worse, because it expands the use of this offensive censorship from the realm of profanity, vulgarity and obscenity into  oppressive political correctness. How dare Syfy decide that Mexicans need to be protected from a joke in a movie, and not even an anti-Mexican joke at that? (If anything, the joke is an anti-Texan joke, and I suppose the snip could have been designed to shield Texans, though that would really be strange.) How dare an editor cut out a line from a movie that makes the sequence that went before incomprehensible? How dare a TV channel use political correctness in its most brainless form as justification for this abuse of fairness and artistic integrity?

Such censorship is Orwellian in nature, an effort at social mind-control by people who have no business presuming to dictate what the public should and shouldn’t see, hear, laugh at and think. “Oh, no, mustn’t allow the public to hear anything suggesting violence against a minority group” —even if the violence is 1) alluded to in a silly (and old) joke 2) referred to by a British character 3) in a comedy 4) from thirty years ago!  It’s frightening that America has anyone who reasons this way, and horrifying that such people can flourish in the communications media. SyFy isn’t alone in the cable world, unfortunately: two years ago I criticized a similar hatchet job by American Movie Classics on the western “El Dorado.”

It is conceivable that SyFy’s cut was as much inspired by cowardice as stupidity. The suits there are probably terrified of some organized protest by a Hispanic group seeking cheap publicity by feigning being offended.  It is no excuse, SyFy. If you are incapable of standing up to the political correctness bullies and grievance-mongers, it is irresponsible of you to be in the business of broadcasting and entertainment.

Yup, that Texan threw the Mexican off the plane, har-har, and so what? The idea that hearing the punchline to a joke is going to harm anyone is the real science fiction.

 

7 thoughts on “The SyFy Channel, Settting A New Low In Political Correctness Censorship

  1. Yes…if only we could purge our society of humor…we could then get rid of any possible joke that someone, somewhere might deem offensive. Someone needs to write a screenplay re/ the current zeitgeist. A few hundred years from now, this stuff will be looked upon as kooky as bleeding bodily humors or contemplating how many angels fit on the head of a pin.

    • I sure hope you’re right. We might also be living in Political Correctness USA, where a robot Chis Matthews decrees which words and phrases are really “dog whistles,” all ethnic humor is banned, laws make it illegal to criticize or insult any public official who is not gleaming white, any religion that isn’t Christian, anyone under the age of 21, and anyone who isn’t a heterosexual male, and every piece of literature, movie and videogame is screened for “offensive” content.

      I’m not betting against it.

  2. Worse is the censorship is by the FCC in fining CBS $550,000 over the Janet Jackson “nipplegate” wardrobe malfunction.
    Worse because the censorship comes not from a private broadcasting company but from the government and is of something that is harmless i.e. censorship of a breast which can never hurt anyone.
    It is not the government’s job to protect people from non-harms.

    • Well, yes, the Constitution makes it clear that state censorship is worse than private censorship. Not the subject of the post, however.

      And the Superbowl is a family show. There should be no unadvertised bare breasts in the broadcast—it’s a harm, if not a major one. The NFL/CBS should have refused to pay Jackson for breach of contract. It was unfair to fine CBS, I agree. But by your logic, they could have spontaneous oral during half-time and nobody could complain. I don’t think so.

  3. That station is part of the company that ran the american movie channel.Which has gone down hill!.That channel would never show an al jolson film.they cut holiday inns.Abraham number.Hollywood has been promoting politcal correctness since the 1990’s to increase their greedy profit.Remember they appeased the religious right unitl 1965 for the same reason, Turner classic movies won’t explore any more films of the third riech.They refuse to introduce Ingrid Bergmans only film she did in Nazi Germany ,because every on got mad at her having an affair with Roberto Rosellini,They fear every one will get mad at her all over again and not watch Casblanca any more.Political correctness offends me. If it was up to me it would be illegal with Jail sentence.Two year of studying the constitution and the first amendment,during that time.I hate the poltically correct.They are abusing their rights! Censorship,in the name of tolerance is a back stabing conservative and communist thing.It goes back before carl Marx too.Queen Neffertiti was censored after her death

  4. I could go on and on about how the SyFy Channel (as with other cable outlets) has gone downhill in its programming. I’ll just say that they can keep their now standard repertoire of cheap, home-made creature features!

    Now, I don’t object to they or any other station/network dubbing over or bleeping out words that are obscene and inherently wrong for a younger audience. But political correctness? That I do have a problem with. That joke you mentioned, BTW, was old when I was young. It’s not anti-Mexican or anti-Texan. We still tell it all the time. Nor should it be offensive to Americans of Latin descent… who are not Mexicans. Suppressing it like like was the real insult to Texan Latinos, some of whose ancestors died for the Republic at the Alamo.

  5. It takes the ump out of a movie when syfy decides to censor the profanity instead of at least replacing an acceptable interpretation of the word or phrase. LOL. Rating just dropped to the minuses for SYFY CH.

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