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Free expression, offensiveness, and sex

March 7, 2013

In case you missed it, the Oscars were a laugh riot, starting out with Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy more or less listing the big-ticket actresses whose breasts have appeared on film during their careers. Even assuming every single instance of revealed breasts was gratuitous, the choice of the song to start the Oscars was less than inspired, at least for me.

Peter Brady hosts the Oscars

Look, I’m a guy. From the very first time I got the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, I have enjoyed certain aspects of the female body. It’s the way things work. We all realize it, which is why there are scenes, ranging from humorous to failed humor about guys’ reactions to certain aspects. But three of the scenes called out by MacFarlane’s song were rape scenes. Many people found that particularly offensive.

As a writer, there are times when I strive to offend. Some things are simply offensive and need to be called out as such. Sometimes that’s done with humor, such as pretty much everything Mel Brooks has ever done.

Sometimes, that’s done with a no-holds-barred dispassionate look at something offensive, a scene that doesn’t allow you to look away, as much as you wish you could, such as the opening of A Time to Kill.

The problem is, sometimes the offensive stuff works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes people take offense, sometimes they don’t. Many of the people angered at MacFarlane’s song weren’t angry about Justin Timberlake’s simulated sexual assault of Janet Jackson during the Super Bowl a decade ago. But many of those same people are angered each February when Sports Illustrated celebrates the sexuality of the female body, body paint, and…oh yeah, swimwear. (If you look hard enough, you can often find it.)

To me, as a writer, if I don’t offend someone with what I write now and again, I’m probably pulling my punches too much. I didn’t find MacFarlane’s song humorous. At first, I found it unfunny. With the rape references thrown in, I think it’s just wrong. But somehow I don’t share that opinion of all the racial, cultural, and sexual stereotypes in Blazing Saddles. MacFarlane’s song was over the line; Mel Brooks movie wasn’t. (And turning the Spanish Inquisition into an Esther Williams swim routine was brilliant, in spite of the suffering and death that occurred there.)

As the man said, I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it?

What about you? What do you find offensive? Have you ever gone out of your way to offend your readers? How did that work out?

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7 Comments
  1. Diane Carlisle permalink
    March 7, 2013 10:34 am

    He is up there on my list of offensive people, to include Kathy Griffin and Bill Maher. They are just not funny to me. There is one comedian who is very funny and his material would be offensive if he weren’t so funny. Louis C.K. can throw out some really dark stuff, but he does it in a way that isn’t offensive to the people he makes fun of.

  2. Suzanna Crean permalink
    March 7, 2013 2:43 pm

    I have a comic scene in the murder mystery I’m writing where two gay gentlemen pair off at a pre-wedding party. When they get upstairs and begin fondling each other, one man suggests they negotiate a price before they take things to the next level. That’s when they learn they are both pro’s and they get into a verbal catfight, one calling the other a slut and one claiming the other isn’t a real blond.

    No actual sex act takes place, yet one woman in my critique groups says the scene is nothing but porn.

    Will I change the scene…no way.

  3. March 7, 2013 2:54 pm

    I have a dark scene that kind of reoccurs in my WIP, but because of the context I don’t think it would offend anyone. I could be wrong of course. I do try not to offend anyone. I think I worry about it too much which is why I haven’t, as yet, written a story I have because a lot of it is biographical and I’m concerned about some of my family’s reaction to it. I will write it, it’s just that I may not publish it until I’m braver about handling the fall out! I don’t think “glorifying” rape has any justifiable excuse. That and child abuse are where my buck stops…

  4. March 7, 2013 2:55 pm

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Thought provoking and interesting to see other people’s reaction…

  5. March 8, 2013 3:48 pm

    What bothered me was the puerility of it—grown men teeheeing over the idea of naked breasts. Are we ever going to grow up in this country? It was a show by boys for boys. The women he was teeheeing over are professionals who were doing their jobs and doing them very well. But yet again, they are to be reduced to nothing but boobs. Grow up. Or maybe buy a brain.

  6. Chris Hamilton permalink
    March 8, 2013 5:03 pm

    Then again, if you played the same song and show topless shots of Jack Black, Jack Nicholson (recently), John Goodman, John Travolta, and half the cast of the Biggest Loser, it would be comedy gold. And a wonderful diet aid.

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