Freedom of Profanity and Gore? Is That the Best We Can Do?
By Steve Pauwels
It’s estimated a total of 50,000 colonists perished or were wounded during America’s Revolutionary War. Lives, fortunes and sacred honor upended — all in the pay of a liberty cause which eventuated in a formal compact of divinely-bestowed rights. Principal among them was “freedom of speech”, long cherished ever since. It’s a blessing purchased at great sacrifice and indulged colorfully, if sometimes dubiously, in our churning entertainment world — recently, for example, by Sylvester Stallone and a celebrity-studded spectacle in one of our major cities.
I often feel sad when I think about Stallone. There’s no denying he’s a copiously talented guy — not only a filmmaker, but writer and painter, as well. The New York City native can claim credit for some of the most financially successful, landmark movies of the modern era (e.g., the “Rocky” and “Rambo” series); and pursuant to that, some of the most immediately identifiable characters of popular culture. “Sly” has demonstrated when he takes a stab at ambitious cinema, he can attain it (the first, second and final “Rocky” flicks come to mind, along with 1982′s First Blood and ’97′s Copland.)
Interviewed, he comes across as a nice chap, reflective, intermittently waxing philosophical over big, story-telling aspirations. I’m told he’s a professing, church-going Christian. Indicators all of an individual who rigorously reveres Constitutionally ratified freedom of expression.
So, what’s creative-spirit Stallone doing lately with all that liberty, aesthetic ability and big-screen vision?
Screenrant.com’s Michael Kennedy informs, “In an unsurprising, yet what for many will still be a disappointing turn of events, the MPAA has officially bestowed a PG-13 rating on the Sylvester Stallone produced action threequel, The Expendables 3.”
As can be inferred from that announcement, the decision is expected to ruffle some movie-going feathers.
Stallone explains, “[I]t’s very close to an R, believe me, it;’s right there. But I think we owe it to the next generation.”
Kennedy specifies: the thriller’s PG-13 status means “the level of graphic violence and dropped f-bombs” one might expect in a ” ‘hard R’ blood-fest” will be lacking.
So, I’ve gotta ask Expendables 3′s sixty-eight-year-old main man: Kudos to you, Sly, for toning things down a bit, but why the defensively apologetic tone? Is look-at-me bloodletting and credits-to-credits profanity so filmically indispensable you need to squirm just for taking a partial pass on them?
This particular pop culture ripple reminds me of similar grumping which stirred when Bruce Willis’ Live Free or Die Hard (number four in that franchise) had the temerity to snip the unvarnished f-word out of hero John McClain’s signature insult (“Yipee-kay-yay mother-@#!$%^&”). Then again, obscenity-cherishing hosannas followed when the full imprecation was crassly plugged back into number five’s Good Day to Die Hard.
Honestly, my gut reaction to the cinephiles pounding the table for more silver-screen viscera and vulgarity is rather blunt: Grow up. Please.
Which brings us to the fictional Rocky’s hometown – Philadelphia — site of another recent sleaze-heaping happening. CBSPhilly reports: at July 4th’s ” ‘Welcome America’ concert on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway … nearly all the musicians filled their performances with expletives.”
Before a crowd of thousands — including lots of kids — performers like hip-hop band The Roots, Nicki Minaj (“in buxom getup” says phillymag‘s Victor Fiorillo), British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran (whose new tune apparently prominently features Die Hard‘s favorite crudity) and comedian-host Marlon Wayans reportedly peppered the evening’s supposedly family-friendly festivities with gutter language. So overwhelming did the coarseness become that the gathering’s broadcaster, WPVI, repeatedly abandoned attempts at bleeping individual words and unsubtly cut away from the concert altogether.
Note: some observers insist the TV stations’ bowdlerizing efforts were unnecessary — that the offending parties actually self-censored, not exactly enunciating the bad words.
Who knows for sure? In any case, the original, unsanitized songs, despite their florid feculence, have become musical staples of our age – and now fodder for an annual, patriotic celebration. A degraded national culture? The putrefaction of America’s common standards? This stuff is inescapable testimony to it.
Ours is a day of cheap laughs, cheap thrills, cheap titillations. Cheaply applied liberties.
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