Major talk over what wasn't said at Oscars

March 1st, 2005  

Topic: Major talk over what wasn't said at Oscars

Major talk over what wasn't said at Oscars
01 March 2005

LOS ANGELES: At the Oscar awards, what was not said was probably more interesting than what was.

Hollywood's big night was beamed to the world with a five-second time delay, and broadcaster ABC ordered some controversial quips cut before the show, sparking debate about how far political correctness should go and freedom of speech be controlled.

Comedian Robin Williams said it all when he walked on stage with a piece of white tape over his mouth.

Williams was to have performed a song lampooning conservative critic James C Dobson, whose group had criticised cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants for appearing in a video it branded "pro-homosexual".

He was going to do it by concentrating on the dark underside of other cartoon characters, asking, for example whether Casper the Friendly Ghost wore that white sheet as a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Marc Shaiman, who wrote Williams' original routine, said he decided to withdraw the material after ABC raised objections that would have led to him re-writing 11 of 36 lines. ABC declined to comment.

"It's ironic because I feel the song is silly and the situation is silly and yet on the other hand it's extremely serious," Shaiman told Reuters from New York. "This is the most blatant, immature censorship that I've ever come across."

Williams did eventually develop an act questioning cartoon characters' sexuality. But it was a pale imitation of some of the lines originally planned and he looked pained performing it.

"The show lost what would have been the best minute-and-a-half they would have had last night," said Shaiman, before adding: "Where does the buck stop?"

Chris Rock, the edgy black comedian called in to host the show, and, some say, to boost flagging ratings, was also in trouble long before the Oscars got under way.

He previously joked that straight, black men did not watch the Oscars, drawing an angry response from commentators like Jake Lamar, an African American who called Rock's comments "a massive generalisation" and "depressing".

Then Oscar producer Gil Cates weighed in, calling ABC's decision to introduce a time delay in transmitting from Kodak Theatre a "terrible idea" and a concession to political correctness.

Federal regulators may boost fines for US broadcasters following last year's infamous Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction" by singer Janet Jackson in which she bared her breast.

Earlier this month the US House of Representatives voted to raise the maximum indecency fine to as much as $US500,000 ($NZ694,800) from $US32,500.

On the one hand, commentators predict that the more networks are forced to sanitise shows, the less people will be inclined to watch.

But at the same time, the more a show's producer warns viewers they may be offended, the more they are likely to tune in.

"The entertainment industry is figuring out how to spin and use this paranoia we've encountered since the Super Bowl," said Robert Thompson, director of the Centre for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University.

"People wanted to make sure they were present if the next Janet Jackson moment happened."

In the end Rock's content was political and racial but avoided becoming the main issue on the night.

Thompson said Rock's natural instinct would have been to go much further with his humour, but he had too much to lose.

"He is going to play by the house rules," he said. "He realises that certain compromises have to be made."

Williams was not available to comment on his act at the Oscars, but he told the New York Times on Friday:

"For a while you get mad, then you get over it. They're afraid of saying Olive Oyl is anorexic. It tells you about the state of humour. It's strange to think: How afraid are you?",2106,...0a1860,00.html
March 1st, 2005  
Charge 7
Sounds like the ultraliberals' favorite banner of political correctness has blown back on them. When you say "you can't talk about that group like this" another group says "well you can't talk about another group like that either" and so on until you wind up with what you just posted and probably worse.
March 1st, 2005  
it'll get to a point where nothing is funny anymore because comedians are afraid of the fines etc they risk by using new material. from what i hear thats what happening to radio announcers over in the states.

over here our censorship dept & the broadcasting standards aurthority take a fairly "hands off" aproach to many things. we tend to have disclaimers before any abjectionable material.

there is one "citizens" group that tends to get up in everyones business, "the society for the promotion of community standards", whoes main aim seems to be getting foriegn art house films banned from the country. i can't stand them.

if people don't like something, don't watch/listen. the people who make it will work it out!