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Patria-Kaye Aarons | We can say that now?

Published:Tuesday | October 18, 2016 | 10:00 AM

Thanks to the resurrected utterances of Donald Trump from just over a decade ago, the world has been treated to more feline references than its prudish living rooms can take. I don't even know if it's a word I can type here in this article, but television news networks went to town liberally dropping the P-bomb in nearly every interview this past week. Somewhere in his wittle cage, Tweety Bird blushed.

Curse words you can and can't say on TV, specifically American TV, have changed drastically in the last five years. There was a time when some words were just unacceptable. They were considered filthy and not fit for airplay, before or after the 9 p.m. watershed.

Oh, how times have changed! I remember about five years ago when soap operas flew the gate on the B-word. It's as if a memo got circulated to all the writers in Hollywood and every woman was scripted to have an on-camera showdown. They all ended with one character calling another one Queen B and either slapping her across the face or throwing a glass of champagne between her eyes. That became a staple Friday evening cliffhanger.

The much cruder three-letter word for 'butt' was also once outlawed. Not anymore. 'Damn' and 'goddamn' are now regular occurrences. So are 'crap', 'boobs', 'balls' and 'screw'. I also see some networks slipping in the nickname for Richard in reference to a man's member as if it's just another word. If you read the dialogue for some sitcoms, they actually script the beeps.

Research done by the US watchdog Parents Television Council showed some significant increases in the use of cuss words before 9 p.m. on networks 2005-2010. ABC went up 74 per cent; NBC, 34 per cent; and Fox, a whopping 269 per cent.

To be fair to our local gatekeepers, most of these words cannot fly on TVJ or CVM. But the Broadcasting Commission regulates local terrestrial TV, not cable. The challenge is, foreign TV programming makes up the vast majority of what we watch on local stations (heavily edited in some instances). And with fast-growing cable penetration in Jamaica, and a third licensee about to roll out, once-considered lewd language invariably reaches the ears of our children. And they think them fine to repeat.

It raises questions about the shifting bar on what's allowed not just on TV, but at home. Parents are letting more slide. When I was a kid, I couldn't say H - E - Double Hockey Sticks in front of my Auntie Jackie. It would be swiftly followed by a shrill "Pickney!" and a stern look.

 

SHOULD STILL BE KIDS

 

I find myself listening to the under-10 kids in my life speak and I get uncomfortable. I'm cool Auntie Patti. Never believed in sheltering children or curtailing their expression, but the way some speak make me writhe. And I blame TV.

Watched Disney lately? I don't know how age-appropriate those shows are. There is sexual innuendo, casual cursing, and kissing. A lot of kissing. The infringements are more prevalent in the live action shows than in the cartoons, but the behaviours and speech kids today find normal - and funny. Seriously, my seven-year-old nephew doesn't need to be walking around calling people 'sucker'. And he learnt that from Disney.

I'm on the verge of insisting that the kids in my life have to watch both Disney and Nickelodeon supervised. I've already cut off Cartoon Network after 9 p.m. Nothing that comes after that is kid-worthy.

I feel a little like my grandma writing this article and warning parents about the dangers of 'force ripe', but it's necessary. Sure, kids should be precocious and full of sass. But they should still be kids. They should still have boundaries, and the influences we expose them to should still be age appropriate. And they should have manners.

If we get to a place where we allow American principles to dilute our own, we will be in worse trouble. I love how articulate children from the United States are, but I don't like that it sometimes comes with an adult sense that anything goes.

There is a delicate balance we must strike. The moral of the story: Watch TV with your children and let them know that not everything Merica pickney do they can do, too.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@yahoo.com, or tweet @findpatria.