Opinion: When shit hits the fan base

Seth Cohen

Seth Cohen

Seth Cohen is a senior magazine journalism major. Contact him at [email protected].

Yep. I said it. I said the word “shit” because I can, which when you think about it in this day and age is rather tame. I’m talking about the word “shit” because it is now on a few cable networks’ TV shows.

First, take the network channel FX for example. If you watch shows like “Wilfred,” “Louie,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Rescue Me” and even “Nip/Tuck” when it was on, they have the freedom to say the word “shit” and the Federal Communications Commission can’t do shit about it. Keep in mind FX is not like HBO or Showtime, which have had that freedom for many years.

FX is a cable TV channel that almost anyone can watch. FX, through the years, has taken that freedom of saying the word “shit” and using it in witty, yet presentable situations. They don’t just exploit the word for what it is. They use it when someone actually feels the need to say it. For instance, the show “Louie,” starring comedian Louie C.K. (a personal favorite), uses “shit” a lot. C.K. explains to Joel Keller, a writer for AOL TV, how he went from an HBO show called “Lucky Louie” to FX’s “Louie.”

Merely explaining the irony of how HBO didn’t like his humor using foul language when on FX, sure, he can’t say the F-word, but when it comes to the word “shit,” he can work his comedy around it just fine and FX loves it.

“I know FX pretty much takes everything to almost the limits it can go. You swear a lot, but it’s definitely not dirty,” said C.K. “Yeah, they go pretty far. And we don’t do anything just like gratuitously raunchy on this show. It’s more the ability to just say ‘shit’ when you’re upset, that’s pretty great.”

USA Network has also taken strides to keep an open mind. I was surprised when I heard the word “bullshit” on its new series “Suits.” This all started with an infamous episode of South Park. Yeah, I’m sure you know which episode I’m talking about. Back in 2001, South Park went a few extra miles in its fifth season episode titled “It Hits the Fan” where the word “shit” was used 162 times. Co-creator Matt Stone has said how the word “shit” is justified by context and how producers from Comedy Central allowed it to be broadcast.

“No one cares anymore,” said Stone. “The standards are almost gone. No one gives a shit or a bullshit.” He’s right, though. If this had been the ‘60s, all hell would break loose, but we’re at the time where the word “shit” can be said without anyone caring. In the 1939 film “Gone with the Wind,” actor Clark Gable says the famous line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

The film was fined $5,000 for using the word damn. Today, you can hear the word damn on almost all networks, cable or broadcast. Pretty soon, our First Amendment will have taken a toll on how the FCC sees our broadcast claims. But for now, I’m just glad to be able to say the word “shit” 15 times. Shit. 16.