I was watching Friends with my daughter over the weekend. It’s the one where Monica and Rachel have a cat fight and Phoebe breaks this up by pulling the other two’s hair. Her mastery assured, I remembered that Phoebe allows herself a little trash talk: “If we were in prison, you guys would be my bitches!”
It’s a funny line and as the action progressed I was pleasantly looking forward to watching it. But then the scene ended abruptly without the anticipated payoff. The line had been cut. Chopped. Lying unscreened on the censor’s floor.
Maybe my memory was faulty? What to do? Well, Youtube is very good for these sort of nerdy fact checks. I’ve read that it is a very male dominated medium and so can believe it is often used to settle many an annoying pub argument. So, I found the scene, played it and no, I wasn’t wrong, the line was most definitely part of the original episode. The censors (who are they?) had judged the line inappropriate.
Now, this isn’t in the same category as the famous Major scene in Fawlty Towers that is always snipped from BBC reruns these days. Nor was this the day time pruning of some of the - admittedly - filthy lines in the film Grease.* So what was it?
The word ‘bitch’? Come on - kids these days hear worse than this every day. In the classroom. Probably from their teachers.
Is it perhaps the suggestion that in prison a ‘bitch’ is the dominant person’s unwilling same sex, sex slave? Yeah, that’s probably a bit rapey for day time TV.**
Or maybe, it was just a funny line. Cut that. Fuck it, humour is passé these - we just harangue our audience with our hard left politics.
Dunno. But a piece of my soul was snipped away along with those few seconds of celluloid and, although I’ve deliberately picked an asinine example, we’re becoming worryingly more censorious as a society even as our means of being free (the internet, social media) explodes.
There’s something sinister, Orwellian, about official sources and memory diverging. Like a picture of the revolution that progressively ‘disappears’ the original heroes as they fall from favour, does real or official memory take precedence? Instinctively I’m against censorship. One draws the line very, very narrowly.
I’ll return to this subject. But first, enjoy the scene as it was intended.
I saw Grease when it came out in 1978. The songs and dialogue and - indeed - the subject matter is pretty filthy. Sailed right over my head though. Didn’t get any of the many sexual references. Until I watched it years later. Should it be censored? Or should movie makers self censor? TBC
“A bit rapey” - this term, is a strange one that I’ve only come across in the last year or so. It is ALWAYS said by a woman. There’s probably an article in male / female relations that explores the meaning behind the words. Not today.