I bet you never thought you’d see the day when you could pick up a copy of the New York Times and see the word “douche” on page one. And we’re not talking hygiene! That’s right — in today’s “More Than Ever, You Can Say That on Television,” the story begins with the casual pejorative — a favorite of adolescents ages 12 to 20 (and a certain segment of the testosterone-heavy brotherhood who add the suffix “-bag”) — to make the case for a language-based trend piece.
You see, George Carlin’s 1972 classic “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” is a thing of the past:
On many nights this fall, it has been possible to tune in to broadcast network television during prime time and hear a character call someone else a “douche.”
And it’s quantitative! In 2009, “the word has surfaced at least 76 times” across “26 prime-time network series” — up from “30 uses on 15 shows in all of 2007 and just six instances on four programs in 2005.” These comedy writers sure are creative with their newfangled slang.
“[T]he word “douche” is neither obscene nor profane,” the Times explains, but “it seems to represent the latest of broadcast television’s continuing efforts to expand the boundaries of taste, in part to stem the tide of defections by its audience to largely unregulated cable television.” A jump? Maybe. But the copy is entertaining and the story is already rising on the most popular stories list, currently sitting at number four in the most e-mailed column.
Interestingly, watchdog blog NYT Picker takes issue with the story, not for its obscenities, but for its sources:
It may be true, and probably is.
But seeing TV reporter Edward Wyatt and the NYT base its front-page reporting on numbers the paper actually requested from the Parents Television Council — a notoriously conservative TV watchdog group that has brought 99 percent of all indecency complaints before the FCC (we learned that from an excellent 2004 NYT story) — makes us a little sick.
The blog goes on to point out the absurdity in refusing to print the word “shit” — as in last week’s story about famed twitter ShitMyDadSays — while basing an entire piece around the word “douche,” calling “the indecency obsession that governs television” and the Times “outmoded and anachronistic.”
And not only did the Times cite the Parents Television Council — they worked directly with them: “Wyatt’s story reports that the NYT asked the PTC to compile the numbers for its “douche” census.” Is that reliable reporting, the blog asks? “The PTC has a stated, singular bias, and its interests are served by Wyatt’s story in promoting its cause. Shouldn’t the NYT do its own monitoring and reporting on these trends?”
As strange, and possibly wrong as it is, it does nothing to take away from the story’s entertainment value. Seeing the Times use douche is like hearing your grandparents curse.
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