Tag: 30 Rock

What the !#$@%*?

It’s difficult to find an American who doesn’t know what “amigo” or “gracias” means. Eventually, those words will be considered part of English, in the same way that nobody thinks “patio,” “rodeo,” or “coyote” are solely Spanish.

However, there is still one area in which American culture hasn’t embraced the allure of Spanish. I’m talking about vulgarity, obscenity, and indecency — basically, the naughty words.

I’m not sure why Spanish curse words haven’t crossed over. It’s not that we don’t like to swear in this country. And the dreaded bleep on television has now become a badge of honor.

Indeed, as the LA Times points out, “Once largely relegated to slips of the tongue during live events, censored cursing has evolved into a pre-planned, or at least largely expected, punch line that’s network-approved and no longer lowbrow.”

But will Spanish words ever be bleeped out? It’s not just an academic question.

It stands to reason that as America grows more multilingual — and it’s doing just that, regardless of your feelings on the matter — we’ll hear more Spanish on the airwaves. And some of that Spanish will be of the naughty variety.

Now, the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates broadcast indecency, says that it doesn’t matter what language the offending words are in. The FCC is always poised to bring the hammer down on those who sully our culture — well, in theory, anyway.

The truth, according to many annoyed English-language broadcasters, is that the commission frequently gives a pass to Spanish indecency because “the Spanish-speaking staff at the FCC has traditionally been undermanned.”

Yes, there just aren’t enough bilingual bureaucrats available to translate the filth flying around on TV and radio. Until recently, the FCC could get away with this. They assumed all that vulgarity came from Univision shows or radio stations that blared ranchera music — you know, the stuff that mainstream America ignores.

For the most part, the only time one hears Spanish on hit shows is for effect. It pops up when the tough cop or caring doctor is in a rundown barrio, and the natives are running wild. You also might hear it when an extra is portraying a maid or gardener. And for real diversity, they might throw a janitor in there too.

But it’s just a matter of time before a middle-America show features a character who speaks Spanish frequently. Already, we have the first truly bilingual television series.

So what happens when a lovable character on a top show mutters, “pinche”? Will the FCC take initiative and bleep “culero” or just let it go, hoping against hope that millions of viewers don’t know that it means “assfucker”?

Well, there’s only one way to find out. I challenge all those television writers who take pride in their edginess to put up or shut up. Have one of your white, urbane characters learn some Spanish and then casually throw in some obscenities. After all, who is going to complain if Liz Lemon or Sue Sylvester tells someone to go chinga themselves?

Trust me, the FCC won’t even notice.

A One-Two Counterpunch

Despite my cynicism about the Academy Awards (see the previous posts), two recent bits of pop culture have convinced me that the infiltration of Hispanics into the mass media is indeed continuing unabated.

First, I was pleased to see that on “30 Rock” (the best comedy on television), Salma Hayek has a running guest-star role as a nurse. This is a step up from the usual maid-nanny-junkie roles that most Latina actresses are relegated to. It’s still not quite a doctor, however, so there’s room for improvement.

Of course, I was a bit surprised to see Hayek, a Mexican actress, portraying a Nuyorican character. I would imagine that both Chicanos and Puerto Ricans would be up in arms about the cross-cultural portrayal, but maybe we can all agree that getting a Latina on television is for the greater good. More likely, we can all agree that Hayek is a talented actress who deserves more work and is, you know, rather pleasant to look at, regardless of the circumstances.

Second, I saw the movie “Hamlet 2,” a comedy about a hapless high school drama teacher. The film is biting and funny, but for the purposes of this blog, my emphasis is on its cast. Many of the struggling thespians are Hispanic teens, and the movie doesn’t shy away from milking cultural differences for laughs. I don’t recall seeing a movie where multiple Hispanic teens appear onscreen, yet aren’t a scary gang coming after the white protagonist. Along those lines, it was also refreshing that one of the Latino kid’s fathers is an intellectual rather than a gangbanger. This is incremental progress that we shouldn’t get too excited about, but it’s positive nonetheless.

Of course, if “Hamlet 2” is going to be remembered for anything, it won’t be for the scene where the prissy white girl says, “I’ll show you why, vato,” and throws herself at the Latino guy she’s been lusting after for the entire movie. As good as that interaction is, the movie will always be known as the source of the “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus” number:

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