Freedom to Watch

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Last weekend I saw that The Wolf of Wall Street was on TV at midnight, and I thought, Really? The next day I watched it during the day because we have one of those things that lets you watch TV shows whenever you want. I’d seen the film when it was in the theater and imagined that it must’ve been edited or censored for TV… Nope. And so there I was on a Sunday afternoon watching all the depravity of the high powered, drug fueled, sex filled life of Wall Street brokers unfold in my living room.

The surprising thing was that this was on a regular broadcast channel, not cable. To even get this kind of cursing in the US, the show would have to be on cable. Even then movies on cable TV are heavily edited. If something R rated, PG-13 or even PG is shown on TV (other than subscription movie channels) is has to be ‘sanitized’ and all the swear words need to be removed. Sometimes with humorous results. So, on Sunday was a bit shocked, not at the content in the film, I’d seen it before, but by the fact that all of it was still in the film on TV.

Taboos

It’s odd what different cultures consider acceptable and taboo. Showing nudity and profanity on broadcast TV in the US is considered much worse than showing a violent shootout. In the cable broadcast version of the film Saving Private Ryan all the violence is left intact, but use of the F-word has been changed. In America, we prefer bullets to bad words.

Whereas in Croatia, well cursing is kind of an art form, one that even esteemed members of the oldest generation still master. Seriously, I have heard some of the most creative insults come from the mouths of some of this country’s eldest, female citizens (especially on the tram). Things I can never imagine hearing my grandmother say. And I know these words because these are of course the first words anyone learning a foreign wants to learn.

Lost in translation

Now, maybe all the profanity in The Wolf of Wall Street can be left in the film on Croatian TV because it’s in a foreign language… that… everybody happens to know, after all these are the first words you learn in any foreign language. I didn’t pay close enough attention to the subtitles to see how they translated everything.

Assuming that the film had been edited and censored like it would be in the US, I began watching it while my daughter was home. And then as I saw Leonard DiCaprio snort drugs of an escort’s naked posterior, I realized… urp… this film had not been edited, so I turned it off, and resumed watching it when she left the apartment.

Question time

For a country that champions ‘individual freedom,’ it’s a bit ironic that US TV is so heavily censored. The Croatian broadcast of The Wolf of Wall Street was perfectly reasonable. It came on at midnight. And if someone like me who watched it in the daytime is too stupid to turn it off in the presence of young children, well then I hope they managed to come up with convincible answers to all those awkward questions.

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