Thursday, 13 September 2007

Sun side of FN

Glenn Garnett, the Toronto Sun's editor in chief and Inside the Sun blogger, devotes his latest posting to the use of swear words in the first 36 years of the Sun.

Have to say it is one of our Top 10 favourite Inside the Sun postings since Glenn launched the blog in early April.

The posting focuses on the recent debate over a Canadian film entry in the Toronto International Film Festival that includes the "F-bomb," as Glenn calls it. The film title has divided editors and entertainment writers, but its full spelling has drawn few objections from the public.

Glenn gives us a full count of swear words that have been published in the Sun since it was launched in 1971, which is a fascinating technological wonder in itself.

He also works in George Carlin's classic 1970s “Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television” routine that desperately needs updating four decades later. (We have heard all seven during prime time CBC and CITY-TV movies and have read all but a couple in local print media.)

At least five of those seven Carlin words have been published in the Sun since 1971, some reluctantly judging by Glenn's tone.

What we didn't know about the "F-bomb" is: "Our database shows the term, used as verb and adjective, has appeared on our pages all of five times in Sun history, most often quoting an executive directive to clear protesters from a provincial park."

Five times? We were aware of one mention - as noted by Sun movie critic Jim Slotek in a recent TSF comment - and it was wrapped up in a band's name.

What Glenn doesn't say is whether newspapers in the Quebecor chain were allowed to decide how to address the title, or was there a blanket edict from Quebecor against its use?

We do know there was at least one maverick.

Sun Media's 24 Hours in Toronto, as noted by Glenn, used the full word six times on one page. It appears to be the only Sun Media paper to skip the dashes.

Were 24 Hours readers offended? Glenn says 24 Hours editor Ted Rath told him they got "one call and one e-mail from readers distressed by the use of the f-word in his paper."

One call and one e-mail. Hardly an uprising.

It has also been used in full in the Globe and Mail, the National Post, Vancouver Sun etc. Are they less respectful of readers than the Sun, the Star and other papers that censored the word?

Another little known fact in Glenn's posting is the word was not censored in Canadian Press releases. He says CP told him the news agency left it up to member newspapers.

The irony of this entire 2007 word game is Young People Fucking has received favourable reviews.

The question now is how will the title of this Canadian flick be handled for movie theatre and DVD promotion and advertising?

Maybe Glenn can advise his readers how that works in advertising. Does money dictate, or do you still draw the line when it comes to one of Carlin's seven words?

We do remember some feathers were ruffled when the Vagina Monologues came to town.

Will time make all of this look rather silly?

As silly as the 1939 controversy over Clark Gable's "damn" in Gone With the Wind?

Or the controversial use of "virgin" in Otto Preminger's The Moon Is Blue in 1953?

Or the daring use of "pregnant" in A Hatful of Rain in 1957?

Or "bastard," used in context but cut from Home From the Hill by Ontario censors in 1960?

We're getting there with Glenn's "F-bomb."

Newspaper editors just have to give the majority of their readers more credit in 2007.

24 Hours - one call and one e-mail.

We dig it, George Carlin.

If you want to talk obscenities in 2007, talk Darfur, Iraq . . .

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