Another Carlin word goes over the air


Is there a new rite of passage to go along with first Barbie, first date, and first driver’s license? Is it now a requirement that at some point everybody in America is expected to unleash an unbleeped expletive over broadcast airspace? The latest perp is Jane Fonda on NBC’s Today Show.

Fonda was discussing the play "Vagina Monologues" with host Meredith Vieira. She said that she hadn’t had an opportunity to see it when she was living in Georgia, then reached into the George Carlin heavy-seven list in the sentence, "Then I was asked to do a monologue called ‘c**t,’ and I said, ‘I don’t think so. I’ve got enough problems.’"

After approximately 10 minutes, Vieira apologized to viewers.

TVBR/RBR observation: The fleeting use standard should once again carry the day in this instance, meaning that Fonda’s slip-up should not be subject to a fine. And in all fairness, this was almost a clinical use of the term. Fonda was citing the name of a work of art. And despite its title, the play that spawned Fonda’s burst of vulgarity is also seen not as pornography but as a work of art addressing serious adult topics. It seems in this instance that in addition to the fleeting reference exception, the old news program exception for certain Carlinesque words could apply, if it hasn’t also been tossed out as the FCC has tried to toss out the fleeting exception. The battle over that corner of the indecency enforcement landscape is parked outside the Supreme Court with a decision on whether or not to hear the case pending.