October 29, 2007

Britney, meet Grindelwald

Best example of self-censorship on page E1 of today's Times? Take your pick. First there's the review of the new Britney Spears album, which begins this way:

"Eat it! Lick it! Snort it!" Such was the legal commentary offered by Britney Spears when she left her latest court hearing on Friday afternoon, as reported by "Access Hollywood." (Actually there was one more imperative phrase, but itís not likely to appear in this newspaper.)

For those keeping track, the paper managed to replace the succinct, two-word "fuck it" with a 16-word attempted joke. Why bother? If it's newsworthy that Britney said "fuck it," quote her accurately. If it's not (and it's not) then don't fucking report it.

Then there's this, from the inevitable gay wizard story:

As for the idea that Ms. Rowling suggested — that as a teenage prodigy, Dumbledore had a homoerotic infatuation with another prodigious young wizard, Grindelwald (who later went over to what in "Star Wars" is called the Dark Side) — Skeeter hints at this in coded allusions.

She proposes that when the two friends had a falling out in a dramatic duel, Grindelwald did not fight but "conjured a white handkerchief from the end of his wand and" — the passage then gives way to an obvious (in retrospect) sexual double entendre.

Yes, Beavis, the end of the sentence is "came quietly." Can we all grow up now? Having first discussed coded sexual allusions in Harry Potter more than four years ago, when people thought it might be Harry who was gay, I suspect the came quietly double entendre above actually is intentional. But it's amusing to see the New York Times protecting delicate young readers from a sentence that has already been read and re-read by some 10 billion of them. Certainly far more than will ever read this article.

I mean, it's not like Dumbledore raised his wand and said, "Eat it! Lick it! Snort it! Fuck it!"

Update: The Times responds.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Yes. Thank you. It also kills me that someone like Jay Leno is only permitted to talk like an intelligent, courteous teenager lest the principal catch him saying "cock" or something -- this at midnight! When our primary media outlets voluntarily self-lobotomize, why should we be surprised when the citizenry goes the same way?

Jay Leno?. I had no idea you were over 50.

And what a great pity Dumbledore didn't say that.

There are worse things than media that don't curse. Like newspapers which share the same text as "Fox News" (technically Sky News) crawls (Sunday Times). For all the vaunted glories of the foreign press and all the fuddy-duddyism the Grey Lady still manages a victory in my book. For God's sake newspapers (Sunday Independent, Observer) here have typos above the fold on the front page! And their opinion pages are just Colonel Blimp versus Captain Class-Resentment (all of them, probably an accurate and sad reflexion of how many locals do see the world). There is a level of professionalism in the US that the clubby, loosy goosy outfits here just don't approach.

The TV news, though, is great. Paxman can't be beat.

Sure, the NYT should quote crude when it comes up but they don't because it is one of their quaint, bourgeois traditions, like a general attempt at some sort of vague journalistic neutrality and rigorous professionalism.

On the other hand some censorship here (Ireland) is almost completely random. The second most recent film censor (an unaccountable government officer with power to ban or cut at will) just put out a memoir in which he admits he gave Blue Velvet a go because he likes Ingrid Bergman, and he was inclined generally to cut out scenes of new model cars being destroyed because it seemed wasteful.

Yeah, but your newspapers have boobies.

Yeah! Suckers! And that's nothing compared to what the tv has!

Yes, I vaguely recall that there was a rather trenchant comedian who used to visit David Letterman from time to time in the 1980s. I think he went by the name Leno. As I am a sprightly 37, I don't know what became of him.

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