F word on Last Man Standing

From ‘F**k word seen on Channel 5’, 29 Aug 2011, article in insing.com translated from SM Daily

Former radio DJ Danny Yeo posted on his blog yesterday that he had spotted the F word appearing in a Channel 5 programme. The gaffe is understood to have come from the programme “Last Man Standing” which airs at 11pm on Sundays.

Danny uploaded a screenshot of the programme on his blog and commented that TV seems to have trumped newspapers in media freedom.

The former DJ remarked that even newspapers had universally refrained from printing the F word during the recent uproar over Trinetta Chong, the valedictorian at an Nanyang Technological University (NTU) convocation ceremony who uttered a profanity at the end of her speech.

Member of Parliament Teo Ser Luck also added his take on the issue. He said that vulgarities should not be appearing on TV, and that the broadcaster should consider the thoughts and feelings of different segments of society. He emphasises that this may convey improper messages to the young.

Channel 5 has apologised for the gaffe and attributed it to a technical error. The Media Development Authority (MDA) is investigating the incident.

That sounds serious

Last Man Standing is about pitting the puny urban male physique against the battle-worn chassis of the tribal warrior in a bid to prove whether modern life has made us wimpy. Which explains why contestants may overcompensate by spouting language taken in the city context to be an indication of raw masculinity, or rather bearing a bark worse than his bite.  Even veteran users would be stumped by this substitution of ‘fuck’ for verbs which are sufficiently harsh and descriptive to begin with: hurt, hit, injured, scraped, sprained, twisted etc. If he had bumped his head would he say ‘I ‘fucked’ my head’? What if he got knocked on the buttocks? The use of the F word here doesn’t amplify the emotional impact of the injury, and the non-carnal use of ‘fuck’ as a verb is often restricted to sweeping ambiguity rather than to replace a specific force, such as ‘fuck it’ (the hell with it) or ‘This project is fucked’ (doomed). The more appropriate expression, without making one’s statement sound like a depraved auto-erotic act, would be ‘I got thrown yesterday and hurt my ‘fucking’ knee’. But that’s besides the point. This snippet should have been bleeped from the source, and we wouldn’t know if gritty profanity was the producers’ intention, or Mediacorp simply inherited a production error.

So much work has gone into the details of defining restrictions for PG-13 movies that the Board of Censors somehow let this TV gaffe slip by. But the irony is that children are spending more time online over TV, where they are more likely to pick up more creative permutations of the f word, be it through forums, video streaming or by downloading music, which makes regulating TV and programme subtitles somewhat like plugging a sinking boat with cotton balls. We persist in it because we still see our broadcasters to be responsible role models, being both educators and entertainers, while this invisible moderator is absent in the new media. We have somehow personalised the TV as a nanny surrogate, which makes us less tolerant to profanity if TV is supposed to be keeping the kids occupied while we work. But that’s not saying that television shouldn’t be censored. It should and will be for as long as TV exists, but only because we can, and it gives the Board of Censors people a job to do.  Trinetta Chong’s ‘fucking did it’ speech has nothing to do with this mistake, and newspapers haven’t ‘refrained’ from printing the F word according to Danny Yeo. They were NEVER SUPPOSED TO at all.


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