So I’m walking down the street the other day, minding my own business, when out of the blue I get called a motherfucker by a local gym. Well, wait a minute. I’m sorry. What they actually called me was a “muthafu©&@” which I’m guessing shouldn’t be offensive at all because they changed the “K” to a “&”. However, because I’m not completely without the ability to connect the simplest of dots, I managed after much scrutiny, to string together the word that was being implied. The promotion was on a bus station billboard. I did not find it online while seeking out their services or view it as a commercial during Pulp Fiction. It was square in the middle of the sidewalk as I was looking for the Scaredy Cat store in Park Slope of all places. Home of a million strollers.
I don’t understand what’s going on with boundaries these days but it seems like they’re being worn away at every turn and in my opinion, nowhere is this more evident than when they are blatantly absent from an advertisement like the one above. Aren’t ads supposed to embody the epitome of professionalism seeing as they represent a business? If shouting out “motherfucker” on an ad is acceptable, then where isn’t it?
Before I continue, let me just say that I’m not opposed to profanity in the right environment. I don’t even mind the word motherfucker. In fact, I quite like it. It serves a multitude of purposes from expressing disdain, to when used properly, conveying camaraderie.
I also understand the playfulness of what the fitness center was trying to do. It’s not like I think the gym is being hostile towards me. Yet anyone with even a modest amount of common sense knows that you don’t just walk up to a complete stranger and say “Hay motherfucker!” That’s the kind of familiarity which is reserved for friends who have taken the time to get to know whether or not that behavior is cool with you. Not bus posters with whom you have never shared so much as a beer. Crunch is not your friend, so why do they feel it’s OK to assume the privilege?
And they’re not the only ones. Every day on my commute home I see this when I’m getting off the train:
I don’t mind the image. I actually think it’s kind of adorable. But won’t some people mind? Most of us have agreed that “shit” is a “bad” word. It’s one that a lot of parents try at all costs to avoid having their kids repeat. Grubhub knows this, otherwise they wouldn’t need to substitute an exclamation point for the letter “I” in an effort to somehow disguise what’s actually being said. But they do it anyway and then post it right where any five year old can view it and say “look at that shit!” If Grubhub wants this kind of cheeky humor to set the tone of their operation, then they should put it on their website for people who are specifically interested in having a witty food delivery service, not on the train platform for everyone to view as they’re exiting the subway.
Maybe I’m making a bigger deal out of it than it is, but I was twenty-one before I ever heard my father say a bad word, so to me they pack more of a punch and it just seems like they’re everywhere now. I would be floored if I saw ads with foul language in them when I was growing up. Can you imagine flipping through a magazine in 1987 and seeing this?
Your parents would have a heart attack.
And it’s not just in ads that we’re being bombarded with vulgarity. I was taking a spinning class the other night and the instructor put a song on that was repeating the lyric “but tonight I’m fucking you.” over and over again. Am I crazy or is this wildly inappropriate? I’m working out with thirty people of all ages and from different backgrounds. How is it OK to assume that every one of us is cool being told twenty times in three minutes that we’re going to get hammered by some douchebag for this evening only?
I just went food shopping to take a break from writing this and what do I find on today’s cover of The Post?
The grocery store should be a relatively safe place for those who don’t want to imagine an asshole at four o’clock on a Sunday, yet here it is, right on the front page. After I picked up the paper, I headed to the check-out line where one cashier yelled to another “Stop stealing my pens, bitch!” as he was ringing me up.
What I’m saying is that profanity has its place. I expect it when I go to some movies or read certain magazines or turn on the TV after nine but its presence in my life should be my choice. I shouldn’t be ambushed by it as I’m walking down the street or into a deli or off the train or at the mall. Advertisers and people in general should ask themselves one question before presuming that barking obscenities at a person is acceptable and that question is “Do I know this motherfucker?”
If not, then keep it civil.