Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Michael Richards, the actor who played Kramer on "Seinfeld," went on "The Late Show" on Monday to spew an apology for his weekend explosion at a comedy club in California.

The skinny: Richards was heckled by a couple dudes who happen to be black. Richards freaked and dropped more than a few N-bombs (and the "N" doesn't stand for Newman, either). Someone in the audience shot vid on a cell phone. The rest is sordid pop history.

Painful as it was to watch, Richards' apology -- the act of it, at least -- was mandatory. Had he not apologized he would have been killed, gutted, roasted at 325 degrees and served up in lieu of turkey on Thursday. Andy Kaufman would have risen from the dead and smacked Richards for losing his cool. But now that he has issued his very public mea maxima culpa, Richards is free to continue his post-"Seinfeld" life. Free of the threat of a boycott, the 7th season of "Seinfeld" is cleared for huge sales. The country is safe from white men other than Quentin Tarantino dropping N-bombs, safe from bombing comedians, safer than it has been since Feb. 1, 2004, when the U.S. was attacked by Janet Jackson's right nipple.

But it is a short-lived safety; in the long run we are screwed, destined to choke on our own conniptions. We are being outraged to death. Offended to extinction.

If something offends us today we righteously insist on immediate reparations or the offensive thing must be banished, no thoughts given, no questions asked.

Fox boss Rupert Murdoch on Monday dropped the O.J. Simpson project and apologized profusely to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Murdoch said the O.J. book and TV special were "ill considered." He took pains to make sure everyone knows he was offended. He did not mention feeling this way until it became clear that his network would probably lose money on the project. No matter; having shown his outrage, Murdoch is now a Good Guy. Our nation is safe from O.J. and ready to repel any future ugliness.

Don't like the idea of a book? Scream until the publisher gives up. Don't like a planned TV special? Yell until the network surrenders. Don't like what a performer says? Complain until the person is forced to capitulate.

If we had followed this catechism in 1975, pop culture would have been saved from "News for the Hard of Hearing" on "Saturday Night Live." Another SNL skit from that year -- "Racist Word Association Interview" -- would have died in the writer's room. That year's great movie, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," would have been condemned for its insensitive portrayal of Native Americans (not to mention the mentally ill). Judith Guest's novel, Ordinary People, may have been boycotted, instead of praised, for its brutal honesty about teen suicide and emotionally distant mothers.

Change the channel? Ignore the offensive? Don't buy the book?

Your suggestion is outrageous. Don't be offensive.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe you wrote that.
Mr. Davis you should be ashamed.
I am offended and I demand an immediate retraction!
OR ELSE!!!!!!!

E said...

While I certainly think anyone should be able to write, speak, think anything they want, don't you even feel a twinge of concern that a guy who already got away with murdering two people was prepping to make money by telling us how he did it?

Unknown said...

I agree with you completely. It must be #72 on the signs of the apocalypse.

Snarling Marmot said...

e -

He made money regardless of the show or the book not coming out, it was part of a contract. And yes, it's shameful, disgusting and outrageous. But life is fully of shameful, disgusting and outrageous things. I'm not saying this was the brightest plan in the universe, but if someone wanted to go through with this, then they've every right to. And we had every right to be shocked, outraged and not buy the book or watch the show. Pulling it after the horse is out of the barn seems a little silly to me.

Anonymous said...

Raise your hand if you believe any motion picture studio would have the cojones to produce Mel Brooks' classic, "Blazing Saddles," today.

Anonymous said...

Raise your hand if you believe any movie studio would have the balls to release Borat today.

Oh, wait a second.

This is a stupid conversation.

Larry Burkum said...

anon 2:27, then why are you participating? Are you stupid?

E said...

That was funny.

MoJoe said...

What's truly disturbing is how quickly groups cave to this kind of pressure. O.J. had something to say, and it was his right to say it and try to make money from it. NewsCorp can't live with the reaction, however, because of the FEAR of repercussions in the market.

Don't get the Mailbox wrong -- OJ's interview and book were despicable, and the Mailbox thinks only a guilty man could think of releasing a story about "If I Did It." But corporations that cave to people who get offended only help to weaken free speech--even if it's not the Constitutionally-protected kind.

Anonymous said...

vote with your pocket book, if you find it offensive, don't buy it. I don't want someone else deciding what I should read/see/do based on their belief of whats right or wrong. I am an adult who pays taxes and I'll decide what is offensive in my little castle...

Anonymous said...

I'll bet Glenn Miller is disappointed by the cancellation...

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I agree altogether on the OJ thing. While the commercial aspect of speech has always been problematic, it needn't always be the enemy. Speech, for better or worse, is subject to the market. The market does not necessarily begin with the wallet. It can begin, as well, with voices of protest. In other words, we can choose not to buy or we can choose to object to the entire endeavor. Murdoch capitulated because his project was, in fact, ill-considered from all sorts of perspectives (Tim Noah notwithstanding). The SNL folks likely would not have capitulated, because their project 1) would inevitably bring in the dough and 2) had, in the eyes of the profit-minded folks behind it, merit. If the offerer thinks better of his project, I don't think we've necessarily got a speech problem. Happens all the time.

I did not rail at the market for its original intentions to produce the damned thing; I'm also not going to shed a lot of tears over the market's decision to withdraw it.

As for Michaels -- I am not sure why we even demand apologies like this, unless they include admissions of racism. "I'm not a racist; 'n' just slipped out five times?????" Give me a break. I'd be happy to hear "Like most of the rest of you, I have my demons to deal with. I am abjectly ashamed."