Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Update on YTV 'profanity'

On February 27, I wrote about an ad for a new YTV - affiliated website. The ad in question used the words "Pimp up your crib" to describe some of the activities available on the site.

The same day, I wrote to Corus Entertainment about my concern that this phrase was being used to promote a children's website and being aired during programs geared towards younger kids. Here is the reply I received today:

Thank you for taking the time to share your opinion with us. We are always interested in hearing from our viewers and all feedback is important to us.

We are sorry to hear that some of the dialogue in a current promotion for The Big Rip is disappointing for you. We can assure you that we take our responsibility as a broadcaster very seriously and regularly make internal judgments regarding appropriate content. As primarily as children’s network, we are acutely aware of our obligation to use appropriate language while staying relevant and appealing to our audience. In this context, the phrase in question is intended as slang for ‘decorate’ or ‘upgrade’ and has slipped into common usage without being considered profane or irreverent.

That being said, we have shared your concerns with the appropriate departments for their consideration during the on-going planning of our network. It is through such communication that we are able to provide quality programming for Canadian youth and their families.


YTV Viewer Relations Department

Although I am ambivalent as to the message, I am pleased that they had the courtesy to reply and to forward my concern to the appropriate department.

I haven't noticed the ads playing lately, but I hope they will reconsider their position that 'pimp' is no longer considered profane.

Regardless of what they might think, using the word pimp in its 'new' context is indeed 'irreverent' - as it is deficient in respectfulness. Whether a person is 8 or 80, 'pimp' is certainly not a term one would use when speaking in polite company or if one hoped to be seen as courteous and well-mannered. And while it is not profane in the literal sense, it is a vulgar term used by those who are crass, or who want to be perceived as unconventional and daring.

Language evolves, but that doesn't mean we must always bring things down to the basest level, especially when kids are involved. When instructing children, we should be attempting to elevate their minds, rather than corrupt. An ugly word like 'pimp' doesn't deserve to be part of the childhood lexicon. Although it has slipped into common usage to mean 'redecorate', it retains its repulsive edge. While it might be acceptable for teens, and fully suitable for adults in whatever context they might want to use it, its traditional meaning is unfortunate enough that it should be kept out of programming and advertising directed toward children.

Children might use 'pimp' in the schoolyard with their friends, or they might even hear it if they are allowed to watch MTV, but when children's programmers start to use that kind of language in an attempt to 'speak on their level' they are teaching kids that kind of language is acceptable in the family room. Call me old fashioned, but 'pimp' in any of its meanings is not a word I want used at my dinner table. Maybe YTV should use a thesaurus:

jazz up, deck out, tune, dude out, dog up, retool etc.

. . . all words/phrases that mean redecorate and are outside of the conventional meanings of the actual words. Each is more modern and more fun than the simple 'redecorate' and none could be construed as offensive by anyone.

Creative people in children's television should be able to think above the banality of the MTVesque shock-value idioms being created and used to allow teens to feel more savvy and clever than their parents. At least, one would hope.