Now, the NRL is a long way from my favourite version of football, but Sunday’s grand final provoked a couple of emotions in me.
One was a kind of schadenfreudian nostalgia. I was at the Canterbury Bankstown Leagues Club two years ago the night the Bulldogs were stripped of their premiership points for salary-cap violations—just coincidentally; I was there to see my mate Jules sing as Stevie Nicks in her Fleetwood Mac cover band. All the news crews were clearing out, and the whole place had a stunned feeling about it; I didn’t see anybody cry, but by God they had lumps in their throats. They certainly weren’t in the mood to dance to Gypsy, let me tell you, and even Don’t Stop went down like… well, like the Bulldogs on the ladder. So when I heard that the Dogs had won this year, I hoped they’d invited Fleetwood to the Mac’s back to play that night, to make up for last time. Jules isn’t in the band anymore, though; they’ve had to find a new Stevie Nicks and are about to be shut down for apostrophe violations themselves. So that was the end of that thought.
Of course the real issue is the Bulldogs’ “troubles” of earlier this year. “We’ve been through hell this year,” said Willie Mason. “We’ve done it tough,” said just about everybody. I reckon it’s a bit much. To borrow from my preferred code, it was pretty tough for the Swans to play through head trainer Wally Jackson’s fatal heart attack in Round 21. That was a tragedy. But repeatedly getting involved in dodgy sexual practices, if not actual rape (no charges were laid) and then acting like dickheads during the ensuing investigations—you can’t really throw up your hands and curse the gods about that.
Sure, the fans did it tough—they deserved a lot better, even if their steadfast refusal to sing along with Dreams did suggest a certain lack of character. All the parents of blue-and-white-painted children who not only had to have the birds-and-bees conversation a lot earlier than they’d hoped, but also had to deal with a whole new set of bird-to-bee ratios… We might even spare a thought for the women of Coffs Harbour. But I don’t think the players have had much to complain about, and even less now.
But that whole thing reminded me of something I wrote earlier this year about Mark Gasnier’s serenading of promotions manager and DJ Hannah Toohey from a taxi in May. election… Gaz left a message on her voicemail which said:
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon
who is already sick and pale with grief
that thou her maid art far more fair than she…
No, wait, that’s not it. It was more like this (he may have had some help from Anthony Minichiello):
I know that last year on the twelfth of May-month,
to walk abroad, one day you changed your hair-plaits!
I am so used to take your hair for daylight
that—like as when the eye stares at the sun’s disk,
one sees long after a red blot on all things—
so, when I quit thy beams, my dazzled vision
sees upon all things a blonde stain imprinted.
No, that wasn’t it either. In fact, it was more modern than either of those, something like (parental advisory):
where the fuck are you? There’s
FOUR TOEY HUMANS
in the cab;
it’s twenty to four.
Our cocks are fat and fucking
ready to spurt
and you’re in bed.
Fuck me, fire
up you sad
I know, it’s awful. Maybe you hadn’t read the whole thing before; it certainly took me a while to find an unexpurgated version. Anyway, I wrote a short piece about these difficulties, but then didn’t know what to do with it. I tried Heckler at the SMH, but they didn’t print it. Entwürfe Perhaps because I’d already done a Heckler that week, perhaps because of media bias, to or possibly because it wasn’t all that good. Anyway, now that I’ve got my own blog I don’t need to worry about any of that anymore, so here it is, almost as relevant as it would have been in May.
Like many people, I found the recent “four toey humans” scandal bewildering. Mark Gasnier’s voicemail raises many questions that are proving almost impossible to answer. The most obvious, of course, is: what the hell was he thinking? But a close second would have to be: what the –––– was he saying?
The infamous message was so heavily censored by the major dailies that I can’t have been the only one left wondering exactly how the airwaves had been polluted early that Wednesday. I could work out most of it, but this line had me stumped: “Our ––––– are ––– and ––––––– ready to ––––– ––––– and you’re in bed”. It took me a long time to find out what those boofheads were talking about, and then of course I wished I hadn’t.
I thought perhaps these were the lyrics to a popular song that might have been special to Gaz and [Woman’s name]. Something like sulky homeboy Eamon’s recent number one, –––– It (I Don’t Want You Back) or sassy hip-hopper Frankee’s rejoinder, FURB (–––– You Right Back). Bands these days release self-censored radio-friendly versions of their songs, with these weird silences on the vocal track where the bad words used to be. In the case of these mononymous squabblers, the only lines that make it through intact are the ones that go, “Whoa, whoa, uh uh yeah,” which I’m sure is some kind of rapper Morse code for “––––”.
There’s always been a gap between the language people use in their everyday lives and what is deemed suitable for broadcast. Comedian George Carlin made this point in 1972 with his “Seven words you can’t say on television” routine, which proved prophetic by landing the radio station that broadcast it in the Supreme Court (the seven words were ––––, ––––, ––––, ––––, ––––––––––, –––––––––––– and, for some reason, ––––).
Television has loosened up a bit since then, so we’re hearing fewer of those ridiculous substitutions, those army guys saying “Fig! The fooling fiddler’s fouled!” and so on. But you can still see entire Jerry Springer episodes that play like silent films, as if Charlie Chaplin had been caught ––––––– Buster Keaton. You still see movies that you’re sure were full of dialogue but now seem like a lot of angry glances.
So the reforms haven’t nearly kept pace with the increasingly colourful expression of our frustrations and disappointments, our hopes and dreams. This used to be just inconvenient, if a bit baffling: we all knew what the missing words were, after all; we all made the substitution in our heads. But when our top news stories and most popular songs are rendered all but incomprehensible by our persistent squeamishness, surely the gap has become too wide. Surely we should just concede that most of us talk like that, and that by bowdlerising bad language we’re just encouraging it.
And if you don’t like that, you can –––– the –––– –––––’s ––––.