Jewish World Review Jan. 23, 2003 / 20 Shevat, 5763

Tresa McBee

Tresa McBee
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Consumer Reports

A (bleeping) outrage: One act of protest

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | It didn't surprise. Hollywood prefers to keep news of defiance among its own on the down low.

So finding just one original article on Patricia Heaton's walk out last week from the American Music Awards didn't cause a moment's pause. It's simply bad form when an Emmy-award winning performer stands up, literally, against vulgarity within prime-time pop culture. Who's gonna report that?

Apparently only Heaton's hometown newspaper, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, where her brother is a reporter and her father a retired columnist. Outspokenness probably runs in the family.

Because the 44-year-old Heaton, who plays Debra on "Everybody Loves Raymond," is known for speaking her mind -- which she did with her feet when she walked out of the AMA after too many bleeps insulted her personal standards. Yes, standards in Hollywood. Who knew?

Heaton was at the AMA to introduce a prerecorded 30-year retrospective of the annual Dick Clark-produced show. But having endured one too many bleeped expletive from the presenting Osbourne family and tacky comments from other presenters, Heaton left Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium without taking the stage.

Heaton took particular offense at Sharon Osbourne's bleeped expression of delight for Mariah Carey's enhanced bust line and one performer's vivid references to sex a la menage a trios.

Heaton felt this brand of pop culture belongs on MTV at 10 p.m., not ABC during prime time. Ozzy was bleeped some 13 times, which, of course, doesn't include counts for his charming children and their unimaginatively colorful language. But give 'em a break: A high school diploma isn't seen as a necessary goal in the Osbourne household.

As Heaton -- a mother of four young boys -- told The Plain Dealer: "I really didn't know what I was getting into. I mean, there was Ryan Seacrest pulling open his co-presenter's shirt, then noticing there was a 12-year-old girl in the front row. And he says, 'Don't worry, honey, you'll have a pair of these soon.' And everybody went crazy. It felt like I was in the Roman Colosseum. As far as I'm concerned, it was an affront to anyone with a shred of dignity, self-respect and intelligence."

Amen, sister. Except, of course, Hollywood hardly brims with dignity or self-respect. That's too uptight. Too suffocating. Too so-out-of-it. Where's the creativity going to come from, man? Where's my muse, my inspiration? Breaking boundaries, dude.

That's where it's at. Totally.

AMA producers knew the Osbournes would have to be censored often: Print ads for the program show the brain-fried Ozzy saying, "I'll be bleeped!" Which was the point. Because the Osbournes are so cool. Oh look, daughter swears at mom, mom swears at everyone and dad swears at whatever image his nonfiring neurons float before him. Rules don't exist, 'cause rules oppress free-flowing families. You can hear the love between bleeps. How sweet.

Why should anyone else on the AMA act differently? To be outrageous is to be hip and so ahead of the curve out in la-la LA land and, by extension, pop culture. If you can stand to watch one of the proliferating self-congratulatory award shows, an attitude of how-did-I-becomes-so-wonderful permeates the show-biz air. When you're that delicious, what else matters?

Pontificate, offend and spew lewdness to your tacky heart's content. Besides, who's going to listen to the voice saying enough and stop and tone it down? How prudish. So killjoy. So last century.

And easy to silence. Where's the coverage of Heaton's action and the positive response she received among those in the industry who knew about it? To expect better behavior and less crassness during a live prime-time broadcast -- or in general -- isn't unreasonable and doesn't imply prudery. But it's easy to cast people like Heaton and the little people watching from their little-people homes as out of touch and squeamishly modest. Heaton deserves credit, recognition and encouragement for what she did. Especially when done in a supposedly tolerant culture that tolerates no dissent. Witness that lone news article.

But there are others who would do the same. Actually we can: Don't watch.

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JWR contributor Tresa McBee is a columnist for the Northwest Arkansas Times. Comment by clicking here.

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