network brandishes cowardice

Tue Aug-29th-2006 // Filed under: Things Are Happening,Word Balloons

So, NBC apologized for the Lost spoof that was a part of the Emmy Awards this year, because it was broadcast just a few hours after news of the Lexington crash, and of course some people had to get deeply offended by this. The statement reads:

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the many families who lost loved ones in the plane crash in Kentucky on Sunday. In no way would we ever want to make light of this terrible tragedy. The film’s opening during the Emmy telecast was meant to spoof some of television’s most well-known scenes. The timing was unfortunate and we regret any unintentional pain it may have caused.”

Oh, really. You mean to tell me that you did not, in fact, intend to make fun of an event that killed 49 people? What an absolutely shocking surprise! And here I was thinking that they were blatantly laughing at the tragedy and whipped up a mean-spirited and downright malevolent segment just to hurt the victims’ families and loved ones. Until this statement was released, I was absolutely convinced that the evil NBC execs would be masturbating furiously, watching the Emmy footage on one screen and the crash news on another. AS PLANNED. They would do this to bring forth the semen of evil, which would be used to impregnate women everywhere and create a veritable army of Antichrists. (Antichristae? Antichristi? Anyway.)

And what was the terribly offensive bit, exactly? Well, you can see it for yourself on youtube. The plane crash involves about 21 seconds of Conan O’Brien crawling around in an airplane with his ass in the air while someone shakes the camera. Finally, he crawls into an overhead luggage bin. That’s it. After that, he’s already on the island. (Then he proceeds to build a hair dryer out of driftwood, undoubtedly mortally offending people who got splinters from driftwood or something.)

I find it sad and annoying that these people find it necessary to apologize for something like this. No one with an even halfway functional brain is going to believe that they did it on purpose. The fact that some people complain is irrelevant, because some people are always going to complain. Acknowledging frivolous whining like this creates — or rather, reinforces — a society where we apologize for coincidences and unintentional similarities even when it’s painfully obvious that no offense was intended. This is the same kind of spinelessness that was saw in the 9/11 aftermath, where just about any mention of the WTC (except in the “I hate terrorists, but those firefighters are very brave” context) was thought to be unacceptable, and led to various trailers being withdrawn, projects postponed or canceled, and so forth. (The Authority, for example, took a big 9/11 hit, with DC censoring it left and right and even cancelling a planned project for the franchise — because, you know, it’s perfectly all right to show citywide destruction and graphic violence otherwise, just not when it happens in New York. Of course, much of the censorship was about generic editorial candy-assedness at DC at least as much as it was about the post-9/11 environment, but the point stands.)

Yes, yes, all right, if I get cancer and someone makes a cancer joke right after I find out about it, I’m probably not going to think it’s very funny. I’m going to be all fucked up over the news. But that doesn’t mean that cancer jokes should be banned. And I’m not saying that others should not be allowed to feel their pain or that we should not show them any sensitivity, but there’s a huge difference between saying “hey, crash victim families, did you hear the one about how dumb your relatives are since they went and died on that plane crash” and putting Airplane! on TV as a part of the regular goddamn schedule.


  1. Cancer jokes are the best.

    Comment by Anne — August 30, 2006 @ 1156909958

  2. Sure, right along with dead baby jokes and holocaust jokes and whatnot. I laugh. I’m that kind of a dick.

    Comment by Mikki — August 30, 2006 @ 1156913276

  3. Of course no one believes they shot the sketch after knowing about the crash. But they *could* have prevented the sketch from airing, they had sufficient time to react. They showed bad taste (and/or laziness?) which is a good reason to apologize.

    Comment by HunnuH — September 1, 2006 @ 1157113185

  4. Yes, they could’ve said “let’s not show this,” but I’m damn glad they didn’t — that would’ve been even more spineless of them. They weren’t making fun of the crash.

    The fact that some people choose to interpret it as offensive — that, in fact, they take offense at anything plane-related that is not commiserative in the aftermath of the crash — doesn’t mean that the sketch is actually offensive. I don’t think the world owes the crash victims’ families a grace period wherein nothing related to plane crashes is broadcast anywhere. That’s not a reasonable demand. Yes, absolutely, making fun of that particular crash would be tasteless… but that’s not what they did. I’m sure somebody felt bad after seeing it, and that’s a shame, but surely the reason they feel bad is not really the sketch but the actual crash? I realize that they can’t shout at the crash, so shouting at NBC is a lot easier, and that’s a pretty understandable reaction. But that doesn’t mean that NBC owes them an apology.

    Comment by Mikki — September 1, 2006 @ 1157114145

  5. It’s simply not a matter of owing anything. It is a matter of a commercial tv station wanting to please their audience. And not just the fraction of a part of an audience that had something to do with the crash personally, but all the masses of people that are sympathetic to them and that get a warm fuzzy feeling when NBC apologizes for an unfortunate timing.

    I rest my case.

    Ja joo, olit oikeassa leffan suhteen: se on paska, mutta paskallakin on yksi hyvä puoli; siihen liittyvät asia saa yleensä hoitaa yksin. Ja koska sinä ja Yuki viimeistelitte toimenpiteen, nautin tästä niin tarpeellisesta ylellisyydestä eli yksinolosta täällä kaikessa rauhassa julkistaen sen nyt samalla näköjään kaikelle kansallekin. ;)

    Comment by HunnuH — September 1, 2006 @ 1157152972

  6. Yo dude, send me an email. My buddy Drew is currently in Helsinki for a few months on business and I enjoy introducing cool people to other cool people. He’s a gamer and was lamenting in an email to me about being unable to really play anymore.

    Comment by Zach Bush — September 13, 2006 @ 1158181942

  7. I’ll hit you with that e-mail at once.

    And good to see you, man.

    Comment by Mikki — September 14, 2006 @ 1158199801

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