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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Free Speech vs Comedy the Gray Area

Sarah Palin at war with David Letterman? It seems so which makes me wonder as I read the multitude of stories on this subject who really is in error. Of course, being a mother, Palin would not want anyone hurting in any way one of her children. I know I'd likely express myself if anyone insulted mine. But, considering this issue involves a late night talk show host with comedic undertones, is this something that anyone involved in the public eye should recognize as something that will and can occur? Should it be taken with a grain of salt rather than made into a national issue to be fought in the public and media fronts?

Apparently,David Letterman has made an joke concerning one of the Alaskan governor's children. The joke concerned the Palin family's recent New York visit, inspiring Letterman to quip, "during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez."

Granted, the intended jab at humor was not in good taste, but it was not intended as a direct insult at the girl(s) in question. One of the main points seem to be concerning whether Mr. Letterman was referring to Bristol Palin, the 18 year old daughter who had a child out of wedlock during the Presidential election, or Willow, the 14 year old who actually attended the baseball game Letterman referred to in the joke.

Palin's spokeperson, Sharon Leighow said, "It doesn't matter whether he was talking about Willow or Bristol, what he said was unacceptable".

What hit me immediately was the simple premise of Freedom of Speech. You know, that pesky but held dear tenet in the U.S. Constitution. Palin, a politician sitting as Governor of Alaska is a professed Patriot, naturally. Word out has it likely she harbors considerations for running for the lead office of this country one day. That adds consideration whether that tenet any Patriot should hold dear includes talk about family, underage offspring and late night off-color comedy in relation to them.

Being completely real here for a moment, consider does Freedom of Speech actually include such matters or is it to be left just for political thought and practice? Of course there needs to be set boundaries on insults or lies or deceitful remarks directed at anyone, whether a celebrity, political aspirant or a regular ol' Joe in the crowd. We all have and need be able to set limitations on what we will accept according to our own personal base lines. But is the reaction fitting the moment, the weak joke in this case?

Jamie Foxx, back in April, on his Sirius satellite radio show The Foxxhole, mocked Miley Cyrus. Granted Cyrus is living life larger than her underage parameters should indicate, but Foxx said some incredibly crass comments, even if he'd been talking about someone much older.

Foxx's show referred to the 16-year-old as a "little white bitch". Foxx under some misguided possibly too-much-coffee induced rant advised young Miley something to the effect of, 'do some heroin, get an STD, make a sex tape and grow up'. Now take into consideration the man has a daughter in the same age bracket as Cyrus, that does nothing to lessen the vulgarity of the attack nor make it all okay.

If Foxx had been going for the humor it was sorely amiss during that tasteless tirade toward Cyrus. He did, following a media meltdown over his remarks, issue an apology while on Leno. Of course his appearance in April, on Jay's show, was to promote his movie, "The Soloist", released April 24. Foxx said "I so apologize to Miley, and this is sincere. I am a comedian, and you guys know that whatever I say, I don't mean any of it."

So, returning to the topic of Letterman vs Palin, by being a comedian, cracking jokes about a person of interest, or anyone under the legal age of adulthood, is that crossing that Freedom of Speech line? Is there or should there even be a line when it comes to one of the values we American people tout as one of the most important social dividers between our country and other nations? Is this even an applicable issue, Freedom of Speech?

I was surprised to see how many articles being generated by this situation, none have any answers or even seem to question does Letterman have the right, does Foxx or any other comedian, in the name of trying to be funny have the right to target, as a punchline, underage children in their joke series?

In the quest for humor and comedy are there boundaries that should be sanctioned "off limits"? On this front, the whole celebrity meets comedian I'm not certain where the line should be drawn or the limits imposed. Certainly the Momma Bear has been awakened in Governor Palin against David Letterman, it may be in good form for him to remember she's not afraid to go moose hunting.

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