Think back to the most shocking thing you’ve ever seen or heard in your life. Before you decide you finally should call your lawyer about that column written by a certain Idaho college student, let me share my experiences with Swedish television, possibly the most shocking thing since Plaxico Burress decided to bring a gun to a nightclub.
Though I tend to consume media with the voracity of Scooby-Doo at a Hostess factory, anyone who knows me can attest that I’ve never exactly been a big TV guy. But it was one of those lazy Sundays – you know, the kind where you should be doing something productive like studying or trying to replace a carburetor – and I really didn’t feel like doing anything. Even getting up to microwave a bowl of popcorn was too much.
So there I was, mindlessly flipping through all seven channels offered on Swedish analog TV. Within a few short minutes, I realized that anything that had been popular in the U.S. three years ago is now all the rage in Scandinavia. The lineup consisted of – I kid you not – such one-hit wonders as “Top Chef” that are now relegated to late-night premium cable.
I finally settled on “Family Guy,” deciding it was a little better than watching brightly dressed people ski down a mountain, British people with an eerie resemblance to Roger Moore debate the meaning of life, or even some Swedish guy salt fish by a lake.
Despite my best efforts to keep up with cartoon irreverence, I found myself falling asleep. Just trying to read the Swedish subtitles at the bottom of the screen was too exhausting. I was fading faster than the New York Giants defense in the fourth quarter.
But suddenly something caught my attention. Or rather, a single word. It was four letters long, and started with an F. I leaped to attention.
I’d worked with student radio back at Boise State, and remembered being told on my very first day that such an utterance would immediately elicit a fine of several thousand dollars, and the eternal hatred of the semi-secret society known as the FCC.
Maybe I was just hearing things, I thought. There was simply no way profanity on TV would be allowed in such a “polite” society as Sweden. It had to be my body’s way of telling me I needed coffee.
But a few minutes later I heard it again. I hadn’t imagined it. They actually cursed on television. I was stunned.
I decided to investigate this phenomenon further. If I were back in high school, my parents would have killed me.
My investigation revealed the following results: cursing, nudity, and virtually all other forms of otherwise indecent behavior are perfectly acceptable on Swedish TV. Heck, even the occasional racial slur is alright. You know, the kind that got Don Imus yanked off the radio.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is downright shocking – especially in a country which, until this year, had the world’s oldest film censorship laws (dating back to 1897).
Yeah, it takes some getting used to. But then again, so did the Internet, Frank Sinatra’s death, and $3 a gallon gas. It’s just the way things are.
So to all foreign visitors to Sweden, let me say this: watch some TV. It’ll definitely keep you on your toes. Or at least give new meaning to the word “uncensored.”
Who needs Cinemax?