It’s a fact of life that films on broadcast TV and basic cable sometimes have to be re-edited to smooth over foul language. Some of the more creative choices to replace expletives have included “mamma jamma” (Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing”) and “melon farmer” (“Repo Man”).
“It has to have the right number of beats, it has to work for the content and it has to have the lip synch right — you don’t want lip flap,” says one sound editor. “It’s an art form.”
Sometimes the choice of offending words is less obvious. Outside WEZY after the Soggy Bottom Boys have recorded “Man of Constant Sorrow” in “O Brother Where Art Thou,” Tim Blake Nelson’s simple-minded Delmar tells Charles Durning’s politico Pappy O’Daniel that the man inside the radio station will pay $10 to sing into his can. Pappy replies: “I’m not here to make a record, you dumb cracker.” But in a recent airing on Country Music Television, “cracker” was deemed unacceptable, and looped to “sumbitch.”
“According to our Standards & Practices group for MTV Networks, this wasn’t a decision specific to CMT, but rather a decision made for all of MTV Networks because the term ‘cracker’ is considered offensive to a large portion of the country,” a CMT rep said in a statement.
Now if only melon farmers had someone to stick up for them.