Tuesday, April 5, 2011


By Jay Stringer

Most people reading this probably aren't closely following English premier league football. But bear with me here. Wayne Rooney is an English player, currently plying his trade for Manchester United, who is a bit of a media obsession.

Every movement he makes -on or off the pitch- is documented, analysed and photographed. If he steps foot outside his house then there will be photographs. If he goes to the fridge in the middle of the night, there will probably be night vision pictures.

A few weeks back, in a game against Wigan Athletic, he committed an act of assault. With the referee looking elsewhere, Rooney ran up to a player and elbowed him in the face. If it had been done anywhere else -on the street, in the stands, on the side of the pitch- it would have been seen as a crime. He would likely have been arrested, charges would likely have been made. Expensive lawyers would have made expensive speeches written by expensive PR people.

The governing body of English football decided that they could take no further action. The newspapers laughed. Discussion was all based around whether he would get away with it, very little about the actual act itself or the potential damage done.

This week the same player scored a hat trick (when one player scores three goals in a game), bringing his team back from 0-2 down to eventually win 4-2. After his third goal, completing a remarkable turn around, he ran to the stands to celebrate and soon found a TV camera in his face. He swore a couple of times, then went and got on with the game.

He's just been handed a two-game ban. Letters of complaint are being written. The game has been brought into disrepute, and the newspapers are full of stories of a player out of control, and a celebrity who can't handle his own ego.

So you can commit assault and get away with it. That's fine. But if you swear on camera, thenyour ego is out of control and you cause a scandal.

Does it remind you of any genre close to all our hearts?

I remember talking to the brilliant Helen Fitzgerald once about one of her books. In a book that contained women being abducted, raped, beaten and set alight, the incident people were most shocked about was the killing of a cat. Be as violent as you want to a human, but don't hurt the bloody cat.

And recently reading reviews on Amazon for one of my favourite British crime writers, I was suprised to see reviews that complained about the swearing. This is an author who has had his characters chop up dead bodies, set fire to each other, crucify each other and commit multiple acts of brilliant deviance. But swearing? That's beyond the pale.

So how did it come to this?

Why are we entertained to see people, both real and fictional, tear lumps out of each other, kill, maim, elbow or screw, but we lose our stomachs and minds at something like swearing? How can we read about evils being carried out on innocent humans, but baulk at violence to a cat?


John Hornor said...

Where the fuck is my post on Indiana Jones?

Steve Weddle said...

Hell yeah protect the cat.

See, people can protect themselves. They don't need you.
Cats are pussies.

Jay Stringer said...

John, you mean this one?


Or this one?


Stringer Belle said...

Because humans are horrid and kitties are awesome.

John McFetridge said...

Interesting timing, Jay. I just read the story about the new e-book edition of From Here to Eternity restoring the "four letter words" and the mentions of gay sex the publisher took out at the time.

Some newspapers are leading with the gay sex and some with the swearing. Priorities, I guess.

Julie said...

It's a running joke in the US that you can get away with violence out the wazoo, but some steamy sex will get you slapped by the Morality Police.

How did it come to this? I wish I knew.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

I love killing, swearing, bad guys, drugs, corruption etc...in novels. I'm no prude by any means, but in most cases whether it's novels, movies, or tv, sex scenes put an instant halt to my enjoyment and take me right out of the story. It's become so predictable and expected. I hate to see animals, elderly, and kids violated in a story, but if done right (bad word chioce)it can invoke huge emotions in the reader and really pull them into the story.

John Hornor said...

Don't you DARE try to foist old blog posts on me, Stringer.