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Fox censors Sally Field’s anti-war-moms speech, and other Emmy musings

jpozners Icon Posted by Jennifer L Pozner

September 16th, 2007

It was a good night for strong, funny, talented character actresses at the 59th Emmy Awards. The fantastic America Ferrera scored Best Actress for her beautiful-from-the-inside-out, Latinas-rule title role on “Ugly Betty,” Tina Fey’s “30 Rock” took home Best Comedy (hopefully a ratings boost will follow, so that next time Fey wins she’ll thank more than their “dozens and dozens of viewers”), and Elaine Stritch was wacky and witty when she nabbed Best Guest Actress on a Comedy Series (I didn’t jot down what she said in her acceptance speech, but it was similar — though less bleeperific - to her hilarious exclamation at last week’s Creative Arts Emmys, a la NY Magazine: “Un-fucking-believable… I’m a recovering alcoholic, a riddled diabetic, and I’ve got laryngitis … but I just won an Emmy!”)

But the telecast took a disappointing turn when Sally Field won for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role as the matriarch of “Brothers and Sisters.” Field is an exceptional actress and I was glad to see her honored; the disappointment came during her acceptance speech. Seems Emmy voters really really like Sally Field (sorry for that so-old reference, I couldn’t help it) — but Fox censors, not so much. All was well as she started her heartfelt (though clearly rehearsed) comments:

“How can that be, these wonderful actors?… [This award] belongs to the mother of the show, the real mother of the show, Sarah Kaplan. It belongs to our incredible, eclectic, ingenious writers, all of them are endlessly energetic and supportive crew, these actors that I get to stand across from, Rachel Griffiths and Calista Flockhart, to my family that I would be nothing without them. But at the heart of Nora Walker she is a mother. So surely this belongs to all the mothers of the world. May they be seen, may their work be valued and raised. And to especially to the mothers who stand with an open heart and wait. Wait for their children to come home from danger, from harm’s way, and from war.”

As the audience erupted in applause, she eyeballed the quickly-ticking Emmy clock and screamed, “Hurry up! Quiet! I have to finish talking!” After an awkward moment or two of stammering as she tried to regain her derailed train of thought (”And… and to war… oh God, I forgot what I was gonna say! Oh, ah.. to war!”) , she quickly finished her acceptance speech but was comepletely cut off by the network:

“I am proud, I am proud to be one of those women. And let’s face it. If mothers ruled the world, there would be no — ”

At this point, home viewers were left to wonder, Um… no what? Unlike most network censors of live telecasts, which tend to use their three or five second delay option to simply bleep the stray “Holy sh*T” or F-bomb from over-exuberant celebs, Fox cut away from Field entirely, leaving about six seconds of dead air on screen, finally cutting back to her “Thank you” as she left the stage.

What Field actually said was, “If mothers ruled the world, there would be no god-damned wars in the first place.” (Not all that far-fetched, considering that Mother’s Day was first established as a gathering of mothers rising up against the devastation of war on their families.) But apparently, Fox considers the idea that mothers oppose war is just too obscene for America’s virgin ears.

Not that I’m surprised that Fox would consider a feminist political statement not-ready-for-primetime, but if anyone tries to tell me that they cut away for six seconds because she said “God-damn” — I just don’t buy it. If that was the case, those two words would have been bleeped, and the rest of her sentence would have aired uncut. But, check it out and decide for yourself:


[***See update below for follow-up comments from Sally Field on her response to censorship.]

In other unrelated Emmy musings:

– Could I be any more disappointed that Tony Bennett beat out Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart? I don’t think so. And why are one-off musical specials in the same category as year-long, nightly comedy talk shows, anyway?

– It’s pretty hot that 23-year-old America Ferrera and 81-year-old Elaine Stritch both took home Oscars on the same night. Hollywood still doesn’t dole out nearly enough roles recognizing the beauty, humanity, strength and talent of actresses or the female characters they’d love to play, but these two women prove that young or old, women in Hollywood have real chops and should be given challenging material more often.

– I’m really happy that no obnoxious jokes or uncomfortable, homophobic barbs were made about Ellen DeGeneres and Portia DeRossi, who were simply treated like any other Hollywood couple. About freaking time.

– Speaking of Ellen, she’s so good with the straight-faced ad-lib that I’m not actually sure if her bit about the teleprompter guy not telling her what to do was planned or spontaneous. Either way, it was one of the only funny, non-forced moments of the night.

– I wish Kathy Griffin, who won a Creative Arts Emmy last week for “My Life on the D List” (perhaps the only reality show I’ve ever not completely hated), had been able to accept tonight instead of last week. Griffin’s patented snark would have provided some sorely needed oomph to counter the over-exposed Ryan Seacrest’s incredibly lackluster hosting job.

– I thought Queen Latifah was an odd choice of star to introduce the 30-year nod to the groundbreaking miniseries “Roots”; I love me some Queen, but it might have been more impactful if the Academy had asked someone with more serious and long-term acting chops, or even one of the stars of “Roots.” But I’m just glad they honored the miniseries that brought America’s brutal history of slavery to the mainstream small screen.

– Loved how stunned and happy “30 Rock’s” Jack McBrayer (one of the most brilliant improv comics in the country — a veteran of Chicago’s best improv troupes, Second City and Baby Wants Candy, and New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theater) seemed on the Emmy stage, with his perpetual corn-fed, “Really? Me? Here?” look on his face…

– I could have done without all the product placement for everything from Target to SpongeBob…

– Final thought before I crash for the night: gotta love Jon Stewart. Backstage in the press room (via a clip from E!), he was asked, “So you nab the first phone interview with O.J. in jail. What would you ask him?… so like Paris did with Barbara. You get the first jail interview. What would you ask him?” To which Stewart retorts, “Is this how it goes down, Capone? You killed two people and they get you for kicking in a door in Vegas? Is that how it goes? Wow. What a drag. What a shame. What a shame.”

[UPDATE: Per TV Guide online, the following is Sally Field’s response to her Emmy censorship:

“That’s too bad,” Field said matter of factly of the uproar. “I wanted to say something about the mothers who wait for their children to come home. I wanted to acknowlege them and what they do. I said at the end there is no question that if mothers ruled the world, there would be no war.”

Pressed to elaborate on her bleeping, Field again shrugged, “Oh well! I’ve been there before. Good. I don’t care. I have no comment other than, ‘Oh well.’ I said what I wanted to say. I wanted to pay homage to the mothers of the world and let their work be seen and valued. I really think that if mothers ruled the world we wouldn’t be sending our children off to be slaughtered. That’s what [Brothers & Sisters’] Nora Walker is [about], she’s this mother and she sees life through that.”

“I probably shouldn’t have said the ‘god’ before the ‘damned,’” Field allows. “That’s life. I didn’t have a point to get across, I didn’t have an agenda. I wanted to pay homage to mothers, especially the mothers who wait for their children to come home from war. If they bleep it… oh well. I’ll just say it someplace else.”

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