Poor Ted Danson and Whoopi Goldberg. They're the P.C. Poster Children of the moment.
Make that ANTI-P.C. poster kids. With their recent stunt at New York's Friar's Club -- with Ted in blackface telling bawdy, race-based jokes written by Whoopi -- this year's fun couple not only landed in the headlines, they've been the subject of much finger-pointing by those who would claim to be arbiters of all that is politically correct.
How unchic. How un-Hollywood.
Because it's finally happening. After years in which everyone watched their conversational p's and q's, there may finally be a political correctness backlash afoot.
The antics of Ted and Whoopi are merely an inadvertent #F example.
Look at which book hit the top of all the best seller lists in its first week of publication -- the new tome by Howard Stern, New York shock jock and unrelentingly politically incorrect jokester.
The most popular show on MTV? "Beavis and Butt-head," conspicuous for its decidedly un-P.C. attitude toward women, adults, pets -- or, rather, companion animals -- and virtually any other living organism.
The hot look on the fashion runway? Fur -- the kind originally worn by fluffy little animals -- back in fashion after several years of being pushed deep into the closet.
And even Kermit the Frog, in a USA Today interview last month, timidly came out against the concept of political correctness. (Although it should be noted that he did embrace the P.C. title of amphibian-American.)
Well, it had to happen, says Christopher Cerf, co-author, with Henry Beard, of The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook (Villard, $10). Whenever any movement gathers as much steam -- and gets as extreme -- as has the P.C. bandwagon, a backlash is almost inevitable.
"There's a whole range of places where [this language] comes from, and some of it is pretty extreme," says Mr. Cerf, whose tongue-in-cheek book redefines such terms as dead ("terminally inconvenienced") and stupid ("cerebrally challenged?").
"And for some people," says Mr. Cerf, "it's not a very big step from saying, perhaps we're being a little silly with some of these terms, to saying, well, there's nothing you can call blacks or women that won't offend somebody."
Part of what's happening is that two longstanding U.S. traditions arecolliding head-on -- the American belief in free speech and the American passion for fair play.
Most of us want to say the right thing, says Alan Albarran, assistant professor of radio-TV at Southern Methodist University Dallas. But we don't want Big Brother (or, to be even-handed, Big Sister) forcing us to say them.
"When you think about our country and where we're at today, we're not a homogeneous society," Mr. Albarran says. "It seems silly that in a time period when we have a very multicultural society, we have this thing called political correctness where we have to be very prim and proper, and pretend everybody is the same."
"I'm getting serious again, and I hate to do that, but when people begin to angrily insist on [these terms], especially the more extreme ones, you begin to stop taking any of it seriously," Mr. Cerf says.
Still, it IS hard to take seriously some of the terms in the handbook. "Oh, I still think you have to make fun of the stuff," Mr. Cerf says. "It's too much fun not to, and it's too good a target to pass up."
Patricia Rodriguez is a features writer at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.