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A Tale of Two Readers: A 5-Year-Old Critiques the Mercury

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Hailey is 5 years old.

Hailey: I like the cover!

PMUGYG: Why?

Cause there's a robot on it!

What do you think of the colors on it?

It's nice. This is fun!

What about this first page [filled with ads]? It has lots of colors.

It just looks like a bunch of signs.

What do you think they're signs for?

I don't know. [points at real estate ad] That's a nice house!

Do you want to live there?

Uh huh!

What about the photos and drawings on this page, with "One Day at a Time"?

That's funny! [Pointing at cookies in an ad] Ooh, those look yummy!

If you went to the store, would you buy those cookies, because of that ad?

No. [Pointing to a picture of a horse in "My, What a Busy Week"] Pony! I wish I had a pony. [Turning pages] Nothing about this page. Nothing about this either. …Monkeys!

Do you like monkeys?

They're okay. Pirate guitar, cool!

I didn't see that pirate logo on the guitar. You have good eyes.

That's because I eat carrots! [Points to "I Love Television" cartoon] That little guy is so funny.

What's he wearing?

A helmet.

And nothing else, just underpants.

Underpants! [Turns to comics page]

Ah, this is a fun page to look at.

What's fun about this page?

Scissors and rock fighting. The rock just hit the scissors on the head.

This paper comes out every week. Do you think you would read it every week?

No.

What grade would you give it?

Mmmm… a "B." Maybe a "B-plus." Stephen Sasser is a 58-year-old husband, father, grandfather, artist, creative director, videographer, lifetime Portlander, music lover, movie buff, anglophile, Portland Beavers baseball fan, and former Trail Blazer fan.

STEPHEN: My most recent reaction to the Merc was that it was full of swearing… and more than usual, even in the headlines. I remember making an off-handed comment about all the swearing and my son told me he thinks of it as "humorous swearing." Now, this is not necessarily something that's out of my grasp--but I sometimes think it's an easy laugh; an easy way to establish and ingratiate your demographic. The Albert Brooks 1973 stand-up routine on swearing as humor exemplifies just how easy it is to get a laugh by swearing. Of course, he was doing it when it was fresh and new and all he had to use was the word "shit," not "motherf***er."

We had a similar experience when we went to see Roseanne Barr (way before she was successful and obnoxious). Her only exposure then was guest slots on the Johnny Carson show and we thought her shtick was pretty funny. She came to Portland for a show at the old Paramount and my wife and I went. Louie Anderson was the opening act and he did a pretty funny routine (rated G), then Roseanne came out and painted the air blue. Once again, it seemed like she was going for the easy laughs and by this time the level of cursing was increased because people were more comfortable with the concept… though I'm sure she shocked a few people who had only seen her cleaned-up act on Johnny Carson.

Profanity and one's perception of it is completely subjective (beauty in the ear of the beholder?). But the Mercury is diluting the impact or "humor value" of it by making it more tiresome than shocking. Mercury writers should hold back and use it sparingly.

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