Basically the Court tossed out a bunch of fines the FCC was desperately trying to levy on the networks for some uncensored outbursts on live TV shows. What were those outbursts? Cher blurted out “fuck” during a speech at the 2002 Billboard Music Awards.
So did Bono at the Golden Globes two years later. And Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie after that. Nobody really noticed and nobody much cared, except for the FCC, whose panties were tightened up into a big-time bunch. But they were pretty much it. Not even the grouchy elders of the Supreme Court could rouse themselves to take offense.
Yet this past December at the Poll Awards, when Noa Deane and the Strange Rumblings crew lobbed an F-bomb toward pro surfing’s governing body, and hipster darling Dion Agius referenced the use of Xanax during his acceptance speech, the surf community’s reaction made the Supreme Court look like a bunch of anarchistic libertines. Grown men took to their social-media accounts (that really should be an oxymoron) to ponder whether or not it was appropriate for a bunch of obviously drunk, and possibly skull-numbingly high, surfers to use profanity and admit to drug use in public.
Surfers, at an awards show—a big, rollicking party, basically—were taken to task for partying too hard.
Agius and Deane, tails between their legs, felt enough pressure to use their social platforms to mount heartfelt apologies to anyone who was offended by their rowdy behavior.
What can be learned from this recent outburst of moralizing? First, Cher is obviously much, much gnarlier than pro surfers are; she apologized to no one. Second, and more importantly, the “surfers as rebels” trope—which has always been at least a little bit overblown—is probably officially dead and gone. Somehow, in the course of about 50 years, we’ve gone from fetishizing Dora to tut-tutting Noa.