Defamatory? Obscene? Blasphemous? Me?!
Contract negotiations are never easy. You can have the best working relationship in the world but a contract makes you play out every worst-case scenario and that’s just unpleasant, even if none of those eventualities will ever happen.
But, back when the Cosmo contracts were being put together, I was handed a real treat. It had a new clause, one I hadn’t seen before. Here’s the gist:
“You hereby warrant that the work does not contain any defamatory, obscene or blasphemous matter of any kind.”
Defamatory? Obscene? Blasphemous?
Who judges that? Not the one defaming, being obscene, or blaspheming. No, these words only have meaning when someone else sees that in your work. The creator, writer, whoever can’t possibly make a statement of that kind, even with the best will in the world.
Oh, we could have the material tested but surely the cost of hiring a team of people quick to take offense (prudes, Bishops, heads of all major and minor religions) to veto the creative work should come out of the production budget and not the creator’s own pocket? I mean, I can ask the Pope next time I see him but he’s a terror for saying he’s read my scripts when in fact he hasn’t. Or he’ll talk about them but you just know he was only scanning them while on his Blackberry. He once sent me a note that said ‘where did the dog come from? You need to explain that‘. It was on page 8! The dog was a gift from his wife.
Truth is, the clause just came from the solicitor from a bunch of banked clauses in other contracts. This likely wasn’t something that came from my producer. I’d be curious to know where it did originate though. Because I wonder why any production company would need the content to be warranted at all? Didn’t they read the material itself? If they read it, they’d know what was in it.
As it happens, I make shows that are designed to be as safe as possible.
I would imagine that it would be exceptionally unlikely that my work would cause offense. But I couldn’t possibly ever say that for certain. And it amused me no end that someone thought to try to put it in a contract. For those who need to know the end of the story, it didn’t make it in and contracts were all signed happily on both sides.
Although now that I think about it… Cosmo is a show that features the Solar System. It’s science-based and there may be more there to support the Big Bang Theories or similar scientific Universe origin theories than any of the words in the Book of Genesis. So it’s entirely possible that Cosmo could be considered blasphemous. Well, not to worry. Given what has come out about the church here in Ireland, personally, I’d say they should be giving up any right to be offended by anything ever. And that should be just the start of the rights they have to give up.