Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Fine Line Between Funny and Offensive

Julia Brown

There has always been a fine line between funny and offensive. Unfortunately for Owen Honors, former captain of the USS Enterprise (and no, I don't mean on Star Trek) lost his high-ranking potion in the United States Navy because he saw that line, was aware of it and yet overstepped it anyway.

Captain O.P. Honors
According to the article from class, "Raunchy Videos starring Enterprise skipper come to light," Honors produced and starred in a series of short movies, from 2006 to 2007, aboard the Norfolk-based aircraft carrier - the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. These movies, which were part of Honor’s weekly “XO Movie Night” and were routinely broadcast throughout the ship for the entire crew, featured a slew of inappropriate and offensive material, included plots surrounding anti-gay slurs, simulated masturbation and various inappropriate sexual activities - just to name a few.

These high-quality videos where professionally shot, edited and produced on government-owned equipment (which belonged to the ships' public affairs office, and were meant for documenting and publicizing good work of the sailors) while the Enterprise was deployed and dropping bombs in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At the time these videos where produced, Honors was merely the carrier's executive officer, second in command or "XO." But when he was appointed first in command of the ship last May, the material involved in these videos caused some people to question Honor's judgment and leadership skills, which, in the end, came back to haunt him and eventually cost him his job.

Offensive or Not?

An overwhelming amount of people aboard the carrier, in the military and in everyday society, have been outraged over Honors losing his position over something they argue was “no big deal” and purely meant for entertainment. Support for Honors has ranged from an almost 3,000 member Facebook group called “We Support Captain O.P. Honors” and various individuals speaking out to the press in his defense, including the former ship videographer who worked with Honors (and who, in the original article, requested his name to kept anonymous).

The videographer said on Honors behalf that, “when you’ve been out to sea for awhile, cut off from everything, you start to think things that you would never normally do are actually a good idea… you do stupid stuff to stay sane." The videographer also added that, "he probably figured they’d never get off the ship."

But with all that being said, many people were also extremely offended and even outraged over these videos.

Many sailors serving aboard the Enterprise, especially females, filed complaints about the videos having inappropriate material but were just "brushed off." Honors refers to the people who filed these complaints, at the beginning of one of the videos, as “gutless bleeding hearts” and even “fag SWOs,” otherwise known as Surface Warfare Officers, or people who crew the ship. He also adds, “why don’t you go ahead and hug yourself for the next 20 minutes or so, because there’s a really good chance you’re gonna be offended.”

From his own words, it is obvious that Honors knew people were going to be offended by the material, but went ahead and produced the videos anyway.

The Navy's Statement

When all of this surfaced back in January, the navy released a written statement saying that the videos, “were not created with the intent to offend anyone” but instead “intended to be humorous skits focusing the crew’s attention on specific issues,” including port visits, traffic safety, water conservation and others. The statement also said that when leaders of the carrier strike group became aware of the inappropriate content, that the production of the videos ended. But, according to the various comments Honors makes in the simulated masturbation video, it was clearly made after July of that year.

In the very same video where Honors calls out those not in favor of his offensive material, Honors also jokes around openly, saying that none of his superiors should be held accountable for the material being presented, but Enterprise sailors who spoke with the Virginian-Pilot said that it’s very hard to believe that the captain and admiral who were serving on the craft at the time, didn’t know anything about the content of the videos.

Whether Owen Honors' videos are funny, or just downright offensive, seems to lie in the eye of the beholder. But what will you think? I’ve linked one of the videos here so you can make up your own mind.

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