Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Wendy Leece Objects to Weekly Using "Motherfucker" 17 Times in Article

motherfucker.jpg
Wendy Leece's marked up copy
As Gustavo's editorial assistant, I never have a shortage of angry calls and letters from the public complaining about our content that offended them one way or another. But it's not often that an elected official reaches out on the behalf of their constituents and complains for them. Yet that's exactly what Costa Mesa councilwoman Wendy Leece did in January.

You might remember Leece as the Know Nothing who supported former mayor Allan Mansoor's anti-Mexican pogroms in the city, or her recent reinvention as a champion of the city's public employees. This time,
Leece called about one particular story in our January 18 dead-tree issue--and, surprisingly, it was not our cover story with Klansmen on the cover.

Nope, she had a problem with Joel Beers' review of the hit play The Motherfucker with the Hat at South Coast Repertory.

Her problem with Joel's review was that it proudly used the word "motherfucker" a full 17 times--and that doesn't include the amount of times "fuck" was used as a stand-alone exclamation. Oh and there was the part about the photo we used, a publicity still provided to us by South Coast Rep: the main character sliding between his girlfriend's legs in tighty-whities somehow being caught off-guard by the audience.

Leece, who doesn't read the Weekly, says a Costa Mesan grandmother brought the article to her attention. "She was just outraged that her grandson [a teenager] picked up this magazine," Leece said.  Leece demanded a meeting between Gustavo, her, and a bunch of concerned mothers regarding the issue; instead, Gustavo asked I meet on his behalf.

We gathered at Costa Mesa City Hall.

"I think this is purposefully, almost trying to annoy conservatives," Leece began.

 "It is," I offered.

She laughed.

"I just wondered what the editorial reaction is and what the answer is to parents who are offended because it's available to minors," Leece replied. I explained that we had used curse words in the article not just because the play is called The Motherfucker with a Hat, but also as a retort to The Daily Pilot; a month earlier, Michael Miller had written about the play and commented that only this infernal rag could publish the full title.

Leece understood, and her calm attitude and willingness to listen was actually a nice surprise.  However, and unsurprisingly, once the mothers, Jessica and Angela, arrived, a few handfuls of sass were thrown around the room.

Angela opened with her research. "Before I came I thought, 'I know what pornographic things are,' but what does the dictionary say?" she began. "Depiction, photographs, or something in writing, and I thought, 'That's that,' and you're putting pornography out there." Me arguing that the review was not pornography, nor that her teenager could get a way-sexier read by picking up Anais Nin at the public library seemed futile.

"We understand how detrimental it is to educate your children in something erotic before they're ready for it," Angela explained. And the Weekly couldn't agree more. Yet the argument that kids say and hear worse things during lunch break didn't matter much to them. Nor did the argument that the Internet could be far more detrimental to kids. And the old conservative argument about parental responsibility did not sit well either.

"So, you're telling us basically, that we can't go out in public," Jessica asked.

"There is pornography out there, but it has black covers and is kept away," Angela piped in. "But your magazines are out there for anyone to pick up."

The matter ended calmly and the women requested that I bring the issue to Gustavo with a plea to think of the children. This could mean being more mindful of stand placement, covering up our especially sexy issues, or just toning back the language in general.

"You can say these words, but do you have to?" Leece asked (she's still awaiting a response from the Segerstroms about why they hosted the play in the first place). Actually, we do, especially when THE WORD "MOTHERFUCKER" IS IN THE FUCKING TITLE OF THE FUCKING PLAY.

Oh, and I guess the moms and Leece weren't offended by Joel's reference to anal sex in the play, 'cause they didn't bring it up...

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