Is Representative Eric Massa a "salty old sailor," or is he a sci-fi loving dork? These are the questions being raised today after he provided an explanation for the "sexual harassment" charge that cropped up in the wake of his retirement. The incident in question occurred at a wedding party, at which Massa danced with the bride and one of the bridesmaids. Afterwards, Massa was cooling his heels with some of his staff. Per Roll Call, here's how he explained the incident that's garnered so much attention:
"One of them looked at me and as they would do after, I don't know, 15 gin and tonics, and goodness only knows how many bottles of champagne, a staff member made an intonation to me that maybe I should be chasing after the bridesmaid and his points were clear and his words were far more colorful than that. And I grabbed the staff member sitting next to me and said, 'Well, what I really ought to be doing is fracking you.' And then [I] tossled the guy's hair and left, went to my room, because I knew the party was getting to a point where it wasn't right for me to be there. Now was that inappropriate of me? Absolutely. Am I guilty? Yes."
To my mind, there's no way in the world that Massa didn't just simply use the word "fucking" -- but the pop-cultural nexus between politics and science fiction being as strong as it is (see UPDATE, below), there's no reason not to enjoy it.
Many have already made note of the way the rebooted "Battlestar Galactica" stoked a revival of the f-word variant. I object to the notion, however, that the popular show about Cylons and the enduring universal mysticism of various Bob Dylan songs invented the term. First off, as someone whose mother forbade the use of "salty old sailorisms" in the house, "frack" (along with "frick" and "frig") were semi-acceptable variants that did not get me in as much trouble.
Additionally, the latter-day "Battlestar Galactica", in championing the near-constant use of the word "frack," did so as a shout-out to the original series, created by Glen Larson:
It was Larson who first used the faux curse word "frak" in the original "Battlestar Galactica." The word was mostly overlooked back in the '70s series but is working its way into popular vocabulary as SciFi's modern update winds down production.
"All joking aside, say what you will about what you might call the lowbrow nature of many of his shows, he did something truly amazing and subversive, up there with what Steven Bochco gets credit for, with 'frak,"' Goldberg said.
There's no question what the word stands for and it's used gleefully, as many as 20 times in some episodes.
"And he was saying it 30 years ago in the original goofy, god-awful 'Battlestar Galactica,"' said [Lee] Goldberg, a television writer and novelist whose credits include "Monk" and "Diagnosis Murder."
Larson says that "it may have been the great George Carlin" who got him thinking about vulgar variants. In addition to "frack," Larson employed the word "feldergarb" in the original series, which was meant to be a "family friendly" sci-fi lark. It's important to note that the rebooted series eventually settled on the spelling "frak," because it was important to the writers that the word be a "four-letter" word.
"Fracking" also refers to "hydraulic fracturing," a technique by which natural gas is extracted from the earth by "injecting a million gallons or more of water and chemicals deep underground." The process was apparently "pioneered" by Halliburton, so, if you want to say that Halliburton "fracked up the entire planet," that is technically accurate.
Of course, when it comes to ornate science-fiction swearing, no show did it better than Joss Whedon's "Firefly", whose renegade libertarian space cowboys freely deployed a massive amount of pidgin Chinese phrases in their daily lives. Most "Firefly" viewers probably had no idea that the characters were saying things like "you stupid, inbred sack of meat" or "the explosive diarrhea of an elephant" or "baboon's ass-crack" or "Holy testicle Tuesday" until the Internet helped them understand.
In fact, I'm pretty sure that another of Massa's phrases -- "Rahm Emanuel is son of the devil's spawn" -- was originally said on "Firefly". Even if it wasn't, it would surely sound pretty awesome spoken aloud, in angry Chinese.
UPDATE: Over at GQ, Ana Marie Cox has provided a Venn Diagram explaining how the nexus between all the various pop-cultural forces that are at work in Washington, DC are interlinked with one another.