The Omnipresent Bad Mouth

Published on April 10 2012

Bully MPAA With text


I hate swearing. Not profanity itself; I curse like a sailor. I mean the inane concept that we can brand certain words as inappropriate and use them to censor, control and condemn. When you take into account the root of racism, sexism, homophobia and bullying, how much emphasis should we be putting on the ‘bad words’? Why are words that simply add emphasis, colour and character considered 'offensive'?


Having stood up to the big, bad and frankly useless MPAA, Lee Hirsch has successfully gained the PG-13 rating he desired for his lauded documentary Bully. In order to achieve this he had to trim a couple of swears out, but the film’s key bus scene remained intact despite the Associations objections.
I can’t say I’m quite into the approach of the film, and the thought that it could have been released unrated got me excited, but its new rating has been touted as an achievement in breaking boundaries in free speech and artist expression. I guess everyone forgot about the documentary Gunner Palace, released, PG-13 with 42 uses of fuck, after an intense appeal. I guess if your film has a constant back drop of war, death and danger, getting in an uproar about soldiers mouthing off is a bit fucking silly.


I don’t see Bully’s victory as much of an achievement to be honest. Art was still censored, creative control was still lost, and the needs of people with wildly disproportionate moral concerns were appeased over highlighting a severe social issue.


Profanity is inevitably present within all languages, though mine stands as the one most chalked full of rude words, and is arguably the most regulated. Whether you’re a UK’er or American, the obsession with swearing in English speaking countries is directly related to our prudish nature. Our profanity is mostly related to ‘obscene’ bodily functions and, of course, sex. No way can we get over policing words when we’re unable to get over the shit that comes out of us (both literally and figuratively).

Did my last sentence bother you? Good, because at least the words were being used to depict something disgusting. If I were to allow any kind of censorship of words, it would be visceral or grotesque language. If you want an example of what I mean, read Chuck Palahnuik’s short story Guts. The hardest parts to read of that story were free of swearing; they used elaborate metaphors, in depth description and fucked up ways to jerk off.  It’s still dumb whether it offends you or not, as I found it hilarious once I could read it from start to finish, and it’s a lot harder for me to not read it.


Sheeep eduted


I don’t wish swearing didn’t exist; it serves a good purpose. I’m sure we’ve all felt that tiny bit better after yelling “lord of fuck!” after stubbing a toe. According to researchers at the University of Keele, being profane does relieve the pain.


But beyond that It just carries my point across easier. If I see a shitty movie (and I mean really shitty), saying “that movie was horrible” doesn’t carry quite the punch that “that movie was fucking terrible” has. You could argue that I’m too angry about this awful movie. No, then I’d be shouting, and if I shouted the phrase then it’s the volume that’s making it excessive, not the word. More power behind the words, better emphasis on the meaning, and who did it offend exactly? You? Fuck off.


As someone who wants to sit behind a radio mike for a career, I’ll admit it’s a double standard I won’t say certain words on air or play out in music. But I got to feed myself somehow, and I’m just some lowly unemployed disk jockey. Miramax chairman Harvey Weinstein, whose company produced Bully, is one of the biggest names in Hollywood. Did he argue against the archaic standard by which the MPAA judge films? Quite the opposite.


I’ve always wondered why the religious take swearing so much more seriously than the non. Anti-swearing campaigns are always run by Bob or Sally Christian; the loathed by me Parents Television Council have somewhat of a religious agenda, and Republican internet joke Chuck Norris's no tolerance to bad language is the reason The Expendables 2 is yet another PG-13 rated action movie.

I understand getting a little ticked off by blasphemy, but where in the Bible did it say swearing was a problem? And given how languages have evolved and developed since the book was written, I really doubt whatever construed passage you found applies to modern times.


The question that I as a social libertarian and free speech supporter struggles to answer most is would I let my children swear? Naturally I fear them becoming like my local Portsmouth youths, wedging fuck after fuck in every other sentence, ultimately killing its meaning. Really I can’t comment honestly right now; my views could change by the time my sprog is born. But what I can say is if he/she came home and told me they called someone they knew to be homosexual a ‘faggot’, I’d punish him not for using the word, but for discriminating someone on their sexuality.

Written by The Urban Shepherd

Published on #Sociology

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LanthanumK 05/07/2012 22:24

When society declares a word to be bad or inappropriate, the word gets its forcefulness. Since "horrible" in your above example is not considered a bad word, it is not a very effective way of
expressing one's very strong feeling. Offending people is always a good way to get people's attention.

BTW, Christians (like me) oppose swearing in movies because we want to enjoy the privilege of mature entertainment without having to deal with "objectionable material".

Personally, I do not mind others using bad language in public as long as they do not profess to be Christians and therefore be following the biblical command to be like Jesus. It does get annoying
when they constantly use profanity but people have a right to live their lives as they please. Cursing other people, though, is a form of harassment and should not be tolerated.

Swearing in movies is a different situation, though. It is a deliberate decision of the director of a movie to place swear words in the movie script; it is not the spontaneity of stubbing a toe or
having a close call during filming that causes a character to utter profanity. It is offensiveness with no purpose. The MPAA's standards, though, are not fixed, so a movie is better evaluated by
reading the "Parental Advisory" in IMDB or an equivalent, rather than a simple letter rating.