I Swear It's All We've Got
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Think of your mother for a moment. I'm guessing you've hardly ever heard her swear. But if you have, you know there's something really wrong, a bit like a volcano sending out earth tremors just before it blows. You step back, move out of her way and then run for cover. Mothers know the power of curse words. They know that used sparingly, and in context, expletives have the capacity to clear a room. Unfortunately, some writers/directors don't seem to have the same appreciation of language.

Curse words are good. In fact, they might be some of the best words there are for getting your point across, but like everything else, too much of a good thing can be very bad. If I sit down to watch a movie, and the first word I hear out of any character's mouth is an expletive, I roll my eyes. It's caricature time. It's macho men, big guns, fast cars, loud explosions and no plot. It's the death of subtlety.

  
 
On the other hand, if the acting is good and the script non-derivative, the swearing blends into the background and is hardly noticeable. I can think of two worthy examples Kill Bill (both volumes), and Withnail And I. You've all heard of Quentin Tarantino's duet of films starring Uma Thurman, and quite a few of you have probably seen them too. They're violent, they're gory and there are curse words aplenty. But there's also subtle humour, and though the characters are larger than life, they all have a vulnerable edge that makes them more than just cardboard cut outs. Withnail And I is a less well-known, low budget British comedy from the late '80s. Here the expletive-ometer reaches number ten when one character uses the 'c' word, a big deal in 1987 and surely the neutron bomb of cursing. But it doesn't make me cringe. Why? What's the common thread in both of these films that makes the swearing bearable? Humour and humanity. But not cheap, crude laughs; I'm not laughing at the swearing, I'm laughing with it. And I understand the characters-I can feel what they're feeling even though I've never done any of the things they have.

Swearing should compliment the on screen mood, not create it. That's the job of the actors, the script and the plot. But I suppose if you're making a movie that has bad examples of each of those things, then cursing might help cover the cracks. It's a thin veneer though, and very easy to see through.



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