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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

June 28, 2012 at 9:54 AM

On language; specifically, an F-word

A few days ago, I received a pleasant email from a reader who on my recommendation had gone to see “Your Sister’s Sister.” He enjoyed it, but he also gently chided me (and other critics) for not drawing attention to the film’s colorful vocabulary. The characters, now that I think about it, use a word I can’t use in this blog (oh, you know it, it starts with F and has various forms) quite frequently and creatively. It didn’t bother me when watching the film, as it made sense to me that people of this age, confronted with these situations (if you’ve seen the film, you know what I mean), would talk this way. And more importantly, it didn’t seem to me that the curse words were being used as punch lines, or as placeholders for dialogue that the writer was too lazy to actually write. Too often I see movies like this; “Your Highness” is the most dramatic example I can think of (in which pretty much every punch line was just somebody saying “F— . . . . “), but even “Magic Mike” this week seems to consist almost entirely of expletives. In the latter case, I do think it made sense that the characters would speak that way, but eventually it just sounded like nothing, as the characters so rarely said anything interesting. Good thing there was something to look at.
Are you bothered by swearing in movies? Or do you see it as a reflection of how people, particularly younger people, speak today? A while ago, I reviewed a documentary called “F***” (yes, that’s how we had to spell it), about the history and ubiquity of the word. I wondered, then, how such a little word came to mean so much and so little, and why so many writers seem to now use it as a substitute for wit. I wonder the same now. (Even as — true confessions — I say it myself.)

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