The King’s Profanity: Our society’s silly obsession with one wordWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | email@example.com
So there’s this word I can’t write here. A word that symbolizes a topic that we all are aware of — intercourse. By and large, we can discuss the topic in a forum such as this. We just can’t describe it using the word I am referring to. A word that I would guess every person who is reading this knows well, and is thinking of right now.
An odd little word, isn’t it? Four letters. One syllable. There are other words in the vernacular which are more charged with hatred and loathsome connotations. And yet, in the imaginary ranking system of our vocabulary, it has long been established as THE worst word imaginable.
In a society where boundaries are being loosened on a regular basis, the f-border seems to be impenetrable. It is the last stand which the verbally moral majority will make. Woe be to the individual who gets caught saying it in a public forum.
I’ve been a part of the 92.5 crew for over a year now. In all that time, my contributions have never been censored for the content of what I have said. But one day, I accidentally dropped an f-bomb, and you better believe that got bleeped faster than Demetrius will make a joke about my weight.
The vile, evil and offensive nature of this word is so ingrained in our society that even major motion pictures cannot escape. There has long been an understood quota system: You can use one f-word in a film, and it can still be rated PG-13, permitting younger viewers without parents. More than that, and your film is banished to the R rating.
It is this standard that forced “The King’s Speech,” this year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture, to be rated R. There are a few scenes — a very few — where Bertie, played by Colin Firth, is so frustrated by his stammer that he explodes in profanity, including a string of F’s. The usage is not offensive in the slightest, but funny and charming. It helps to humanize the character and shows his frustration.
Yet because he said the dreaded F more than once, the film, which otherwise has virtually no objectionable content whatsoever, gets rated R. Let us consider how ludicrously arbitrary this standard is. The sheer idea that a single word can be so vilified is somewhat absurd. We once again have failed to learn the lessons taught by the great George Carlin — it’s the CONTEXT that counts, not the word. Words are completely neutral and innocent in and of themselves.
The idea of context has long been a foreign concept to the MPAA system, which rates the films for family viewing based upon content. There is a very set mindset of what makes something appropriate or inappropriate for the younger crowd, which this one body enforces over every movie that wants a wide release.
Problem is, this is a mindset which has proven wildly inconsistent over the years, reflecting an odd set of values. So more than two F’s in the “King’s Speech” allow it to be rated the same as incredibly violent horror flicks or ludicrously risque comedies. Meanwhile, younger audiences will have to make do with more “family friendly” fare like “Battle Los Angeles” or “Sucker Punch,” both of which garnered a PG-13. Both films feature endless violence and brutality. But, thank god, no F’s.
Far be it from the Weinstein Company to let an arbitrary set of standards keep younger audiences from seeing a fine and inspirational movie. Oh, they didn’t take a stand for their artists, appeal the rating and leave the work of art unchanged. Nope, the answer is clearly EDIT THE HELL OUT OF THAT SUCKER.
Yep, on April 1, a new, re-edited and censored version of “Speech” hit cinemas, with all traces of the dreaded “F” removed, save one. The film also came accompanied by a new marketing campaign, touting the PG-13 edit as “the family event of the year.”
No one likes the re-edit, least of all audiences, as the film garnered a mere $1.1 million for the weekend. But the larger question remains — what does this blatant cash grab say about our standards of language? The movie’s story, tone and message were the same before. But subtract one word — four letters, one syllable — and it amazingly transforms from a adult-only experience to a warm-and-fuzzy family flick.
“King’s Speech” is a wonderful movie. I hope those who haven’t will see it. But I particularly hope they see the original cut, and reflect upon the amazing, overriding power our society gives to one word, regardless of context or intention. Methinks we still have a lot of growing up to do.
Email Jeff at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com