At a recent imaginary panel that didn’t happen at any industry conference we know of, Skip and Setter locked horns on the topic of profanity and why it’s so prevalent in movies today. The following is an excerpt from their overlong, admittedly tiresome debate.
Skip: You’ve said in the past that you like seeing profanity in movies because it calls attention to the need to upgrade the English language. Are you deliberately ignoring the fact that many venerated writers–from Ben Jonson to e.e. cummings–have used vulgarity in their works? English doesn’t need upgrading!
Setter: You’re so misinformed. I’m talking about profanity when it’s used to replace inspired dialogue. As in every flick these days that tries to emulate Pulp Fiction. I’m not talking about profanity with a purpose.
Skip: Well, don’t you think all profanity has a purpose–as long as it’s in character?
Setter: No. Read my latest book.
Skip: I’m not reading your book, dude. I hate your writing.
Setter: Well, I outline my “Theory of Profanity” there. It basically states that it’s cooler to say a swear word in a movie than to get a “G” rating.
Skip: So you’re against overusing profanity.
Setter: Sure. Unless it concerns your reviews.
Skip: I love you, too. Now, why don’t you think the vulgarity-filled sports film has survived? Slap Shot, Major League? Seems like more folks want to do a film about profane, hipper-than-thou mobsters than they do locker-room sagas.
Setter: They’ll be back. I think people are afraid of seeing depictions of the way hallowed sports figures really talk. But they’re generally more credible than watching the story of a hired assassin who likes Schubert.
Skip: Sounds like a double standard. As long as it’s not believable, it’s OK to use profanity.
Setter: Maybe. Read my latest book.
Skip: No thanks. Anyway, profanity’s part of our lexicon. It’s been around for centuries.
Setter: Doesn’t mean we should use it. Look at the Hays Code era. Lots of great movies were made without profanity.
Skip: And lots of junk came out, too. Ever see Turnabout? Blecch.
Setter: For every one of those, there’s a Casablanca. See my point? You don’t need a swear word to make a good movie.
Skip: It might sell more tickets.
Setter: It might. Read my latest book.
Skip: To channel e.e. cummings: “I will not read your CENSORED book.”
Setter: Pompous CENSORED.