The War on Words or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the F-Bomb

David Tveite searches for method to the madness of the MPAA’s tolerance for foul language.

Like everyone and their mother, I saw The Dark Knight this summer. I enjoyed it, but was struck by how violent it was compared to most comic book flicks. I was surprised to discover that it was rated PG-13.

Now, I’m not suggesting the movie necessarily deserved an R rating, but here we have a movie in which people are stabbed, shot, blown up, set on fire, and so on and so forth. This movie is PG-13.

So let’s say you take out the part where a guy gets his face set on fire, the part where a guy gets his brain impaled with a pencil, and the part with the suicide bomber. Take those out, replace them with Batman calling someone a motherfucker and see what happens.

Boom. R rating.

The same principle applies to last year’s Die Hard sequel. While just about as violent as the series’s previous installments, Live Free or Die Hard escaped an R rating by cutting the famous “Yippee-kai-yay” line short at “mother.”

So I ask: what the fuck? When was the last time someone sat down with these censorship policies and thought to themselves, “Does this make any sense at all?” People blame violent video games and movies for school shootings, but have you ever seen anyone point the finger at foul language? Every time one of our children goes off and does something horrible, you can’t turn on the TV for a week without seeing a professor pontificating about our “culture of violence.”

I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before you see a traumatized mother on CNN saying “He was always such a nice boy until he started saying fuck.” At least it’ll make a great Frontline episode.

Is this an exclusively American thing or is everybody like this? Why are we so afraid of words? It wouldn’t be quite so bad if the system were less arbitrary.

How do we decide which words are worse than others? For example, who decided that bitch is okay on TV but twat isn’t? How many times are you allowed to say shit before your movie is rated R? And a follow-up: Did the MPAA just pick a random number or is there actually a surgeon general’s recommendation on how many times you can hear shit in two hours? How many damns are worth a shit?

I could go on, but my point isn’t anti-censorship. I just wish we were more consistent about these sorts of things. If language needs to be censored, fine, but it’s a bad joke to use violence as a scapegoat when it’s convenient only to ignore it the rest of the time.

Unless those eggheads from the 24-hour news channels are right, we really have become a culture so saturated with violence that we don’t even pretend it bothers us anymore.

In conclusion: fuck.

David C. Tveite, Esq. is an English and history student at the University of Puget Sound. His coming of age was badly stunted by Hollywood fame when he appeared at age fourteen on the hit CBS series Survivor: The Moon. He still considers himself a celebrity, and it's beginning to make his family and friends sad. He also writes A Regular Dude's World Atlas.